Road Noise On the Range
Rocco Meditate told me on Tuesday it just doesnt get any better than Riviera Country Club. I was in the Callaway Golf Tour Trailer watching all the activity when Rocco jolted in. Look up the words positive and lively in the dictionary and youll find Roccos picture next to each. The always gracious Jon Laws, Callaways Odyssey Putter Tour Rep, introduced Rocco to Michael Yamaki, Corporate Officer of Riviera Country Club. Before Mr. Yamaki could reach across the work bench and shake Roccos hand, Rocco effused, Mr. Yamaki, Riviera is my favorite golf course hands down. Dont pass go, dont collect two hundred dollars, the buck stops right here at this golf course. Mr. Yamaki smiled a knowing smile and Rocco continued, And I bet if you took a poll of the guys out here a lot more than you might think would agree with me. Rocco and Mr. Yamaki went on to discuss some of the bunkering and greens complex changes that have been made. For the most part, Rocco is supportive of those changes. As I headed out the door of the tour van, I heard Rocco exclaim, The way hole number two challenges you with the driving range all the way down the left side and nothing but trees and no shot down the right by the practice holethe gaping bunker front right and a saucer cup of a green that looks like the head of pin from the fairway ' are you kidding me? Is there a better par four in golf?
David Sticky Williams, PGA TOUR rep for Adams Golf, told me on Tuesday that the juicy rough at Riviera this week is making it difficult for some of the guys to muscle long irons out of the long rough. The solution? Long irons come out of the bag and hybrids go in. According to Sticky, Im building hack-em and crack-em clubs today. A lot of 24 degree hybrids to potentially replace 3-irons and 4-irons this week. But, its not just the rough the guys are planning ahead for this week. Its the par-3 fourth hole. Sticky calls it, A really odd animal. The hole is a 230-yard carry over bunker and in to the wind. A 5-wood will balloon up too high so these guys are looking to modify whats in their bag even for just this one hole. I also asked Sticky about the status of Adams presence on the PGA TOUR. Adams is of course known to have a robust presence on the Champions Tour and the Nationwide Tour. It has been a focus of the company the last couple of years to increase their activity on the PGA TOUR. Right now its amazing, says Sticky. Last week we had 36 hybrids in playits the most weve ever hadits a blast right now. The more players are using the hybrids, the more they are telling other players and that sure does make my job a lot easier.
Jim Tosh McIntosh, PGA TOUR rep for UST Golf Shafts, says its all systems go on the professional golf tours this year. The company has had some recent player signings they are thrilled with. Davis Love and Rod Pampling recently came aboard in an official capacity, says Tosh. Kristie Kerr is also on our staff now and of course Jim Furyk has been with us a while. The Accra shaft has been doing great for us as well as the ProForce V2. We had wins already this year at FBR and at the Hope, so thats a really good start. The interest is there from the players all across the line, really. From iRod in the hybrid shafts to Accra to V2, things are looking really good for us right now. Its hard to find a more consistently better player week in and week out on the PGA TOUR than Jim Furyk. Every time the guy tees it up he is a factor and that is fantastic when he is playing a shaft that is as visible on television as the ProForce V2. So, were thrilled.
Steve Stach, PGA TOUR rep for Nike Golf, is excited about the amount of attention the Nike Tour Staff is paying to the new Sumo driver. Stach told me, Guys are really sitting up and paying attention to this new driver. We just got a fresh shipment of the heads in on the trailer this week and a lot of the players on our staff who havent had a chance to hit it yet will be trying it in the next couple of weeks. I asked Stach about the process of moving players in to a new driver like Sumo. We have all the players specifications on the tour van, says Stach, So when we have a new product we build it for them ahead of time so its ready to go if they do want to try it. Theyll give us their feedback, but also, a lot of times they will put it right in play. What we see is that if a player thinks the club will help their game, thats what theyre interested in.
The marketing side is one thing, but with these guys they just want to play great golf. If a new product helps them do that they are going to put it in their bag. I asked Stach if they are most often initially able to build the new driver using the same shaft the player has in their current gamer even though this is a new head they are trying. We typically build them the new driver with their current gamer specs. Say a player is using a Mitsubishi Diamana 63 X in an SQ Tour head at 7.5 degrees of loft, we would build that exact same driver with the new head and that way it gives us a baseline. We know those specs are working for them because thats the way we set up their current gamer. So its a good place for us to start with the new head. Then if we have to make adjustments we can do that moving forward.
John Oldenberg, VP of Engineering and Product Development for Aldila, tells me there are a couple of brand new prototype shafts being tested at Riviera this week. First time out of the gate on a couple of new shafts for us, says John. Were looking at some ways to take some more spin off the ball and these guys are always happy to hear were working on that. They dont like the ball to spin too much off their driver. Asked specifically about the new shafts John says, Well, its kind of like we always do. We take a successful platform like the VS Proto and we modify it based on the feedback we get from these guys on TOUR. One of these new prototypesweve made the butt of the shaft very stiff and the tip of the shaft very soft. Now, this is kind of against what most TOUR players tell people they have to have. But you dont necessarily have to have a stiff tip if the butt to tip aspect ratio is in a range that matches the spin and flight characteristics were trying to achieve. And as far as the other prototype being tested this week, John says, Were working on a shaft to accommodate the torque challenges created by these newest large driver heads you see out here. These new high MOI heads create a whole new set of challenges for us. So we want to take our already successful platform, like VS Proto, and adapt it to work well with the new shape geometry drivers. Thats the kind of stuff were working on out here this week.
On Friday I was in Carlsbad, Calif., just a couple hours drive down the coast from Hogans Alley; Riviera Country Club and the Nissan Open. I was at Callaway Golfs Ely Callaway Performance Center to interview a couple of the R&D boys about Callaways newest products. While my cameraman was setting up the gear in a conference room I wandered out on to the second floor balcony that overlooks the Performance Centers magnificently manicured driving range. It was a beautiful Southern California morning; a sunny blue sky accompanied by a nice cool breeze. Just perfect, really. I happened to glance over to the right in the direction of the parking lot. No big deal. A couple of guys shooting the breeze. One of the men in the group, however, kind of caught my attention. He had his back to me but even so, and being a good distance off, there was a familiarity about his posture; his bearing, if you will.
I started to take a closer look and really focus in: the build (bigger than the other fellas), the posture, the well-tailored golf clothes, and the visorthe visor? Holy smokes, thats Phil Mickelson! But, wait a minute. Its 9:00 am on Friday morning and Lefty has a 12:40 pm tee-time up the road in Pacific Palisades at the Nissan Classic. Never mind. I keep watching. Sure enough, after a couple of minutes of talking, Phil walks over to his car, takes out his golf bag (which, by the way, he carried himself) and walks on to the driving range. He stakes out the far right piece of turf, throws down his alignment shaft and starts doing a little light stretching.
The European Tours Johan Edfors from Sweden was already hitting balls and Johan and Phil struck up a brief conversation. Nice vacation you had Phil, said Johan. And a great win at AT&T. Phil responded, You had a great year last year, Johan. Three wins out there. Thats good stuff. Then Phil was all business. He pulled sand wedge and started to hit little shots.
Im thinking, this is too cool. Phil Mickelson has a 12:40 pm tee-time and hes here at the Ely Callaway Performance Center to warm up instead of warming up at Riviera. So, I ask the Callaway Tour Reps to ask Phil for permission to tape him warming up. No problem, Phil says. Boom, done. We shoot some b-roll of Lefty going through his warm-up routine and that tape gets couriered back up to the tournament site to air on the Golf Channel. I was going to ask Phil to take the tape back with him on his Gulfstream V but I thought that might be pushing it a bit.
About fifty minutes after he arrived at Callaway, or approximately 9:55 am, Phil Mickelson put his golf bag in the car, drove himself to Carlsbad airport, hopped on his plane and jetted to Santa Monica airport. Im assuming he made his tee-time with plenty of room to spare since he fired a sizzling second round 65 en route to sharing the lead with Padraig Harrington. Can you say cool as a cucumber?
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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry