Tiger the Whistle Stop Tour Pt 7

By Casey BiererFebruary 25, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editors note: Golf Channel business reporter Casey Bierer participated in Nike Golfs Whistle Stop Tour; a press and media junket that traveled a group of Nike execs and invited media to four cities in 48 hours. This column is the seventh entry of a multi-part series chronicling the journey.
 
Preface
Heres a recipe we havent seen before: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore - a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
 
The assignment given to me by The Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Woods, Duval and Gore. This was going to be fun.
 
Part 6
The interview with Tiger in Los Angeles went off without a hitch. Tiger went his way and we, the Nike WST participants, went our way. The way was east; with David Duval comfortably onboard Nikes GV we jetted towards Phoenix, Arizona and the TPC Scottsdale. While our lovely stewardess Allison put out a tasty lunch of fresh sandwiches, salad, fruit and beverages I took the opportunity to chat with the worlds former No. 1.
 
Casey: So, David, no matter what it looks like, no matter what it sounds like, if the ball goes straighter and longer thats a good thing?
 
Duval: That is all good. That is good. And I think the progression of all clubs over the years ' drivers, irons, fairway woods and more recently hybrids ' the science is coming in to play more and more. The demand or insistence that golf clubs must be traditional looking is gone, I thinkthats out the window now. Just like the days of the wound golf ballthose days are over. I think when you can innovate like Nike has with the Sumo and Sumo people are going to be very open to using this new gear.
 
Casey: We probably see the most radical shape geometries being employed in drivers, right?
 
Duval: I would certainly agree with that. I think people are open to just about anything that is going to help them hit the ball longer and straighter; and TOUR professionals, for the most part, are no exception to that. I think with irons people might be a little more apt to stick to what they know ' what they are used to ' but with drivers, I really think the gloves are off at this point. You know for me, when it comes to irons, I dont really need help getting the ball up because I am generating a fair amount of club head speed. So even if the rough is up or I dont have a great lie I am still going to be able to catch it solid. But with amateurs, I can completely understand why hybrids and game improvement irons are so attractive. I think for average players ' and were even seeing a lot of it on the professionals TOURS the last few years ' hybrids are a great addition to just about any golf bag.
 
Casey: Looking at your own game for a moment, are you a numbers guy ' launch monitor, spin rates, launch conditions ' or are you more of a feel player? If the ball flies the way you want it to thats your barometer?
 
Duval: I am most definitely not a guy who is fixated on the numbers. I think I check the numbers from time to time to make sure I am not way off the mark in terms of how my equipment is set up for me. But I get my feedback mainly from seeing how the ball is flying and if it is going where I want it to go. I also really just feel it through my swing and through my hands and body. But, you know, if I want to compare a couple of clubs side-by-side I will get on the launch monitor and see what the numbers say. But, you know, having hit enough golf balls over the years I have a fairly good idea of what it should look like in the air and how it should react when it lands to be performing well.
 
Casey: My sources in Nikes Tour Department tell me you still prefer a little bit of a lower launch angle off your driver than the launch monitor indicates is optimal. Hard to teach an old dog new tricks?
 
Duval: (laughs) You could certainly say that. The one thing I have been reluctant to do is get my launch angle up to where the people at Nike want me to. I like to see the ball come off the driver a little lower than what the launch monitor numbers say is optimal and even though its hard to argue with science its also hard to break my instincts of what I want the ball to fly like. Theyve worked on me the last few years and Ive allowed the launch angle to come up a little bit but I cant quite let them get me all the way up to the 12 degrees they are looking for.
 
Casey: In the last ten years Nike has gone from having no position in the golf industry to being considered a leader in golf and youve certainly been a big part of their success. Has it been interesting for you see this growth happen?
 
Duval: Oh, its been very interesting. Youre not just dealing with a golf brand youre dealing with one of the biggest brands in the world of any industryof any business. And Ive been involved early enough ' the last five, six, seven years ' to feel like I was in on the ground floor. And certainly as a guy who makes my living playing golf I place a lot of faith in the people at Nike Golf. The people that design and build the balls and clubs, I think they know how important what they do is because they are basically placing their vision of technology in my hands and telling me this is the best stuff out there and you can go out and win with it. The route that they are trying to take in golf technologywell, I dont see anybody around Nike following other companies, I see Nike leading what other companies do. And so I am excited to see what Nike Golf has done over the last ten years and I think its going to be exciting to see where they go in the future.
 
Casey: David, you are oh so closeI mean right there on the cusp of where you want to be again. Can you taste it?
 
Duval: I really think I can. You know, part of me was sad to see the 06 season come to an end because I was getting close. But at the same time I dont think I was really getting anything out of my golf either. I mean, virtually every day I teed it up I more or less posted the highest score I could post even though I was actually hitting the ball very well. But at the end of the year I was playing so, so well that that was exciting. And with those thoughts in mind I was quite happy to see 06 behind me, get rested and get in a good frame of mind and come out well in the 07 season.
 
Casey: Are you ever surprised or taken aback when you realize just how many millions and millions of people ' people you have never met and who most likely have never met you ' root for you to win again?
 
Duval: Its nice, isnt it? And yes, I really have felt that. And Ive certainly been asked why I think that is. And, you know, the only thing I can think of is that people saw me at the top and they have certainly seen me at the bottom and through it all I have always said what I thought was the truth ' what was really on my mind ' and I think people enjoy hearing from their athletes what they really thinkwhats really in their heartsand not that kind of safe, stock answer you get so often. So maybe thats why people are still pulling for me to do well. And also, people just like an underdog and they like comebacks. So I hope I can make them cheer again.
 
We arrived at TPC Scottsdale right on schedule and David Duval did in fact receive a very warm round of cheers from people who had come out to watch him hit the new Sumo and Sumo drivers.
 
Golf fans, let me do my best to try and explain what its like to stand ten feet away from David Duval when he lets driver rip on a wide open driving range. The ground shakes, trees bend and small children run for cover. The explosion of force as club head impacts golf ball sounds like heavy artillery fire. Jaws drop and eyeballs pop wide open. The ball goes, and goes, and goes and then goes some more. Duvals swingseemingly effortless and in perfect balanceis as comfortable as slipping in to an old pair of loafers. How he does it I can not begin to tell you. I can tell you watching David Duval hit driver is a sight to behold.
 
We were all sorry to say goodbye to David but quite pleased to be joined by another of Nikes big bombers, Jason Gore. Jason would fly with us the next morning to New York City and the financial district where he would put on an exhibition of his own. But, not before dinner on this lovely Scottsdale night. You think Jason Gore can play golf, you should see him eat!
 
Related Links:
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 6
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 5
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 4
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 3
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 2
  • Tiger and the Whistle Stop Tour, Part 1
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.