Hybrids starting to catch on with PGA Tour

By David AllenJuly 30, 2009, 4:00 pm
Five years ago, very few PGA Tour players carried a hybrid in their bag. But changes to the golf ball (less spin and curvature) and tougher course conditions (thicker rough, longer tracks, faster greens) have made it a must-have in players bags today. At last months U.S. Open, 147 were in play, including three by Vijay Singh (Adams Idea A3 hybrids, 19, 22 and 25 degrees). The longest iron in Singhs bag was a 6-iron. Singh added the 22- and 25-degree hybrids to his bag the day before the start of the championship to deal with Bethpage Blacks thick rough and elevated greens.
 
Recreational golfers have been turning to hybrids and utility woods for several years now as replacements for those hard-to-hit long irons, but now the best players in the world are catching on. The 1- and 2-irons are ancient history and the 3- and 4-irons are in danger of becoming extinct thanks to the versatility and high-launch characteristics of the hybrids. Not only are they a good choice out of the rough and on long approach shots where you need to land the ball softly, but they can be used off the tee, from a fairway bunker or chipping around the green.
 
The majority of consumers out there slice the ball and struggle to break 100, so it helps their game more, said Michael Vrska, Director of Product Development for Adams Golf, the leader in hybrids played on the PGA Tour the last two years. But to have one golf club you can do literally everything with but putt, what a blessing to the Tour pro who has only 14 clubs in his bag. We havent given up on long irons, but we have the clubs to replace them.
 
Adams has been integrating hybrids into iron sets since 2002. At first, it was only the 3- and 4-irons being replaced, but now you will see many hybrid-irons sets with four or more hybrids and fewer irons. A set of Idea a4OS Hybrid Irons from Adams features seven hybrids (3-9) and four wedges (pitching, gap, sand, and lob).
 
We encourage people to throw their 3- and 4-irons as far back in the garage as they can and buy hybrids, said Vrska. Theyre moving deeper into the set. Its not just a fad or something thats going to go away, theres going to be more and more hybrids in golfers bags, at all levels.
 
Following are three of the newest hybrids from Adams, Cobra and TaylorMade. You just might see one of them in your favorite players bag soon ' or your own.
 
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid
Adams Idea a7 Hybrid with peanut-shaped sole.
Adams took the best of several generations of Idea hybrids ' the shaping from the Idea Pro, the sole interaction from the Tour Idea Peanut, and the forgiveness of the Idea Pro Gold ' and merged them into one club which Vrska describes as the best hybrid we have ever produced. Intended for mid-handicappers, the a7 has been spotted in the bags of several Tour players this season, including Chad Campbell, Matt Kuchar and Boo Weekley. Adams biggest ambassador, Tom Watson, plays the Idea Pro.
 
The a7 is a close cousin to the Peanut, a prototype hybrid which has drawn quite a following on the PGA and Nationwide Tours since its introduction 18 months ago. The code name PNT is stamped on the sole of the a7, a reference to the rounded camber design which takes on the appearance of a peanut. The shaping of the sole allows the clubhead to perform well from all different types of lies (tight lies, rough, sand).
 
A close look at the sole reveals another interesting feature: a 41-gram rear weight. The extra weight helps lower the center of gravity to create a higher launch angle and more carry distance.
 
The Idea a7 hybrids come in lofts of 17, 19, 22 and 25 degrees and can be purchased both individually ($149; graphite only) or as part of an eight-piece hybrid iron set which includes the 3- and 4-hybrids, a hollow-back 5 transition iron, and 6-iron through pitching wedge ($599 graphite, $499 steel). These are all minimum advertised prices.
 
King Cobra Baffler TWS
Cobra Baffler TWS
Cobra Baffler TWS with Triple Weighting System.
Cobras Baffler, the No. 1-selling utility metal on the market the last three years, has bulked up for 2009 in its bid to four-peat. The 09 Baffler TWS, which stands for Triple Weighting System, added a third internal weight pad to the clubs sole to increase the moment of inertia (resistance to twisting) and position the center of gravity lower and deeper in the clubhead. The new Baffler TWS has a slightly larger face area from heel to toe than the previous DWS (Dual Weighting System) to optimize ball speed and distance.
 
Weve lowered the CG location to create a slightly higher launch angle and increased the MOI for even greater forgiveness and consistency across the entire hitting area, said Tom Preece, Vice President of Cobra Club Research and Development. The face area has also been made slightly larger to drive higher ball speeds on off-center hits.
 
The Bafflers larger face area and contour-sole design allows you to play the club from the rough and a variety of different lies, making it a much easier-to-hit, more versatile option than your long irons.
 

 
The original Baffler, launched in 1975, was the first utility metal sold in the retail marketplace. The 2009 version has a street price of $149. It comes in Mens, Seniors and Womens versions, with lofts reaching as high as 35 degrees in the Womens TWS. Lofts range from 16 to 29 degrees in the Mens TWS.
 
TaylorMade Raylor
TaylorMade Raylor
TaylorMade's Raylor sole is shaped like a ship's hull to help get through the rough.
This prototype made its debut at the U.S. Open in June in the bags of both Kenny Perry and Fred Funk. Perry replaced his 3-iron with the 19-degree Raylor, and managed to make birdie from the rough in the first round after hitting his new hybrid tight from 220 yards out.
 
TaylorMade is hyping the Raylor as the ultimate weapon for escaping the rough. The clubhead is smaller from heel to toe than most hybrids and its sole is shaped like a ships hull, which allows it to glide through the grass with little resistance. A pointed, V-shaped leading edge also helps the clubhead penetrate the grass for better ball-face contact.
 
The Raylor (Price N/A) isnt scheduled to be released until September 14. It comes in two lofts ' 19 and 22 degrees ' and a 65-gram graphite shaft which is one-inch longer than the standard length found in TaylorMades popular Rescue hybrids.
 

 
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Tour's Integrity Program raises gambling questions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 17, 2018, 7:00 pm

The video begins with an eye-opening disclaimer: “Sport betting markets produce revenues of $1 trillion each year.”

For all the seemingly elementary elements of the 15-minute video PGA Tour players have been required to watch as part of the circuit’s newly created Integrity Program, it’s the enormity of the industry – $1 trillion annually – that concerns officials.

There are no glaring examples of how sport betting has impacted golf, no red flags that sent Tour officials into damage control; just a realization that with that kind of money it’s best to be proactive.

“It's important that in that world, you can operate not understanding what's happening week in and week out, or you can assume that all of our players and everybody in our ecosystem understands that that's not an acceptable activity, or you can just be proactive and clarify and educate,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan explained earlier this month. “That's what we have attempted to do not with just the video, but with all of our communication with our players and will continue to do that.”

But if clarification is the goal, a copy of the training video obtained by GolfChannel.com paints a different picture.



Although the essence of the policy is straightforward – “prohibit players from betting on professional golf” – the primary concern, at least if the training video is any indication, is on match fixing; and warns players to avoid divulging what is considered “inside information.”

“I thought the questions were laughable. They were all like first-grade-level questions,” Chez Reavie said. “I would like to think everyone out here already knows the answer to those questions. But the Tour has to protect themselves.”

Monahan explained that the creation of the integrity policy was not in reaction to a specific incident and every player asked last week at the Sony Open said they had never encountered any type of match fixing.

“No, not at all,” Reavie said. “I have friends who will text me from home after a round, ‘Oh, I bet on you playing so-and-so.’ But I make it clear I don’t want to know. I don’t gamble like that. No one has ever approached me about losing a match.”

It was a common answer, but the majority of the video focuses on how players can avoid being placed in a compromising situation that could lead to match fixing. It should be noted that gamblers can place wagers on head-to-head matchups, provided by betting outlets, during stroke-play rounds of tournaments – not just in match-play competitions.

Part of the training video included questions players must answer to avoid violating the policy. An example of this was how a player should respond when asked, “Hello, buddy! Well played today. I was following your progress. I noticed your partner pulled out of his approach on 18, looked like his back. Is he okay for tomorrow?”

The correct answer from a list of options was, “I don’t know, sorry. I’m sure he will get it looked at if it’s bothering him.”

You get the idea, but for some players the training created more questions.

How, for example, should a player respond when asked how he’s feeling by a fan?

“The part I don’t understand, let’s say a member of your club comes out and watches you on the range hitting balls, he knows you’re struggling, and he bets against you. Somehow, some way that could come back to you, according to what I saw on that video,” said one player who asked not to be identified.

Exactly what constitutes a violation is still unclear for some who took the training, which was even more concerning considering the penalties for a violation of the policy.

The first violation is a warning and a second infraction will require the player to retake the training program, but a third violation is a fine “up to $500,000” or “the amount illegally received from the betting activity.” A sixth violation is a lifetime ban from the Tour.

Players are advised to be mindful of what they post on social media and to “refrain from talking about odds or betting activity.” The latter could be an issue considering how often players discuss betting on other sports.

Just last week at the Sony Open, Kevin Kisner and Justin Thomas had a “friendly” wager on the College Football Playoff National Championship. Kisner, a Georgia fan, lost the wager and had to wear an Alabama football jersey while playing the 17th hole last Thursday.

“If I'd have got the points, he'd have been wearing [the jersey], and I was lobbying for the points the whole week, and he didn't give them to me,” Kisner said. “So I'm still not sure about this bet.”

It’s unclear to some if Kisner’s remark, which was a joke and didn’t have anything to do with golf, would be considered a violation. From a common sense standpoint, Kisner did nothing wrong, but the uncertainty is an issue.

Much like drug testing, which the Tour introduced in 2008, few, if any, think sport betting is an issue in golf; but also like the anti-doping program, there appears to be the danger of an inadvertent and entirely innocent violation.

The Tour is trying to be proactive and the circuit has a trillion reasons to get out in front of what could become an issue, but if the initial reaction to the training video is any indication they may want to try a second take.

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Lexi looks to shine as LPGA season begins next week

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 6:06 pm

Lexi Thompson may be No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings, but in so many ways she became the new face of the women’s game last year.

That makes her the headliner in a fairly star-studded season opener at the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic next week.

Three of the top four players in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings are scheduled to tee it up on Paradise Island, including world No. 1 Shanshan Feng and co-Rolex Player of the Year So Yeon Ryu.

From the heartache at year’s start with the controversial loss at the ANA Inspiration, through the angst in the middle of the year with her mother’s cancer diagnosis, to the stunning disappointment at year’s end, Thompson emerged as the story of the year because of all she achieved in spite of those ordeals.

Next week’s event will mark the first time Thompson tees it up in an LPGA tournament since her season ended in stunning fashion last November with a missed 2-foot putt that cost her a chance to win the CME Group Tour Championship and the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and become the world No. 1.

She still walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for the season’s low scoring average.

She also walked away sounding determined to show she will bounce back from that last disappointment the same way she bounced back from her gut-wrenching loss at the year’s first major, the ANA, where a four-shot Sunday penalty cost her a chance to win her second major.

“Just going through what I have this whole year, and seeing how strong I am, and how I got through it all and still won two tournaments, got six seconds ... it didn’t stop me,” Thompson said leaving the CME Group Tour Championship. “This won’t either.”

Thompson was named the Golf Writers Association of America’s Player of the Year in a vote of GWAA membership. Ryu and Sung Hyun Park won the tour’s points-based Rolex Player of the Year Award.

With those two victories and six second-place finishes, three of those coming after playoff losses, Thompson was close to fashioning a spectacular year in 2017, to dominating the tour.

The new season opens with Thompson the center of attention again. Consistently one of the tour’s best ball strikers and longest hitters, she enjoyed her best year on tour last season by making dramatic improvements in her wedge play, short game and, most notably, her putting.

She doesn’t have a swing coach. She fashioned a better all-around game on her own, or under the watchful eye of her father, Scott. All the work she put in showed up in her winning the Vare Trophy.

The Pure Silk Bahamas Classic will also feature defending champion Brittany Lincicome, as well as Ariya Jutanugarn, Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, Brooke Henderson, I.K. Kim, Danielle Kang and Charley Hull.

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One & Done: 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 5:55 pm

Beginning in 2018, Golf Channel is offering a "One & Done" fantasy game alternative. Choose a golfer and add the salary they earn at the event to your season-long total - but know that once chosen, a player cannot be used again for the rest of the year.

Log on to www.playfantasygolf.com to start your own league and make picks for this week's event.

Here are some players to consider for One & Done picks this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, where Hudson Swafford returns as the defending champion:

Zach Johnson. The two-time major champ has missed the cut here three years in a row. So why include him in One & Done consideration? Because the three years before that (2012-14) included three top-25s highlighted by a third-place finish, and his T-14 at the Sony Open last week was his fifth straight top-25 dating back to September.

Bud Cauley. Cauley has yet to win on Tour, but that could very well change this year - even this week. Cauley ended up only two shots behind Swafford last year and tied for 14th the year prior, as four of his five career appearances have netted at least a top-40 finish. He opened the new season with a T-7 in Napa and closed out the fall with a T-8 at Sea Island.

Adam Hadwin. Swafford left last year with the trophy, but it looked for much of the weekend like it would be Hadwin's tournament as he finished second despite shooting a 59 in the third round. Hadwin was also T-6 at this event in 2016 and now with a win under his belt last March he returns with some unfinished business.

Charles Howell III. If you didn't use him last week at the Sony Open, this could be another good spot for the veteran who has four top-15 finishes over the last seven years at this event, highlighted by a playoff loss in 2013. His T-32 finish last week in Honolulu, while not spectacular, did include four sub-70 scores.

David Lingmerth. Lingmerth was in that 2013 playoff with Howell (eventually won by Brian Gay), and he also lost here in overtimei to Jason Dufner in 2016. The Swede also cracked the top 25 here in 2015 and is making his first start since his wife, Megan, gave birth to the couple's first child in December. Beware the sleep-deprived golfer.

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DJ: Kapalua win means nothing for Abu Dhabi

By Associated PressJanuary 17, 2018, 2:55 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – Dustin Johnson's recent victory in Hawaii doesn't mean much when it comes to this week's tournament.

The top-ranked American will play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship for the second straight year. But this time he is coming off a victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which he won by eight shots.

''That was two weeks ago. So it really doesn't matter what I did there,'' said Johnson, who finished runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Abu Dhabi last year. ''This is a completely new week and everybody starts at even par and so I've got to start over again.''

In 2017, the long-hitting Johnson put himself in contention despite only making one eagle and no birdies on the four par-5s over the first three rounds.

''The par 5s here, they are not real easy because they are fairly long, but dependent on the wind, I can reach them if I hit good tee balls,'' the 2016 U.S. Open champion said. ''Obviously, I'd like to play them a little better this year.''

The tournament will see the return of Paul Casey as a full member of the European Tour after being away for three years.

''It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool,'' said the 40-year-old Englishman, who is now ranked 14th in the world. ''When I was back at the Open Championship at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, I knew this is something I just miss.''

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship starts Thursday and also features former No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who is making a comeback after more than three months off.