While still a preferred option off the tee on short par 4s and narrow driving holes, many of today’s 3-woods are versatile enough to be hit from the rough or the short grass, giving the average golfer a chance to hit the green on long approach shots where the hybrid won’t get them there.
“They’re going to help the golfer get as close to the green as possible on the second shot,” said Gidge Moody, product line manager for metal woods at Nike Golf.
While today’s fairway woods are performing more like hybrids, their head shapes still remain distinctly different. Most fairway woods are larger in depth from the face to the back of the head, whereas the hybrids are designed to look more like an iron to give off a feel of more precision.
“Our engineers have gotten very talented at placing the center of gravity (CG) properly,” said Moody. “We can make fairway woods that go low or go high, with more or less spin. It depends on what type of performance the player is looking for.”
Here are several of the top performing fairway woods on the market today.
Nike SQ Dymo fairway woods
In testing the 3-wood it's almost as easy to hit from a fairway lie as a hybrid. This is due to the Quad Keel design on the sole of the club, which minimizes turf interaction to help get the ball airborne from any lie. It's shaped like four quadrants – or planes – although the Quad Keel in the 3-wood is not as abrupt as on the other woods.
The two quadrants farthest from the clubface are angled down so less of the head is touching the ground at impact. The two forward quadrants are designed to contact the turf but with minimal resistance, so the clubhead doesn’t twist offline as easily or lose much clubhead speed.
The CG in the lower-lofted woods is placed higher and more forward, toward the face, to create less spin and a more penetrating ball flight, whereas the higher-lofted models feature a lower, deeper CG to increase spin and launch the ball higher. The SQ Dymo also features a matted, black textured finish on the crown to reduce glare.
Players using the SQ Dymo fairway woods on the PGA Tour include Anthony Kim and David Duval. It comes in lofts of 13, 15, 17, 19 and 21 degrees (15, 17 and 19 degrees for left-handers).
Big Bertha Diablo fairway woods
Big brother (the Diablo driver) receives most of the attention, but the Diablo line also extends to fairway woods ($179 steel, $199 graphite). Like the driver, the 3-wood comes in a neutral and draw-biased head for those golfers who need extra help combating their slice. The crown on the draw head is skewed toward the heel of the club so that as you look down at address, the head looks to be pointing right of the target. This helps you visualize the proper path on the takeaway, which is to the inside. Most slicers tend to take the club back to the outside and then swing down into impact from outside-in. The shape of the Diablo promotes the proper inside track into the ball.
At the same time, the face of the draw head (available in 16, 18.5, 21 and 23.5 degrees) is slightly closed, to help reduce the possibility of hitting a slice. The shaping of the head also allows more mass to be moved toward the heel of the club, which helps create a draw.
The neutral head (available in 13, 15 and 18 degrees) is slightly smaller than the draw head and is designed for better players and Tour players. Phil Mickelson carries a 13-degree neutral 3-wood.
The face on both heads is relatively shallow, and designed so that the leading edge sits very close to the ground. This gives off the appearance that the head is sitting below the ball, which gives the average golfer more confidence that they can get the ball up in the air.
Ping G15 and i15 fairway woods
Both of Ping’s new offerings in fairway woods are designed to perform from all types of lies and conditions. The G15 is the game improvement club, and features a very long, low profile along the lines of the old Adams Tight Lies clubs. The shallow face design should appeal to the mid- to high-handicap golfer who likes a larger head size.
The G15 ($230 MSRP) also comes in a draw version; an external weight pad is positioned farther back (from the face) and closer to the heel to promote a right-to-left ball. The G15 comes in lofts of 15.5 (3-wood), 17 (4-wood), 18.5 (5-wood) and 21.5 degrees (7-wood), while the G15 Draw is available in the 3-, 4- and 5-woods.
The better player’s club is the i15 ($265 MSRP), which is still fairly large from heel to toe, but is weighted differently to produce lower-spinning shots and a more medium trajectory. It comes in a strong 3-wood (14 degrees), 3-wood (15.5 degrees) and 5-wood (18.5 degrees).
LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019
The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.
The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play The Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.
The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.
The LAAC was founded by The Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in The Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at Club de Golf de Panama.
Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins
An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.
It was too much “socializing.”
“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”
Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.
“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”
Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.
His plan for doing that?
“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”
McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018
Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.
So much for easing into the new year.
So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.
McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.
“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”
McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.
If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.
After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.
“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.
McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.
“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”
It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.
“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”
A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.
A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.
Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.
To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.
Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.
McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.
“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.
A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.
“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”
A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.
Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open
SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.
The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.
Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.
Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.
''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''
The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.
''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''
Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.
''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.
Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.
He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.
Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.
Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.
He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.
Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.