15 years after introduction, Pro V1 still going strong

By Al TaysOctober 22, 2015, 4:12 pm

The 2000 PGA Tour season was winding down in October. Tiger Woods was the story of the year, with wins in the U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA Championship. Whether Woods could make it four majors in a row was a question that wouldn’t be answered until the following April at Augusta.

As the leaves turned color, the Tour’s traveling show pulled into Las Vegas for the Invensys Classic. Only eight events paid more than the Invensys’ $4,250,000 total purse and $765,000 first-place money: the three U.S.-based majors, three World Golf Championship events, The Players Championship and the Tour Championship. But the five-round Invensys’ mid-October dates put it up against postseason baseball, plus regular-season NASCAR, college football and the NFL, so national interest in golf was on its annual wane.

On the practice ranges and fairways of the three courses used for the Invensys, it was a different story. A new golf ball was about to be put into play by Titleist. Players and company representatives knew this ball was different, but they couldn’t have known how profoundly the Pro V1 would change the game.

Bill Morgan, senior vice president for Titleist golf ball research and development, remembers being impressed by how many players switched to the new model. “Forty-seven players, or over half of all the Titleist players in the field, immediately put the new Pro V1 in play,” he said.

One of those players was Billy Andrade, who shot all five rounds in the 60s to win by one shot over Phil Mickelson, who also was playing a Pro V1. Andrade later said the win “resurrected my career.”

But ball counts and one player’s career revival do not a revolution make. Over the next 15 years, the Pro V1 (and its later-developed cousin, the Pro V1x) tightened the already-tight grip that Titleist held on the ball market, and were part of a PGA Tour distance explosion that shook the game to its core, producing unheard-of driving stats and sending course owners and their architects scrambling to find locations for new, (farther) back tees.

While the usual suspects (hello, Jack Nicklaus) called for limits on distance, targeting not only the golf ball but “hot,” thin-face drivers, too, Tour players were only too happy to employ a ball that went far and stopped fast.

It should be noted here that the Pro V1 was not the first ball of its kind, i.e., a solid-core, multilayer ball that combined the distance characteristics of previous solid-core balls with the spin and feel of liquid-core, wound, balata balls. Mark O’Meara won the 1998 Masters using a solid-core Strata ball made by Top-Flite. Woods switched from a wound Titleist ball to a solid-core Nike ball shortly before he won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots. After the introduction of the Pro V1, Bridgestone and Callaway filed patent-infringement lawsuits against Acushnet, Titleist’s parent company. Settlements were reached in all cases.

Titleist, however, was the unquestioned big cheese among golf ball makers. More Tour pros use Titleist balls than any other brand, and the company is the leading seller of golf balls as well. So, when more than half of the Titleist players in the Invensys field switched to Pro V1s, the industry took notice. And when 42 of 45 Titleist players in the 2001 Masters field teed up a Pro V1, the rout was on. Titleist had originally planned to introduce the ball to the retail market in March 2001, but moved that date up to December 2000 because of the favorable initial response. Within four months, the Pro V1 was the best-selling golf ball on the market.

The ball’s impact has been felt on both the pro and consumer fronts:

• According to Titleist, two out of every three golfers across the major worldwide pro tours play the Pro V1 or Pro V1x, more than five times the nearest competitor.

• According to Golf Datatech, through September 2015, the Pro V1 has been the best-selling golf ball in the marketplace for 175 consecutive months.

“The Pro V1 responded to the changing nature of the game,” said Mary Lou Bohn, vice president, golf ball marketing and Titleist communications.  “The arrival of the power game on the Tour necessitated golf balls that delivered very low spin in the long game, while maintaining the spin, feel and control of the premium liquid-center, wound-technology golf balls.”

When hit with a driver, the solid-core Pro V1 spun less than a liquid-core balata ball, so it tended to hook and slice less. When stuck with an iron, especially a short iron, the Pro V1 spun more and stopped quicker.

The arrival of the Pro V1 was the death knell for wound, liquid-core balata balls, which had ruled the highest levels of golf for decades. Fifty-nine of the 95 competitors in the 2000 Masters used a wound ball. A year later, only four did.

Today, good luck finding a wound ball in a tournament (or anyplace other than maybe eBay, for that matter). But Pro V1s? They’re everywhere.

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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x