QA Helping the Good Get Better

By Frank ThomasFebruary 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Frank,
I believe that the PGA Merchandise Show is becoming nothing more than a high handicapper's convention, and the better golfer (10 handicap and on down) is being left behind. All you hear is about how the weight is being shifted lower and to the rear of the club face (I know the market is higher handicappers since they make up more of the consumer market). Can you give me a preview of some innovations for the single digit handicappers in the coming year - especially in regards to irons?
 
One other question:
I currently play the Nike Forged Blade irons (2-PW), and even though you'll disagree with me, I know theyve helped my game and made me much more accurate. However, I'm considering a move to the Callaway X-Tour irons (2-PW). I hit these irons higher and much farther - I'm at least a club longer in this set. One thing I've noticed with cavity back irons (game improvement sets especially) is that though the ball is easier to get in the air, you can't work the ball as easily and yardage control is nowhere near as pin-point as with blades. I am worried that though the X-Tour irons are of a forged construction, the added distance will affect my yardage control. I am a 5 handicap, and this technology phenomenon has interested me for some time. Can you provide me with some insight?
--Eric

 
Eric,
The PGA Show is meant to be where manufacturers exhibit their new lines for the year and take orders. This year was my 38th show, and yes, it has changed quite a bit. The clothing lines have taken over, and I believe the show is good for them.
 
Because manufacturers are now introducing new models up to three times during the year, the show is not as enlightening as it used to be from an equipment point of view. Also, the larger retail outlets are starting to dominate in retail sales. It is inevitable that those outlets will concentrate on the higher handicapper, as he/she makes up a major part of the golfing population. Only 6% of male golfers have a handicap of 5 or less.
 
When it comes to innovations in irons for you, things havent changed much, so dont look for any magic. The Nike blades you have will behave a little differently compared to the X-Tour youre thinking about because they are inch shorter and the loft is two degrees more. For example, the Nike 6-iron has 33 degrees of loft and is 37.25 long; the Callaway X-Tour 6-iron has 31 degrees of loft (the X-20 Tour is even stronger, with 30 degrees of loft) and 37.5 inches long. This could explain the difference in the distance you are experiencing. The center of gravity is also a little lower for the X-Tour clubs. Because of the higher MOI for the X-Tour, you may find, as you say, a little more difficulty in working the ball than with the Nike blade. Most of the really good golfers select blades for this reason, and also because their performance ceiling is limited by game improvement clubs. These forgiving clubs make some bad shots feel reasonably good, so they wont provide the feedback when you miss it. This tends to make the golfer complacent and reduce the incentive to improve. For most of us this is OK, but for the very best being precise is essential.
 
As a low handicapper you will not benefit as much as a high handicapper from using some of the latest square headed drivers which are designed to be forgiving for off-centered impacts of some significance. Test these for yourself to determine if they have a place in your bag. For more on square drivers please visit my latest newsletter by clicking here.
 
Hope this has reinforced your intuitive and sound beliefs.
--Frank
 
Aloha Frank,
When Im at the range hitting balls -- especially with my driver -- I notice the ball seems to have a slight fade. But when Im on the course, my game ball (3-piece) has a draw. Can you tell me why this happens? I dont feel like I change my swing from range to course. Because of the different flights between balls I mostly work on tempo and contact while on the range.
Any info would be great.
Mahalo,
Ed

 
Aloha Ed,
There is no good reason for this to happen. Check your set up and/or the prevailing wind direction on the range. You might also try working on your tempo on the course and see if this does anything to solve the problem.
 
To make sure the ball is not the determining factor, I suggest that you play a round with range balls. First tell the pro -- and anybody else who might shoot you for using range balls on the course -- that youre conducting an experiment. Warn your golfing buddies about what youre going to do. If youre still hitting a draw on the course, you know its not the ball. Personally, I think my handicap is about five strokes better on the range. It may be those racing stripes on the ball. Let me know what happens.
--Frank
 
Hi Frank,
I really enjoy your segment on your game night. I have a complicated problem that I hope you may be able help me to dissect and analyze.
 
Two winters ago I fell on my left wrist and it was diagnosed as re-aggravating a break that occurred some years ago. I can still move it in all directions, but not as much as my right hand. Prior to that, I was playing to an 8 handicap.
 
Around that time, I got an equipment and swing analysis as well as couple of lessons. The instructor determined that my grips should have a little larger diameter and my lie angle should be adjusted upward, since I was hitting the ground with the toe of the club.
 
Shortly after getting my clubs adjusted, I developed a case of the shanks. Out of around 100 balls I hit in one practice session, I shanked about 35 of them. Naturally, I was going out of my mind. What did that instructor do to my game? I compensated and corrected the problem by flipping the wrist a little quicker though the impact zone, and while the shank still showed up here and there, I pretty much got used to the equipment or wrist position I had. Two years later, though, things are still not quite right, and Im searching for the cause.
 
I put back my old size grips on all my clubs and returned the lie angle of the irons, even though I'm still hitting it off the toe of the club. I did this to get back to square one. I knew from past experience I shouldnt change more than one variable in my equipment at a time, but decided to try the changes anyway. Im still recovering.
 
What happened? Could the wrist injury cause my clubhead to hit with the toe first because of the range of motion limitation? I don't seem to have a big problem with pushing the ball right, though it does go that way more than before; my previous ball flight was more of a slight draw to straight.
 
Please help,
Mike

 
Mike,
There is no way that I am going to even think about solving your shanking problem. Even typing this S word is bad for my psyche. I can say that theres no reason the equipment changes or injury should cause you to sh sh you know, that bad shot. Beyond that, I can probably help you with the grip size issue and the lie angle.
 
Because of your injury, you now have a new swing, and that means you need to do some recalibrating. Grip size first: make sure you feel comfortable when gripping the club. If it feels too big then it probably is. A thicker grip will reduce the wrist rotation slightly as youve surmised, and it will leave the face a little open at impact. Once you have selected a grip size that feels good to you, check the ball flight; if its to your liking then youre in business. If its off line, then check the lie angle using a lie board. If the scuff mark is in the center of the sole then the lie is correct. You can, however, influence the flight by changing the lie to be more upright for a more right to left flight and vice versa for the left to right flight. Once this has been done, then get a good teaching pro to look at your swing if the S word still happens too often.
Hope this helps
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
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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.

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Kuchar joins European Tour as affiliate member

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 2:52 pm

Months after he nearly captured the claret jug, Matt Kuchar has made plans to play a bit more golf in Europe in 2018.

Kuchar is in the field this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told reporters in advance of the opening round that he has opted to join the European Tour as an affiliate member:

As an affiliate member, Kuchar will not have a required minimum number of starts to make. It's the same membership status claimed last year by Kevin Na and Jon Rahm, the latter of whom then became a full member and won two European Tour events in 2017.

Kuchar made six European Tour starts last year, including his runner-up performance at The Open. He finished T-4 at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in his lone European Tour start that wasn't co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour.

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Hot Seat: Rory jumps into the fire early

By Randall MellJanuary 17, 2018, 2:11 pm

The world’s top tours head to desert regions this week, perfect locales for The Hot Seat, the gauge upon which we measure the level of heat the game’s top personalities are facing ...

Sahara sizzle: Rory McIlroy

McIlroy won’t have to look far to see how his form measures up to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McIlroy will make his 2018 debut with Johnson in his face, literally.

McIlroy will be grouped with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood in the first two rounds.

Players like to downplay pairings early in a tournament, but it’s hard to believe McIlroy and Johnson won’t be trying to send each other messages in this European Tour event in the United Arab Emirates. That’s the alpha-dog nature of world-class players looking to protect their turf, or in the case of McIlroy, take back his turf.

“When you are at the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Trevor Immelman said about pairings during Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge last month.

And that was an offseason event.

“They want to show this guy, ‘This is what I got,’” Immelman said.

As early season matchups go, Abu Dhabi is a heavyweight pairing that ought to be fun.

So there will be no easing into the new year for McIlroy after taking off the last three months to regroup from the stubborn rib injury that plagued him last season. He is coming off a winless year, and he will be doing so alongside a guy who just won the first PGA Tour event of 2018 in an eight-shot rout. Johnson’s victory in Hawaii two weeks ago was his fifth since McIlroy last won.

“Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place, and that was because of where I was physically,” McIlroy said of 2017. “I feel prepared now. I feel ready, and I feel ready to challenge. I feel really good about where I’m at with my health. I’ve put all that behind me, which has been great.”



Sonoran Smolder: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson will turn 48 this summer.

His world ranking is sliding, down to No. 43 now, which is the lowest he has ranked in 24 years.

It’s been more than four years since he last won, making him 0 for his last 92 starts.

There’s motivation in all of that for Mickelson. He makes his 2018 debut at the CareerBuilder Challenge in the Palm Springs area this week talking like a man on a renewed mission.

There’s a Ryder Cup team to make this season, which would be his 12th straight, and there’s a career Grand Slam to claim, with the U.S. Open returning to Shinnecock Hills, where Mickelson finished second in ’04.

While Mickelson may not feel old, there are so many young stars standing in his way that it’s hard not to be constantly reminded that time isn’t on his side in these events anymore.

There has only been one player in the history of the game to win a major championship who was older than Mickelson is right now. Julius Boros won the PGA Championship when he was 48 back in 1968.



Campaign fever: Jordan Spieth

Spieth’s respect in the game’s ranks extends outside the ropes.

He was just selected to run for the PGA Tour Player Advisory Council’s chairman position. He is facing Billy Hurley III in an election to see who will succeed Davis Love III on the Tour’s Policy Board next year.

Spieth, just 24, has already made Time Magazine’s list of the “100 Most Influential People.” He made that back in 2016, with the magazine writing that “he exemplifies everything that’s great about sports.” Sounds like a campaign slogan.

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CareerBuilder Challenge: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 1:10 pm

The PGA Tour shifts from Hawaii to Southern California for the second full-field event of the year. Here are the key stats and information for the CareerBuilder Challenge. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch (all rounds on Golf Channel):

Thursday, Rd. 1: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Sunday, Rd. 4: 3-7PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream


Purse: $5.9 million ($1,062,000 to winner)

Courses: PGA West, Stadium Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,113); PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,159); La Quinta Country Club, La Quinta, Calif. (72-7,060) NOTE: All three courses will be used for the first three rounds but only the Stadium Course will be used for the final round.

Defending champion: Hudson Swafford (-20) - defeated Adam Hadwin by one stroke to earn his first PGA Tour win.


Notables in the field

Phil Mickelson

* This is his first start of 2018. It's the fourth consecutive year he has made this event the first one on his yearly calendar.

* For the second year in a row he will serve as the tournament's official ambassador.

* He has won this event twice - in 2002 and 2004.

* This will be his 97th worldwide start since his most recent win, The Open in 2013.


Jon Rahm

* Ranked No. 3 in the world, he finished runner-up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

* In 37 worldwide starts as a pro, he has 14 top-5 finishes.

* Last year he finished T-34 in this event.


Adam Hadwin

* Last year in the third round, he shot 59 at La Quinta Country Club. It was the ninth - and still most recent - sub-60 round on Tour.

* In his only start of 2018, the Canadian finished 32nd in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.


Brian Harman

* Only player on the PGA Tour with five top-10 finishes this season.

* Ranks fifth in greens in regulation this season.

* Finished third in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T-4 in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


Brandt Snedeker

* Making only his third worldwide start since last June at the Travelers Championship. He has been recovering from a chest injury.

* This is his first start since he withdrew from the Indonesian Masters in December because of heat exhaustion.

* Hasn't played in this event since missing the cut in 2015.


Patrick Reed

* Earned his first career victory in this event in 2014, shooting three consecutive rounds of 63.

* This is his first start of 2018.

* Last season finished seventh in strokes gained: putting, the best ranking of his career.

(Stats provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit.)