QA Time for Changes

By Frank ThomasNovember 21, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from GOLF CHANNEL's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email
I always enjoy reading anything you write either on the GC e-mail site or in magazines, and I totally respect your opinion. You recently advised a gentleman to keep up with the latest technology in perhaps 5-year increments. I play with X12 irons, steel shaft, which were custom fitted for me in 1999, and I appear to be losing distance as I get older ( Im 62). I love these irons (I only use the 5 thru PW, as I have a hybrid to replace the 3 & 4 irons), but I often think I should consider a newer version of this club, or go to graphite shafts. I have a new 460 driver and 5-wood (2004). When I look at the X18s or X20s, they dont appear to be so different from my X12s as to warrant the cost involved. Are they?
-- Art

The comment I love these irons tells me a great deal, as well as I appear to be losing distance as I get older (I am 62). At 62 you are only maturing, not getting old. The distance you are losing is not because of your clubs, which are a good set of irons and well made. The fact that you love them is more important than anything ' almost.
Iron technology has not changed as much as driver technology in the last ten years, and you know this because you have a two-year-old driver and 5-wood (which should do well for another several years).
Really, the only way to increase the distance with your irons is to increase your head speed. The newer models will not do this for you.
A graphite shaft will probably help because this will lighten the club without decreasing the head weight, which is the business end of the club. When a manufacturer substitutes a graphite shaft for a steel shaft, the swing weight will decrease several points so he (the manufacturer) increases the length of the club by inch to compensate and keep the swing weight the same. This somewhat defeats the purpose, but not completely. This increase in length may allow you to get a few extra yards without any increase in effort, but with a slightly longer club you will also decrease your ability to control the shot a little.
What I have suggested a few times before is that as we mature we need to get to the gym and do some stretching and flexibility exercises. This will allow you to increase your range of motion, which we lose as we mature, and will do more for your distance than any club including a new driver can.
Art, the newer iron clubs you mention wont hurt you at all, but dont expect any significant improvement in distance. Your X-12s probably need to be re-gripped, but I would not recommend that you swap out these good friends, which you love so much. If they werent working for you, then I might suggest a change for both real and psychological reasons. New clubs always hit the ball farther ' or so it seems. Give your X-12s an extra waggle for me.
-- Frank
I really enjoy your columns. It is so refreshing to hear the truth you have taught us on equipment. It has saved me a lot of money. My question for you is about the grooves on the irons. I am a 14 handicapper and strive to improve my game. I was browsing through eBay and noticed a listing for a groove sharpener. I have a set of Mizuno MX-20 irons, forged clubs. I notice the grooves have flattened a slight bit on the edges in my wedges, more so than the other irons. If I were to purchase the groove sharpener and use it, what effect would it have if I incorrectly deepen the grooves or widen them? What is the rules on grooves -- would it make my clubs illegal if this were to happen? Would it affect the play of the ball?
I have never had much spin on the ball when it lands on the greens, but I believe that's more my swing than the grooves. I believe strongly in staying within the rules of the game and do not want to improperly alter my equipment to improve my game; it would only be cheating myself as well as those I play with.
Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your columns.
-- Dean

First, thank you for you kind comments, I am pleased to help. With regard to grooves and the other questions you have asked, let me try to answer them together.
If you decide to sharpen the grooves yourself, you are risking not doing it correctly and may violate the rigid and precise groove specifications. (See Rule 5 c in Appendix II, which I authored about 20 years ago and modified about 15 years ago.The specs seem to be doing a good job, though there are some rumblings about changing them because the some of the pros on tour get out of light rough too easily. For heavens sake, just grow the rough for them and cut it down a little for us; the grooves will not be so important or have as much effect.)
Rule 4-1 b. Wear and Alterations states in part that (a)ny part of the club that has been purposely altered is regarded as new and must, in the altered state, conform with the rules.If it becomes non-conforming because of wear through normal use (we all know what this means, so dont try to wear finger slots in your grip with sand paper), there is no violation.
My suggestion is not to try to reshape the grooves yourself. There are a number of club makers who have the equipment to do this and make sure the grooves conform in the altered state.If you are not one to put much spin on the ball anyway, as you have mentioned, then dont worry, you are probably not going to get any different effect with the slightly modified version.
Good luck, and sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here and we will keep you informed whenever we have a new set of Q&As. I will also let you know when my book will be available. I think you are going to enjoy it very much.
-- Frank
Fall for the FrogFrank 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
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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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A performance fit for a King

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:08 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Five hundred and 40 days had passed since Rory McIlroy last won, and since golf lost one of its most iconic players.

So much has transpired in McIlroy’s life since then – marriage, injury, adversity – but even now he vividly recalls the awkward end to the 2016 Tour Championship. He had just captured the FedExCup and $11 million bonus, but afterward, in the scrum, he was asked instead to reflect on the passing earlier that day of Arnold Palmer, at age 87.

“Obviously I had a great win and it was a great day for me, but in the big scheme of things, that didn’t matter,” he said. “The game of golf had lost an icon, a legend, an inspiration to so many of us. I probably wasn’t as ecstatic as maybe I would have been if Arnie hadn’t passed away.”

But there was McIlroy on Sunday at Bay Hill, at Arnie’s Florida home, summoning the kind of charge that would have made the King proud. With five birdies in his last six holes, he broke away from a stacked leaderboard to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first victory on Tour in 18 months, since that bittersweet evening at East Lake.

“Kind of ironic,” he said Sunday.

But the connection between McIlroy and Palmer runs deeper than that.

Palmer and McIlroy’s wife, Erica, shared a birthday – Sept. 10.

Palmer wrote letters to McIlroy after each of his many victories.

Palmer had lobbied for years to get McIlroy to play this event, even threatening him. “If he doesn’t come and play Bay Hill,” Palmer said in 2012, “he might have a broken arm and he won’t have to worry about where he’s going to play next.”

McIlroy kept all of his limbs intact but didn’t add the event until 2015, when Palmer’s health was beginning to deteriorate. That week he sat for a two-hour dinner with Palmer in the Bay Hill clubhouse, and the memories still bring a smile to his face.

“I was mesmerized,” McIlroy said.

And entertained, of course.

Palmer ordered fish for dinner. “And I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A.1. Sauce?’” McIlroy said.

“And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ And he said, ‘No, for me!’"

McIlroy chuckled at the exchange, then added somberly: “I was very fortunate to spend that time with him.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy has been telling anyone who will listen that he’s close to playing his best golf, but even he was surprised by the drastic turn of events over the past 10 days.

During that 18-month winless drought, he endured an onslaught of questions about his wedge play, his putting, his health and his motivation. Burnt out by the intense spotlight, and needing to rehab a nagging rib injury, he shut it down for four months last fall, a mental and physical reset.

But after an encouraging start to his 2018 campaign in the Middle East, McIlroy was a non-factor in each of his first four Tour starts. That included a missed cut last week in Tampa, where he was admittedly searching.

“The best missed cut I’ve ever had,” he said.

McIlroy grinded all last weekend, stumbling upon a swing thought, a feeling, like he was making a three-quarter swing. Then he met for a few hours Monday in South Florida with former PGA Tour winner and putting savant Brad Faxon. They focused on being more instinctive and reactionary over the ball.

“He just freed me up,” McIlroy said.

Freed up his stroke, which had gotten too rigid.

And freed up his mind, which was bogged down with technical thoughts and self-doubt.

“The objective is to get the ball in the hole,” he said, “and I think I lost sight of that a little bit.”

All McIlroy did at Bay Hill was produce the best putting week of his career.  

Starting the final round two shots back of Henrik Stenson, McIlroy made the turn in 33 and then grabbed a share of the lead on the 11th hole.

Tiger Woods was making a run, moving within a shot of the lead, but McIlroy answered with a charge of his own, rattling off four consecutive birdies – a 16-footer on 13, a 21-footer on 14, a chip-in on 15 and a two-putt birdie after a 373-yard drive on 16 – that left Woods and everyone else in the dust.

Then McIlroy finished it off in style, rolling in a 25-footer on the last that was eerily similar to the putt that Woods has holed so many times at his personal playground.

“I know what the putt does,” McIlroy said, “so it was nice to make my own little bit of history.”

Justin Rose has played plenty of meaningful golf with McIlroy over the years, but he’d never seen him roll it like he did Sunday.

“He turned on the burners on the back nine,” he said. “He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

It’s little wonder McIlroy pulled ahead of a star-studded leaderboard, closing with a bogey-free 64 and winning by three shots at 18-under 270 – he led the field in driving distance, proximity to the hole, scrambling and strokes gained-putting.

“It’s so nice that everything finally came together,” he said.

Over the next two weeks, there figures to be plenty of conversation about whether McIlroy can channel that fearlessness into the major he covets most. The Masters is the only piece missing from a career Grand Slam, and now, thanks to Faxon’s tips, he’s never been in a better position.

But after a turbulent 18 months, McIlroy needed no reminder to savor a victory that felt like a long time coming.

There was a hug for his parents, Gerry and Rosie.

A kiss for his wife, Erica.

A handshake for Palmer’s grandson, Sam Saunders, and then a fitting into the champion’s alpaca cardigan.

The only thing missing was the King himself, waiting atop the hill behind 18 with his huge smile and vice-grip handshake.

“Hopefully he’s up there smiling,” McIlroy said, “and hopefully he’s proud of me with the way I played that back nine.”