Technology the Reason Elders Not As Long
Nick Price looked amazingly fit at the Verizon Byron Nelson last week. Admittedly, he isnt a Charles Howell with a 32-inch waist, but then, not many players in their 20s look like Howell, either. Price is 45 now, but he is wonderfully athletic. His 6-foot frame distributes his 190 pounds quite nicely. There is just no way he is the proverbial 90-pound weakling.
The PGA Tour rankings show that as late as 1995, Price was fifth in driving length. Today, he stands at No. 143. What in the name of Walter Hagen has happened? Has the rigors of age affected him THAT much?
Well, it hasnt. But modern technology has. Clubs are becoming so much easier to hit on a straight line. A metal head has such a wide array of features built into it that it resembles the old persimmon woods in shape only. And the over-40 set learned the game with persimmon drivers. The 20- and 30-year-olds learned on metal woods.
I feel quite passionate about it, because if you look back 10 years ago, Greg Norman and myself and guys like (Jeff) Sluman, we were among the best drivers in the game, said Price. Now, were very average. And OK, I am 45, but give me one of those old small-headed drivers and I will take on anyone.
And how do those who learned the game on the large heads have an advantage over those who learned on the small heads? Plenty, says Price.
The big difference when we grew up playing wooden drivers ' there was a point where, if you mis-hit that wooden driver, it would snap-hook and miss the adjacent fairway. Lets say you swung at it 85 percent. I can always swing at it 98 percent, but I knew there was a point that if I went to that driver too hard and miscued it, Id (knock it out-of-bounds), he said.
It would snap-hook so bad, so we learned to swing the club at one speed, at like 85 percent of our strength.
Look at the younger generation. They dont have to worry about the snap-hook nearly as much as players who grew up and in the 60s and 70s. Consequently, they routinely bash the ball 290 yards.
The margin of error is greater, Price said. The shots are a lot more consistent, the clubheads are more consistent, more stable, and the ball flies straighter off it. These guys are learning to swing at 95 and 96 percent.
Price mentioned great players over the past 100 years who played their golf with wood ' Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus ' and all swung at 85 percent. Could they swing all-out if they used todays driver? Certainly they could. And they probably would get an extra 20 or 30 yards if they used metal.
Why all of a sudden in 10 years can you go from swinging at it 85 percent, to swinging 95 percent? asked Price. The guys (who grew up in the 80s and 90s) hit it harder. The equipment makes for a much smaller margin of error. Thats the big difference.
Of course, a few of the older fellas have re-learned the swing. Tom Kite hits the ball 20 or 30 yards longer today than he did with his wooden driver 10 years ago, and hes 52 years old. But he is the exception, not the norm. Simply said, it took more skill to hit the old persimmons, and you simply couldnt swing the same was as you do with modern equipment.
Unfortunately, the new technology also is making many of the old courses relics of another era. Merion is the starkest example ' formerly a U.S. Open venue, it hasnt been used for that championship in years. And unless something is done to restrict length, some of the other Open courses will surely follow it.
I dont care what it is, whether we draw the line in the sand right now, saying this is it, or whether we go retroactive and start pulling some of the clubs that are out there ' but I dont know how you go backwards, said Price.
Unfortunately, he was born just a little too early ' or too late, depending on how you look at it. He is a player born on the cusp, starting in the era of the wooden driver, ending now in the era of composites. He knows the percentages ' be it 85 percent or 95 percent ' are against him.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.