Equipment game changers: Hybrids

By Matt AdamsJanuary 25, 2017, 12:30 pm

Was the most famous shot in golf history struck with a hybrid?

On the surface, the answer seems obvious: It’s well documented that Gene Sarazen made his “shot heard ’round the world” albatross at Augusta National with a 4-wood. Hybrids didn’t exist in 1935. They belong to the world of modern golf equipment – crosses between long irons and fairway woods that have become a seemingly permanent part of the golf landscape.

But let’s take a closer look at both the hybrid and the scenario that unfolded for Sarazen on the final day of the Augusta National Invitational, the tournament that would come to be known as the Masters.

First, consider the shape of many hybrids today – long, narrow clubheads, with a slightly more meaty depth just north of the epicenter of the club when viewed at address. This profile is almost identical to the first woods. In fact, at one time a couple of centuries back, irons as we know them didn’t even exist, for using iron to make a golf club instead of a sword or a plowshare would be looked upon as madness. Instead, golfers set out with bags full of wooden-headed clubs that looked very much like the hybrids of today.

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Back to Sarazen. He trailed leader Craig Wood by two shots when he came to the 485-yard, par-5 15th hole. As he and playing partner Walter Hagen walked up to their drives, they heard a roar coming from the 18th green. They assumed, and soon it was confirmed, that Wood had birdied the 18th and Sarazen’s deficit now stood at three strokes.

Sarazen knew he had to go for the green in two. His ball lay behind a small crest in the hill in a slight depression, 235 yards from the hole. He chose his new Wilson 4-wood, which featured a scalloped back, toed the clubhead in for more distance, and lashed at the ball with a swing that distinguished him as a power-hitter, despite his 5'4" frame.

In 1935, the green complex had less banking and a smaller body of water in front of it than exists today. Sarazen’s ball narrowly cleared the water, bounced onto the putting surface, then rolled from right to left toward the pin before diving into the hole. Among the witnesses was Bobby Jones, who had made his way down from the clubhouse to watch his friends finish.

Now tied for the lead, Sarazen parred the 16th and 17th holes. After an uncharacteristically weak drive on No. 18, he again called on the services of his 4-wood to reach the green. He two-putted for par and a place in a playoff. The next day, in the only 36-hole playoff in Masters history, Sarazen defeated Wood by five shots, 144 to 149.

Sarazen’s 4-wood was the bridge between his long irons and his other woods, just as a hybrid is today, when few Tour players carry 4-woods. Typically, 4-woods had lofts between 15 and 19 degrees – the same as many modern hybrids.

Hybrids are still primarily the province of amateurs, who often struggle with long irons. But they’re seen on Tour, too, with players including Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Martin Kaymer having carried them.

And if the late Gene Sarazen could have been transported to 2017, we might have added him to the list.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.