Cut Line: PGA Merchandise Show buzz and busts

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2014, 10:51 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. – The annual visit to golf’s ultimate toy store wraps up today at the Orange County Convention Center and this year’s PGA Merchandise Show didn’t disappoint. Here are the buzz and busts from the Show floor in a special “Three days in Utopia” edition of Cut Line.

Made Cut

Always an honor. Full disclosure here, after serving on a U.S. Marine airbase in the late 1980s Cut Line has a soft spot for military aviators, but beyond our obvious bias, getting to spend any amount of time with U.S. Air Force Major Dan Rooney is worth the price of admission.

That’s even more relevant at the Folds of Honor annual sponsor’s party during show week. Rooney is the founder of the Folds of Honor foundation, which gives scholarships and other assistance to families whose spouses have been killed or disabled while serving in the U.S. military.

The highlight of Thursday’s celebration was the testimonials from a few college students who had been given scholarships, followed closely by news that Budweiser, one of the foundation’s supporters, planned to air an ad during next week’s Super Bowl to support the Folds of Honor.

Now Rooney has given the better part of America a reason not to fast-forward through a commercial.

Like a glove. Just when you thought it was time to stop trying to reinvent the wheel, Club Glove founder and CEO Jeff Herold flashes a bright smile and a knowing wink.

If Club Glove’s iconic golf bags and rolling duffel bags haven’t changed through the years, that’s by design.

“They’ve changed very little,” Herold told Cut Line. “It’s like the 737 (jet) - it hasn’t changed because they built it so well there’s not much they can do to improve on it.”

Herold, however, has plenty of room to expand. In 2006, Club Glove introduced the waffle-textured golf towels that have become a staple on the PGA Tour and beyond. According to Herold, in 2006 the company sold about 2,000 of the high-end towels, but that number jumped to more than 400,000 last year.

The next addition to the company’s lineup is the “Stiff Arm,” an adjustable aluminum pole that travelers can put in their golf bags to protect their clubs during transit (retail $29.95). It’s a must-have for anyone who has ever arrived at their destination with a two-piece driver.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

Taking a hack. OK, so maybe it’s not the best name to woo golfers and grow-the-game initiatives have not exactly created the windfall of new players that organizers had hoped for, but Hack Golf may be poised to succeed where the other initiatives have largely failed.

Hack Golf, unveiled on the eve of this week’s show and the brainchild of TalyorMade adidas Golf CEO Mark King, is an attempt to use new-millennia thinking to solve an old problem.

King plans to use crowd sourcing – or, as Gary Hamel explains, extended online brainstorming sessions – to solve golf’s dwindling-participation problems.

“We need hundreds of mind-flipping ideas, not dozens,” Hamel explained.

King plans to take the best ideas and put them in practice and has committed up to $5 million in funding for the initiative.

Every year at the PGA show there seems to be a new grow-the-game initiative with few results and golf has not historically been open to sweeping innovation, but at least King & Co. are trying.

Skating by. Among the new items that were creating a buzz on the show floor this week was the Golf Skate Caddy, an electronic skateboard designed to move golfers around the course.

The Golf Skate Caddy, which retails for $3,500 and, according to company officials, holds a charge for up to three 18-hole rounds, has room for a full staff bag of clubs, a built-in umbrella and plenty of storage for golf balls and drinks.

It’s also capable of zipping along at 14 mph, which is why it lands in the MDF section of Cut Line. We took the Golf Skate Caddy for a spin around the show floor and were a little concerned with the device’s pick-up and top speed.

Love the concept, but may we suggest a restrictor plate.

Missed Cut

The innovation ceiling. While the vast majority of golfers long ago embraced new technology, and it’s worth pointing out that nearly every major equipment manufacturer unveiled new drivers at the show, innovation seems to dry up among consumers after the clubs go in the bag.

Ecco’s new BIOM Zero golf shoe, for example, is a cutting-edge take on footwear. The BIOM weighs in at a feathery 9.7 ounces and utilizes a minimalist design with zero drop from heel to toe for maximum flexibility. The concept has become popular among runners, but industry sources say it may be too revolutionary to gain traction among average golf fans.

Similarly, Stephen Boccieri’s Secret Grip is the next step in back-weighting technology but received little attention at the show.

Boccieri, who created the Heavy Putter, added extra weight to his grips, about 30 to 40 extra grams, and said the average player picks up 3 to 4 mph in ball velocity by altering the balance point of each club.

“It creates more lag and allows a more consistent, solid strike,” he said.

If show week teaches us anything it’s that technology goes well beyond the latest driver.

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Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream:

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream:; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.

Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.

Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 

Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

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Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''

Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand

Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.

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Tiger's checklist: How he can contend at Augusta

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 21, 2018, 8:31 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Augusta is already on the minds of most players here at the Honda Classic, and that includes the only one in the field with four green jackets.

Yes, Tiger Woods has been talking about the Masters ever since he started this latest comeback at Torrey Pines. These three months are all about trying to build momentum for the year’s first major.

Woods hasn’t revealed his schedule past this week, but his options are limited. He’s a good bet to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he has won eight times, but adding another start would be a departure from the norm. He’s not eligible for the two World Golf Championship events, in Mexico and Austin, and he has never played the Valspar Championship or the Houston Open.

So there’s a greater sense of urgency this week at PGA National, which is realistically one of his final tune-ups.

How will Woods know if he’s ready to contend at Augusta? Here’s his pre-Masters checklist:

1. Stay healthy

So far, so good, as Woods tries to resume a normal playing schedule following four back surgeries since 2014. Though he vowed to learn from his past mistakes and not push himself, it was a promising sign that Woods felt strong enough to sign up for the Honda, the second of back-to-back starts on separate coasts.

Another reason for optimism on the health front: The soreness that Woods felt after his season opener at Torrey Pines wasn’t related to his surgically repaired back. No, what ached most were his feet – he wasn’t used to walking 72 holes on hilly terrain.

Woods is stiffer than normal, but that’s to be expected. His back is fused.

2. Figure out his driver

Augusta National is more forgiving off the tee than most major courses, putting more of a premium on approach shots and recoveries.

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

That’s good news for Woods, who has yet to find a reliable tee shot. Clearly, he is most comfortable playing a fade and wants to take the left side of the course out of play, but in competition he’s been plagued by a two-way miss.

In two starts this year, Woods has hit only 36 percent of the fairways, no matter if he was using driver, fairway wood or long iron.

Unfortunately, Woods is unlikely to gain any significant insight into his driver play this week. PGA National’s Champion Course isn’t overly long, but there is water on 15 of the 18 holes. As a result, he said he likely will hit driver only four times a round, maybe five, and otherwise rely on his 3-wood and 2-iron. 

Said Rory McIlroy: “Being conservative off the tee is something that you have to do here to play well.”

That won’t be the case at Augusta.

3. Clean up his iron play

As wayward as Woods has been off the tee, his iron play hasn’t impressed, either.

At Riviera, he hit only 16 greens in regulation – his fewest in a Tour event as a professional. Of course, Woods’ chances of hitting the green are reduced when he’s playing from the thick rough, sand and trees, but he also misfired on six of the eight par 3s.

Even when Woods does find the green, he’s not close enough to the hole. Had he played enough rounds to qualify, his proximity to the hole (39 feet, 7 inches) would rank 161st on Tour.

That won’t be good enough at Augusta, where distance control and precision are paramount.

Perhaps that’s why Justin Thomas said last week what many of us were thinking: “I would say he’s a pretty good ways away.”

4. Get into contention somewhere

As much as he would have liked to pick off a win on the West Coast, Woods said that it’s not a prerequisite to have a chance at the Masters. He cited 2010, when he tied for fourth despite taking four months off after the fallout from his scandal.

In reality, though, there hasn’t been an out-of-nowhere Masters champion since Charl Schwartzel in 2011. Since then, every player who eventually donned the green jacket either already had a win that year or at least a top-3 finish worldwide.

“I would like to play well,” Woods said. “I would like to win golf tournaments leading into it. The years I’ve won there, I’ve played really well early.”

Indeed, he had at least one win in all of the years he went on to win the Masters (1997, 2000, ’01, ’05). Throw in the fact that Woods is nearly five years removed from his last Tour title, and it’s reasonable to believe that he at least needs to get himself into contention before he can seriously entertain winning another major.

And so that’s why he’s here at the Honda, trying to find his game with seven weeks to go. 

“It’s tournament reps,” he said, “and I need tournament reps.”

Add that to the rest of his pre-Masters checklist.