LPGA Considering Driver Testing

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The pendulum tester that measures springlike effect in drivers is available on all the major tours in the United States except the LPGA Tour.
 
That could change by the end of the year.
 
'We're looking at it,' LPGA commissioner Ty Votaw said. 'The odds are pretty good we'll see it at some point.'
 
Driving distance is a bigger issue on the PGA Tour, where last year nine players averaged more than 300 yards off the tee. Spurred by innuendoes from Tiger Woods that some players were using nonconforming drivers, the PGA Tour rolled out the pendulum tester in January.
 
Only about 15 percent of the players have voluntarily submitted their drivers for testing, although manufacturers are testing the clubs before players get to an event.
 
The portable test also is available on the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour.
 
So far, the long ball hasn't been an issue in women's golf.
 
'We don't see the statistical anomalies of players who were hitting it one distance, then going 20 to 30 yards farther,' Votaw said. 'We don't have a buzz, a lot of players whispering, 'Gee, no way she's hitting it that far.' There may be whispers, we just haven't heard them.'
 
Votaw said he was concerned about the costs and logistics of the device, but once he learned each pendulum tester was only about $4,000, he started to consider making it available on the LPGA Tour.
 
Women don't generate as much clubhead speed as the men, which allows for greater springlike effect. Plus, equipment companies aren't out en masse at LPGA events, and the competition isn't as great to get them to use their clubs.
 
Still, the test was designed to make sure the clubs conform, no matter who was swinging them.
 
Votaw compared the situation to a stretch of highway where there has never been an accident.
 
'Do you put a highway patrolman out there with a radar to make sure everyone is driving the speed limit, when all evidence points to it being a safe highway?' he said.
 
So why bother with the pendulum tester?
 
'Because it might be interesting to see how fast they're going,' Votaw said.
 
Ricky BarnesTRAVELIN' MAN: Ricky Barnes' bogey on the 18th hole of the FBR Open was costly.
 
A top-10 finish at Phoenix would have given the former U.S. Amateur champion a spot in the field at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and it would not have counted against the seven sponsor's exemptions he can take this year.
 
Alas, Barnes dunked his tee shot in the water, took bogey and fell out of the top 10 by one shot.
 
Instead of playing at Pebble Beach, he boarded a plane for Australia to play in the Heineken Classic.
 
'It'll be a reality check, because I needed to make a par on the last hole and I would have saved myself 15 hours in the air,' Barnes said.
 
CURTIS CUP: U.S. captain Martha Wilkinson Kirouac expects to preside over one of the youngest Curtis Cup teams ever - something that might have made her nervous a year ago.
 
But having watched some of America's teens compete, her confidence is high.
 
'They're not lacking,' Kirouac. 'You can't hold age against them.'
 
Among the candidates to make the U.S. team, which likely will be announced this weekend, are Michelle Wie (14), Paula Creamer (17), Jane Park (17) and Arizona sophomore Erica Blasberg (19).
 
Kirouac's job could get even more interesting if Carol Semple Thompson, 55, gets picked for her 13th Curtis Cup.
 
It's one thing to have a teammate young enough to be your daughter.
 
But young enough to be your granddaughter?
 
CAPTAIN'S STYLE: Based on the last two guys Hal Sutton played for in the Ryder Cup, captains aren't always the way they were as players.
 
Curtis Strange, a two-time U.S. Open, was renowned for his fierce focus during the biggest events, a guy that utterly despised making anything worse than par.
 
Sutton expected that personality at The Belfry in 2002, but found a captain who was more relaxed and in tune with the players. Part of that was because Strange and European captain Sam Torrance tried to restore civility and perspective to the matches.
 
'Curtis was not as intense of a captain as he was a player,' Sutton said. 'That's not a knock against Curtis. I thought Curtis did a great job from a player's perspective, but he was a little different than he was as a player.'
 
Then there's Ben Crenshaw, known as 'Gentle Ben.'
 
He was hardly that, according to Sutton.
 
'I would call him 'seriously calculated' in some ways,' Sutton said.
 
Sutton was playing well in the '99 matches at Brookline. He and Maggert had just finished winning an alternate-shot match on the second day when Crenshaw said he needed them to play again in the afternoon.
 
Sutton was ready to go. Maggert said he was tired and needed to sit.
 
'Ben looks at me and he said, 'Well, who do you want to play with, because I'm going to have to put you out there,'' Sutton said.
 
Sutton suggested Payne Stewart. Crenshaw said Stewart was spraying the ball all over the place and sent him out with Justin Leonard.
 
'I thought I might have a little influence on Ben,' Sutton said. 'I don't know why he asked me in the first place. He had no intentions of doing what I said. I kind of liked that about Ben.'
 
DIVOTS: The Evian Masters has raised its purse to $2.5 million, second-highest on the LPGA Tour behind the U.S. Women's Open. ... Judy Rankin will receive the Linda Vollstedt Award next Monday in Phoenix for service and leadership in women's sports. ... The USGA might hand out exemptions to the U.S. Open during its annual meeting this weekend in Orlando, Fla. Among those under consideration are Tom Watson. ... Casey Martin is in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on a sponsor's exemption. ... The winner of the Ford Championship at Doral will get a Ford GT. Priced just under $140,000, it will be the most expensive car awarded on the PGA Tour. ... Retief Goosen has shot par or better in his last 25 rounds on the PGA Tour.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eight men played in the first four PGA Tour events of the year. Jonathan Kaye and Retief Goosen were the only ones to make every cut.
 
FINAL WORD: 'I must have picked up 10 yards, because last year Hank Kuehne hit it 70 yards by me. And today, he only hit it 60 by me.' - Scott Verplank.
 
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