One player who was grinning from ear to ear with the news that the PGA Tour would adopt a Condition of Competition banning squared grooves in January 2010 was world No. 1 Tiger Woods. Speaking Tuesday from the AT&T National tournament, where he is the host, Woods said the new restrictions would favor players like himself who already use a high-spin golf ball. Woods plays a Nike ONE Tour Series ball which features a soft, seamless urethane outer cover.
"I think it'll be an advantage to the guys who play a spin golf ball already," said Woods. "Guys who play a harder ball are going to have to make a bigger adjustment to the grooves."
Woods also commented that most of the guys on Tour already play with the conforming V-shaped grooves in their irons. It's the sand wedges, he says, that have the non-conforming U grooves.
"We've known for over a couple years now what this decision was going to be, and when it was going to come down, and we've had plenty of time to make our adjustments," said Woods. "All the companies have been testing and getting ready for this, and the guys will make the changes."
– GolfChannel.com Team
Posted July 1
Despite objections from some golf equipment manufacturers and PGA Tour players, Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced on Tuesday that the circuit will not delay the enactment of a new rule governing the size and shape of grooves in players’ irons.
GolfChannel.com senior writer Rex Hoggard has more on Finchem's decision, with reaction from manufacturers and players, including Tiger Woods.
– GolfChannel.com Team
Posted June 30
BETHESDA, MD. – As reported in this space last week, the four players on the PGA Tour policy board differed judgement on implementation of the new grooves rule. Instead, commissioner Tim Finchem ruled the circuit would adopt the policy beginning in 2010.
Starting on Jan. 1, 2010, all PGA Tour players will have to abide by the new rule, which places restrictions on the cross sectional area and edge sharpness of grooves for all clubs with lofts of 25 degrees or more. The rule is designed to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough.
Finchem said Tuesday's meeting included a "full" discusion of the issue. Stay tuned.
– Rex Hoggard
Posted June 30
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has scheduled a noon teleconference today, at which time it's expected he will decide whether the Tour will adopt or push back the January 2010 implementation date of the USGA's new groove rule policy. Finchem and the PGA Tour Policy Board will meet this morning, and the groove regulations – designed to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough – is sure to be a hot topic.
Perhaps anticipating that a decision from the Tour would come down today, Ping Chairman and CEO John Solheim released a statement on Monday from the company's Phoenix headquarters adamantly opposing the change. Solheim went as far as to suggest that delaying the date by a year is not enough.
"The new groove rule harms the game and golfers and should be dropped. The recent uproar about it from the PGA Tour players demonstrates this fact," said Solheim. "However, the PGA Tour's proposal to delay implementing the rule is not a solution. You can't turn a bad idea into a good one by waiting an extra year to adopt it. We hope everyone who cares about the future of this game keeps that simple concept in mind."
Ping even released a summary of the points it made in opposition to the groove rule when the USGA and R&A were deciding whether to adopt it. The rule would require new groove cross-sections (limiting the sharpness of the current groove edges) for all clubs with lofts of 25 degrees or more. It would apply to all clubs manufactured after Jan. 1, 2010, although those purchased prior to this date would be considered conforming until at least 2024 – provided they weren't used in certain professional (PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, European PGA Tour) and USGA competitions.
– David Allen
Posted June 30
Americans played more golf in May, according to a monthly report assembled by the PGA of America, the National Golf Course Owners Association and golf business metrics company, Golf Datatech.
Nationwide, rounds at the 4,410 courses sampled were up 0.9 percent compared to May 2008; year-to-date, rounds are up 1.6 percent. Improving weather in the north helped boost regional results: West North Central (North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri) had 8.1 percent more rounds than a year earlier; year-to-date the region is up 16 percent. The Mountain zone (Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) rose 4.6 percent versus May 2008, but rounds there have risen just 0.2 percent year-to-date.
Not so lucky was the South Atlantic region, which includes Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. May rounds there were down 7.4 percent compared to May 2008, and they are down 5 percent for the year so far.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 30
Both Kenny Perry and Paul Goydos putted lights out during the final round of the Travelers Sunday afternoon. And it’s worthwhile to note that they’re both using putters that feature what could be called “stability-model” heads.
Goydos, who finished tied for second at 19-under par (three strokes behind Perry), has the TaylorMade-adidas Itsy Bitsy Spider, which we saw him experimenting with at the Transitions in Tampa Bay earlier this year. TMaG freely admits the inspiration for the head was automotive – something that’s easy to see, with the two big weight ports on either side of the wide body looking like lights on the tailfins of a big ol’ Cadillac. But the space age look isn’t the point. As usual with putters, it’s all about moving the weight to the outside, which helps stabilize the head through the swing.
Same with Kenny Perry’s Ping Craz-E variation, the one with the blue face that he’s been using for some time now. Kenny, who shot a final-round 63 and a tournament-record 258 (22 under), is a loyal TaylorMade endorser, but he’s allowed to freelance the putter, and he can’t seem to turn his back on the Ping model that has worked so well for him over the past two years. Like the Spider, the Craz-E body has weight moved to the perimeter, and the modern shape pushes that perimeter farther from the center of the face than would be the case with a more traditional shape.
Modern as they look, both putters continue the fundamental approach of weight-outward design begun by Ping founder Karsten Solheim.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 29
Papa’s got a brand new bag – or at least Vijay does. Singh is now carrying a Never Compromise-logoed golf bag around the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour this week. NC is the putter brand of Cleveland/Srixon, the golf equipment multinational with which Singh has been allied for some time now.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 26
Even a second-place tie in a U.S. Open can do a lot for a golfer’s career – and especially for his endorsement partners.
Ricky Barnes, who shared second at Bethpage with better-known names Phil Mickelson and David Duval, obviously didn’t win. But his television exposure over the four – no, wait; FIVE – days of the championship was a big win for the companies whose products he endorses. Verve, the energy drink, had a logo on Ricky’s shirt, puffed out by his fitness-crazy chest. Between that and a logo on his hat with a web address for a Ricky-centered Verve-and-fitness site, the Verve people figure the value of Ricky’s U.S. Open exposure at about $3 million.
Verve comes in a can, but it’s Wilson Golf that has shown a talent for catching lightning in a bottle the past couple years. They have Barnes, but recall Wilson also counts Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner since summer 2007, among its staffers. Harrington missed the cut at Bethpage, but Barnes picked up a lot of slack, showing the Wilson bag on TV many times. The result: People can’t get enough of that painter cap (or engineer cap, if you prefer) the Rickster was wearing. The fashion craze, which might not have happened had Barnes not worn the lid while shooting a solid first-round 67 and then felt compelled by superstition to stick with it, has Wilson air-freighting in more caps to meet the demand.
Meanwhile, Wilson hopes the frenzy spills over into the hard goods sales bucket. Barnes was playing new FG Forged irons (3-PW), Wilson’s first true deep-cavity back forged model. It’s due in stores in November. He also had a Wilson TW9 54-degree wedge.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 25
CROMWELL, Conn. – The groove issue continues to heat up on the PGA Tour. During a conference call late Tuesday the four player directors on the Policy Board continued to debate whether the Tour should switch to the U.S. Golf Association’s new groove rules in January 2010, as originally scheduled, or if they will delay the implementation date until 2011.
According to one board member who didn’t want to be identified, the debate was “too heated to do on a conference call,” and the issue will be addressed next week at AT&T National.
According to sources the issue will likely be decided by Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who would likely not push to delay the rule change, which is designed to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough.
– Rex Hoggard
Posted June 24
Adams Golf is extending its successful Speedline family with new drivers and hybrid-fairway woods. The driver, the 9032LS, has a 17.3 percent larger face and is designed to reduce drag and lower spin rate by 10 percent. That could yield three to four mph more clubhead speed, says Adams, which could translate to as much as nine more yards off the tee. The stock graphite shaft for the new driver will be an Aldila VooDoo NV, making its first commercial appearance. Look for the 9032LS in the bags of PGA Tour players Aaron Baddeley and Gary Woodland.
The new Speedlines ship July 1. Suggested retail for the driver is $470; for the fairways, $380.
Hmm. Wonder if the possibility of the PGA Tour adopting the new groove regulations in January 2010 has anything to do with it? Recreational players are off the hook until 2024 with respect to the new grooves…but some players insist on being Tour-compliant.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 24
Phil Mickelson’s costly bogey on the par-4 15th hole during Monday's final round of the U.S. Open wasn’t what he had in mind. The club he used to hit his approach shot from the left rough to the fringe of the elevated green was exactly what he had in mind.
The idea came to Phil during a practice round for this year’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club. He told Callaway technicians that his dream utility club would behave like an iron from the fairway, and enable him to control distance consistently from the rough. Translation: crisp contact when his tee ball has earned it, and no fliers when it hasn’t.
With Mickelson's input, Callaway designed a clubhead shape that’s short from heel to toe and tall in the face, giving it a very compact look. The score lines on the face go all the way up, as they would on an iron; this helps channel away grass bits and moisture, even on balls contacted high on the face. The heel and toe are highly cambered, almost like the so-called C-grind on a wedge, the better to stay away from grabby grass blades. The heel has a lot of relief, so much so that Phil can even open the face – yes, with a hybrid – and hit an extra-long flop shot, which he did at one point on No. 15 Saturday from about 146 yards.
But the most striking aspect of Mickelson hybrid may be the sole, which looks almost like your dad’s old big-flange sand wedge. The front of the sole – essentially, the leading edge –is lower than the back of the sole as the club sits on the ground. This allows Mickelson to open the face, but it also helps move the center of gravity down and forward, which yields the kind of flight out of the rough that Phil was looking for. In the fairway, the part of the sole that actually goes through the turf is about the size of an iron sole, perhaps a little bigger.
The design process began after the Northern Trust Open (which Mickelson won), was into computer drafting by late April, and ready for Phil soon afterwards. That’s pretty rapid, compared to club development timelines of a decade ago.
Only one of these clubs exists now – and it’s a left-handed model, of course. Callaway is testing some RH prototypes, but can’t promise the club will ever make it to market. If it does, you’ll know who the inventor is, literally – word is Mickelson’s name may be listed on the patent application.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 23
As the first page of the leaderboard fights its way down the stretch in the 109th U.S. Open, Nike has to be pleased with Lucas Glover’s putting performance throughout the tournament – and the season. Glover is using a Nike prototype putter this week, and has been for some time. Year-to-date on the PGA Tour, he’s 23rd in putts per round and 32nd in putting average. Last year, he was 116th and 107th, respectively.
The prototype isn’t out yet, but it is in the bags of Stephen Ames, Justin Leonard, Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Bo Van Pelt, Charl Schwartzel and Trevor Immelman. One wonders whether this might be the model that makes a Nike putter guy out of long-time putter holdout Tiger Woods, who uses a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport 2.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 22
When third-round leader Ricky Barnes uses driver at Bethpage Black – and like everyone, he’s been doing it judiciously – it’s a Callaway FT-9. That’s the pear-shaped model that relies on fusion technology: titanium cup face, composite body. The lightness in the body allows the center of gravity to be moved good and low, which helps get the ball up quickly. That’s consistent with the modern tee-ball way: the longer the ball is in the air and going forward, the farther downrange it lands.
Barnes' loft is a thin 8.5 degrees, so you can see why a higher launch angle would compliment that nicely to nail down a controlled flight that gets up, but not too high. Barnes also has Callaway X fairway woods – 3 and 5 – plus an Odyssey White Hot XG9 putter and a Callaway Tour i golf ball.
Padraig Harrington (missed cut) also had a FT-9 in his bag this week, because his deal with Wilson allows him to freelance the driver. Those deals are becoming less and less common, and Harrington is by far the biggest name who can do it.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 21
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – With rain in the forecast for the next four days of the U.S. Open, driving the ball in play will be critical to winning this week at Bethpage Black. The good news for Tiger Woods is that he's driving the ball more accurately than ever. Woods hit all 14 fairways during the final round of the Memorial two weeks ago and 49 of 56 fairways for the four rounds.
And he did so after switching from a 9.5-degree driver to 10.5 degrees.
"As we all know, loft is your friend," said Woods. "The reason why you hit a 3-wood straighter is obviously because it's got more loft. That helps. My release has changed over the years and I just need a little more loft now."
Make that a lot more loft. When Woods was a rookie in 1997, he played a driver with 6.5 degrees of loft.
"...now I'm up to 10.5," he said of his Nike SQ Dymo prototype driver. "I hate to see when I get to 40 how it's going to be. I may have to get a 46-inch driver and a 15-degree lofted driver. But it is what it is. Technology has changed; the ball doesn't spin as much as it used to. You must have more loft than you used to play."
– David Allen
Posted June 17
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – In a press conference today at the 109th U.S. Open at Bethpage State Park, USGA president Jim Vernon was asked if the USGA and the PGA Tour might push back the implementation date of new groove regulations designed to limit the effectiveness of grooves on shots from the rough. A delay would give manufacturers more time to fit their players and get their clubs in compliance with the rule.
“The new groove regulations include a condition of competition for elite play, such as the PGA Tour,” said Vernon. “The PGA Tour will make its decision at some point as to whether they will implement that condition of competition for 2010. It is likely that if they were not to adopt it for 2010, we certainly would not adopt it for the U.S. Open (at Pebble Beach Golf Links next June) either.”
The condition of competition Vernon spoke of above becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2010, and would require new groove cross-sections (limiting the sharpness of the current groove edges) for all clubs with lofts of 25 degrees or more. Recreational golfers will be allowed to use clubs made prior to the implementation date until at least 2024.
– David Allen
Posted June 17
Always interesting to see what adjustments players make just before a major championship. Sergio Garcia has put TaylorMade-adidas’ R9 460 driver in the bag after hitting it for just a short time in Memphis, said TMaG representatives. He likes the bigger head, figuring he can use it to more easily work the ball both ways. Sergio’s 460 has 9.5 degrees of loft, and he has the adjustable head set two degrees open. (He does this with TMaG’s FCT, or flight control technology, which allows the shaft to be inserted into the hosel in a predetermined position and locked in for use in competition.) Eric Axley and Scott Gutschewski, also in the field next week at Bethpage, also switched into the R9 460.
Sergio also got new R9 3- and 5-woods, and requested a set of wedges – the latter is standard procedure for El Nino; he likes to get fresh grooves three times a year. Timing couldn’t be better, what with U.S. Open rough looming in New York.
It’s not unusual for players who don’t appear frequently, such as Sergio, to lean on the equipment truck guys pretty hard during a U.S. visit. The truck guys see it coming, and they’re only too happy to help. So is Sergio…more than once we’ve clambered up the steps to the TMaG truck and thrown open the door to see Sergio himself at the grinding wheel, working carefully on a wedge head.
Two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen is another self-grinder who we’ve seen in the TMaG truck, happily and placidly shaping away, visions of more trophies no doubt dancing in his head. This week, Retief switched into the TaylorMade-adidas TP Red ball; he found he drove it five to ten yards longer and hit it one club further with his irons.
Not in the field for the U.S. Open but also switching to the R9 460 driver were Tyler Aldridge, David Berganio Jr., John Senden, Matthew Borchert and Tim Wilkinson. Scott Verplank also didn’t make it to Bethpage, but he’s thinking about the future. After five years with the TMaG TP forged irons, he has taken on a 3-PW set of Tour Preferred B irons, which have a thin top line but feature a shallow undercut channel to shove the weight out and deep where it belongs. Scott had the new clubs ground for a little bit of offset, which satisfies his preference for a small, traditional head. He says they’re hired and in the bag.
– Adam Barr
Posted June 16
DUBLIN, Ohio – Tiger Woods, something of the anti-tinkerer when it comes to equipment, continues to experiment with his driver.
At the Quail Hollow Championship in April Woods briefly played a different shaft in his driver before going back to his old gamer. This week at the Memorial Woods went with a driver with more loft, the result, he said, of his ongoing swing changes with coach Hank Haney.
“As my release has changed over time with Hank, I needed a little more loft to get the ball in the air,” Woods said. “Still hitting it just as far but probably a different way.”
At Muirfield Village, Woods is playing a Nike SQ Dymo prototype driver with 10 degrees of loft and a Mitsubishi Diamana White shaft. Woods said he had been playing 9.5 degrees of loft in his driver, but the Darrell Survey listed his driver with 8.5 degrees of loft at last month’s Players.
Either way, things seem to be working. For two days at Muirfield Village he’s hit 25 of 28 fairways, a dramatic jump over his 56 percent average this season. In fact, Woods has not hit more than 60 percent of his fairways his last six seasons and hasn’t ranked higher than 139th on Tour in driving accuracy.
– Rex Hoggard Posted June 5
A common site on the PGA Tour over the years is that of John Daly drinking a Diet Coke and hammering golf balls into the stratosphere. But in the weeks ahead, you may see Daly sipping an All Sport sports beverage or Big Red soda instead. Daly today announced on his Twitter page that he has signed an endorsement deal with ALL SPORT® and BIG RED®. He joins another of the game's longest hitters, Bubba Watson, as an endorser of these products.
All Sport, Inc., is a subsidiary of Big Red, Inc., and based in Austin, Texas. Big Red is the No. 1-selling red soda in the United States. Both Big Red and All Sport are distributed by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
– Dave Allen Posted June 2
Callaway Golf announced late last week that a small number of its TOURi golf balls (less than 1 percent) exceeded the USGA's weight limit. As a result, Callaway asked the USGA to remove the version with the old sidestamp from the List of Conforming Golf Balls and replace it with a new sidestamp that features two dots on either side of the word TOURi. The old sidestamp will come off the list effective June 3, 2009; the new stamp was added on May 6. Packaging for TOURi balls with the new stamp will feature the words TOUR AUTHENTIC on each sleeve.
The "heavy" balls exceeded the USGA's weight limit for golf balls (45.93 grams) by a fraction of a gram, or approximately half the weight of a U.S. dollar bill. In theory, the heavier ball will travel farther if struck solidly, but not enough to make a noticeable difference.
Unless you're competing in professional or high level competitions, you can continue to play the "heavy" balls with the old sidestamp. It still conforms to the Rules of Golf and can be played in handicap rounds. Only those golfers playing in competitions that adopt a specific Condition of Competition must use the ball with the new stamp, beginning in June.
– Dave Allen Posted May 26
Now through June 30th, when you buy a Callaway Big Bertha Diablo driver, you can get a Diablo fairway wood or hybrid for $1. The Diablo has a street price of $299.
The madness doesn't stop there. With the purchase of either an FT-9 ($399) or FT-iQ ($499) driver, you can get your choice of an FT-i Squareway wood, FT Draw fairway wood or '08 FT Neutral hybrid for $1. You can also substitute your choice of two of the following – '08 X fairway wood, X hybrid – for the fairway woods and hybrids mentioned previously.
Head to your local golf retail store or Web site to take advantage of this deal, while supplies last.
– Dave Allen Posted May 22
This past weekend was a good one for Titleist, which scored overtime victories with Zach Johnson on the PGA Tour, Michael Sim on the Nationwide Tour, and Irish amateur Shane Lowry on the European Tour in the Irish Open. Johnson nearly became the fourth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59, tying a LaCantera Golf Course record with a 10-under-par 60 during Saturday's third round of the Valero Texas Open. Some 24 hours later Johnson defeated James Driscoll with a 12-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to capture his second PGA Tour event of the year.
In Johnson' bag was a 909D2 driver (8.5 degrees), 909F2 3-wood (13.5 degrees) and 5-wood (18.5 degrees), 909H hybrid (21 degrees), AP2 irons (4- through 9-iron), Vokey Design pitching (48 degrees) and sand (54 degrees) wedges and a Spin Milled lob wedge (60 degrees).
Lowry, like Johnson, played a ProV1x golf ball, 909D2 driver (8.5 degrees), 909F2 3-wood (15.5 degrees), 909H hybrid (19 degrees) and AP2 irons (3- through 9-iron).
– Dave Allen Posted May 21
For those who want bigger, TaylorMade Golf has come up with a 460cc version of its popular R9 driver. The R9 460 hits stores on Saturday, and features a larger head, deeper clubface and lower center of gravity than the R9 (420cc), the No. 1 driver model on the PGA Tour since its debut at the Bob Hope in January. The R9 460 is also longer in length (45.75 inches) than the R9, and is equipped with an Aldila RE AX 60-gram tip-soft shaft to promote more clubhead speed and distance. In the 460, you also get the Flight Control Technology (FCT) that the R9 is famous for. By loosening a bolt on the sole of the clubhead and rotating the shaft, you can adjust the lie, loft and face angle to produce the desired look and shot shape you want.
"Players who put a premium on distance are going to want to put the R9 460 in play," said Harry Arnett, TaylorMade senior category director for metal woods.
In addition to being bigger, the head in the R9 460 is constructed with TaylorMade's Ultra-Thin Wall (UTW) technology, bringing the thickness down to as little as 0.6 millimeters. The head is both modern and traditional in shape, allowing for an exceptionally low, deep CG, and more forgiveness on off-center hits.
The R9 460 has a street price of $299 and is available in lofts of 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 degrees for right-handed golfers, and 9.5 and 10.5 degrees for left-handers.
– Dave Allen Posted May 14
The hottest 3-wood on the PGA Tour belongs to Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who used his strong 3 to split one fairway after another at TPC Sawgrass this weekend en route to winning The Players Championship by four shots. Stenson, who entered play on Sunday trailing third-round leader Alex Cejka by five shots, hit a remarkable 13 of 14 fairways on Sunday and 26 of 28 on the weekend to capture his first PGA Tour title since the 2007 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Ironically, Stenson was playing the same strong 3-wood (Callaway Big Bertha, 13 degrees, Grafalloy Blue shaft, X-flex) back in '07. "I like to hit my 3-wood a lot, and that club just matches perfectly around here – a little right-to-left shape a lot of times," said Stenson following Sunday's bogey-free round of 6-under 66.
It also helps that Stenson can carry his 3-wood 270 yards. He averaged 299 yards on Sunday using his 3-wood on all but one driving hole – the par-5 11th. Stenson hit his lone driver of the day there, and made birdie.
"I hit my 3-wood far," said Stenson. "I hit a good one down No. 18 the other day, and I think it said 318 [yards] or something like that [on the ShotLink board]. When you get one going on these fast, firm fairways, they can run on."
Stenson also played a Big Bertha 19-degree fairway wood, Callaway FT-3 driver (9.5 degrees), Srixon 1-506 irons, Callaway X Tour wedges (54 and 58 degrees), YES! C-Groove Donna putter, and Srixon Z-UR golf ball. The Swede is not one for change: A look at his What's in the Bag for the 2007 WGC event lists the same clubs except the Big Bertha 19-degree fairway wood.
– Dave Allen Posted May 11
TaylorMade-Adidas Golf staff pro Richard Johnson has been searching for a new driver the last few weeks, and he may have found it. Johnson and FuZion Golf vice president Chris Dempsey were hard at work on the range Wednesday at The Players Championship, trying to find an equal to the Adams Insight XTD driver he used to win last year's U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.
Dempsey moved Johnson into a TaylorMade R9 TP driver with a really deep face, so that Johnson would make contact a little lower on the clubface. Johnson had been making contact a little too high on the face, causing the ball to fall out of the sky due to a dramatic decrease in spin. They also bent his driver so the lie angle would play a little flatter, keeping the launch angle to around 12-14 degrees.
The adjustments paid immediate dividends on Thursday as Johnson fired a 6-under-par 66, one off Ben Crane's first-round lead. The Swede's best finish so far this season is a tie for 9th at the Bob Hope Classic.
FuZion Golf, a custom club-building business based out of Jupiter, Fla., recently opened a new location at the TOUR Academy at TPC Sawgrass, just a pitching wedge away from the practice range for The Players Championship.
– Dave Allen Posted May 8
TaylorMade's R9 continues to be the No. 1-played driver on the PGA Tour, with 29 competitors, including winner Sean O'Hair, putting it in play at the Quail Hollow Championship. Since its debut in January at the Bob Hope, the R9 has been the No. 1 driver model at 17 Tour events, including its current streak of 13 in a row.
O'Hair, who also plays an R9 fairway wood, was scintillating from tee to green at Quail Hollow. He ranked seventh in driving distance (312.6 yards) and tied for third in greens in regulation (75 percent). What's even more amazing is that he captured his third PGA Tour title without making a single putt over 10 feet for the week.
– Dave Allen Posted May 5
So much for the "Great Shaft Experiment" with Tiger Woods and his driver. Woods played a prototype shaft from Oban called the Mach4 during the first round of last week's Quail Hollow Championship, but was back with the Mitsubishi Diamana White shaft by tournament's end.
Woods finished alone in fourth place at 9-under par, two shots back of winner Sean O'Hair. For the week, he hit just 44.6 percent of his fairways, although he hit only 36 percent during an opening-round 65.
"The other shaft did not quite work out for me," said Woods during Monday's U.S. Open Media Day teleconference. "It wasn't what I was looking for. It felt good during the practice round but in the tournament, I didn't quite have the same feel for it, so I went back to my old driver on the weekend. I hit it a little bit better. But still, this driver has done pretty well, and that's the one I'll continue working with and hopefully get my swing organized."
– Dave Allen Posted May 5
Tiger Woods is not much of a tinkerer, which is to say he will never be mistaken for the likes of Bob Estes or Steve Flesch. But the world No. 1 seemed to be busy last week testing shafts for his Nike SQ Dymo driver.
On Thursday at Quail Hollow, the TW sweepstakes seemed to go to newcomer Oban Composites, a Glenview, Ill.-based company. Woods, who had played Mitsubishi’s Diamana White shaft through the Masters, used a prototype shaft from Oban called the Mach4 on his way to an opening-round 65.
On Oban's website, the Mach4 is said to deliver a low- to mid-launch and low spin for a more piercing ball flight.
"It's exactly the same weight, just a different company," Woods said on Thursday of his new shaft.
– Rex Hoggard
Posted April 30
Parker McLachlin was fitted by Titleist for a new shaft in his driver this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and it's already paying dividends. McLachlin fired an opening-round 5-under-par 67 on Thursday, and was one of six players one shot back of Charlie Wi heading into Friday's second round.
McLachlin, who was admittedly struggling with his driver heading into this week, birdied three of the four par-5s at TPC Louisiana en route to his 67. Titleist fitted him with a Diamana White 63 X shaft in his 909 D2 driver (10.5 degrees) and a Diamana 73 X in his 909 F2 3-wood (15.5 degrees).
McLachlin won last year's Legends Reno-Tahoe Open to earn a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and has two top-25 finishes in 10 starts this season. A native of Hawaii, McLachlin's father, Chris, was the high school basketball coach of President Barack Obama at Punahou High School in Honolulu.
– David Allen
Posted April 24
Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee will be making two debuts this week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans – one as a professional, and the other as a Callaway Golf Staff Pro. The equipment manufacturer, which recently extended its deal with Phil Mickelson through 2014, announced the signing of the 18-year-old phenom on Tuesday. The Korean-born Lee will endorse all Callaway Golf equipment and golf balls, and wear the company’s logo.
The youngest winner in the history of the U.S. Amateur at 18 years and one month, unseating Tiger Woods, Lee is currently using the FT-9 Tour driver, a Big Bertha Diablo 3-wood, X-Prototype irons, X-Forged wedges, an Odyssey Tour Milled 2 putter and Tour ix golf ball.
“I am happy to have Callaway Golf’s support as I begin this exciting new phase of my life,” said Lee in a statement released by Callaway Golf. “I’ve been playing with Callaway’s equipment and golf balls during this important time in my career because I feel they put me in the best position to win. Now the stakes have been raised and I’m glad Callaway is with me as I meet the challenges ahead.”
Lee finished tied for 20th in his PGA Tour debut last August at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., but missed the cut in his first Masters appearance earlier this month, shooting 74-81.
– David Allen
Posted April 22
It was a banner week for Mizuno, as Staff Players Brian Gay and Luke Donald finished 1-2 at the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C. Gay set a new tournament scoring record of 20-under par and doubled the field, including Donald, by 10 strokes. One of the straightest hitters on the PGA Tour, Gay hit 84 percent of the narrow fairways at Harbour Town Golf Links for the week. Gay played Mizuno MX long irons (3- and 4-irons), MP mid- and short-irons (5-PW) and the Bettinardi C-Series Putter.
Donald, who plays the MP-62 irons and MP Series wedges, shot a final-round 66 to finish in a tie for second place with Briny Baird. It was the fourth top-10 finish in nine starts this season for Donald, who's returning from wrist surgery.
– David Allen
Posted April 21
TaylorMade Performance Labs announced on Monday the opening of its sixth U.S. location at The International in Boston, beginning April 27. The newest performance lab will feature TaylorMade's MAT-T (Motion Analysis Technology by TaylorMade) system which, until recently, was only available to Tour professionals. This motion capture technology uses six high-speed cameras to display a three-dimensional computer-animated image of your swing from every angle. Following a two and one-half hour custom fitting and swing analysis, demo clubs are built on-site to your swing specifications so you can test them out on the driving range. If you like the results, new TaylorMade clubs can be built to the recommended specifications and shipped to you in as little as 48 hours.
The International features 36 holes of championship golf, including the Tom Fazio-designed The Oaks, and is located only 45 minutes from downtown Boston.
– David Allen
Posted April 20
Masters winner Angel Cabrera was the perfect ambassador for Ping this past week. All 14 clubs in his bag were manufactured by the Phoenix-based company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The 39-year-old native of Argentina played a Rapture driver (7.5 degrees), Rapture V2 3-wood, S57 irons (3-PW, Rifle shafts), a G10 2-iron, Tour-W 54-degree wedge, Tour-W TS 60-degree wedge, and i-Series ½ Craz-E B putter. Cabrera also played the New 2009 Pro V1x ball, marking the third straight major title won with a Titleist Pro V1x ball (Padraig Harrington captured the 2008 British Open and PGA Championship with a Pro V1x).
Cabrera, who became the sixth player this decade to win multiple majors (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Harrington, Retief Goosen and Vijay Singh were the others), hit 3-wood off the tee five times on Sunday, twice on the closing, par-4 18th hole (once in a playoff). It was his 4-iron, however, which was responsible for the luckiest shot of the week. After hitting into the trees on the 18th hole in regulation Sunday, Cabrera tried to hook his second shot around the trees but found lumber instead. Fortunately for Cabrera, the ball ricocheted left, into the fairway, setting up a sand wedge approach and a par which catapulted him into a playoff with Kenny Perry and Chad Campbell.
– David Allen
Posted April 16
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The putter is normally the most important instrument at Augusta National, but for Kenny Perry, his week atop the Masters leaderboard has come courtesy of a cooperative driver.
Perry switched to a TaylorMade R9 (9.5 degrees with a Matrix HD 6 shaft) at last month’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and the improvement has been dramatic. Through three rounds, Perry had hit 78 percent of Augusta National’s fairways, compared to his 62 percent season average.
“I put this new driver in play and I told my caddie, ‘I think I can win a U.S. Open with this driver, because I'm driving it so straight,’ ” said Perry, who switched from the company’s Burner driver. “I've probably lost 5 to 7 yards in distance, but it's given me a lot of confidence in straightness. It doesn’t really curve as much from right to left.”
– Rex Hoggard
Posted April 12
Nike Golf on Friday released its scripting for this week’s Masters, and the Striped One will be wearing plenty of stripes. When Tiger Woods tees off on Thursday in pursuit of his fifth green jacket, he’ll be donning a Black Directional Pattern Polo, black pants and a white cap. Woods will be wearing a Pacific Blue Drop Needle Polo on Friday and a White Bold Stripe Polo for “moving day” on Saturday. On Sunday, Tiger will sport his customary red shirt, a Carmine Argyle Bodymap Polo, and black pants.
The pants are only suggested colors but the shirts are confirmed.
Woods is two Masters victories shy of matching Jack Nicklaus’ record six green jackets and will be seeking his first win at Augusta National since 2005. He finished tied for third in 2006 and tied for second last year.
– David Allen
Posted April 6
The Adams hybrid club which Brittany Lincicome used to hit the most dramatic shot so far of the 2009 golf season was 22 degrees, not 19 as originally reported. Trailing by one shot on the par-5 closing hole at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Lincicome bombed her tee shot down the fairway, setting the stage for a make-or-break approach of 210 yards over water to an island green. Lincicome struck her Adams Idea Pro Hybrid perfectly, landing the ball on the middle of the oval-shaped green. It eventually came to rest four feet from the hole, setting up an eagle putt and the first major championship title for the 23-year-old Floridian.
“It came off on the clubface exactly where we wanted to hit it and took the slope like I wanted it to and came really close, thank God,” said Lincicome.
It was the third win of Lincicome’s career, and first since the 2007 Ginn Open. She also won the 2006 HSBC World Golf Match Play Championship in her second year as a pro. In addition to the hybrid, Lincicome played an 8.5-degree Adams Speedline driver, a 14.5-degree Adams Insight BTY fairway wood and Adams Idea Pro Irons (4-iron through pitching wedge).
– David Allen
Posted April 6
Rory Sabbatini, who began the season without an equipment endorsement deal, has signed a new agreement with TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Sabbatini, who is 46th in the Official World Golf Ranking, will play TaylorMade clubs and his headwear will carry the company logo.
Sabbatini, known for an aggressive swing that matches his outspoken off-course persona, began working TaylorMade gear into his bag during the Florida Swing. He used Tour Preferred irons (4-PW), a Burner driver, an R9 3-wood and two rac wedges (56 and 60 degrees) at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, where he placed T53. The following week at the Transitions Championship, he switched to the R9 driver, the most played driver on the PGA Tour for two months now. Sabbatini placed T63 at Transitions. He has made six cuts in seven starts in 2009, with nine rounds in the 60s. He has four PGA Tour wins since joining the Tour in 1999: the 2000 Air Canada Championship, 2003 FBR Open, 2006 Nissan Open and 2007 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
– Adam Barr
Posted April 2
Imagine a driver with nine sweet spots instead of just one! That’s the concept behind Cobra Golf’s “Hotter 9 Points” technology, available in their 2009 line of S9-1 drivers. The face geometry of the S9-1 has been adjusted to create a more consistent ball flight across the entire face, improving the efficiency of your off-center hits. Discretionary weighting is used to alter the CG location in each club, depending on the individual’s ball-flight characteristics, as is face curvature to improve accuracy and promote faster ball speeds.
“We’re able to spread the COR more around the perimeter of the clubhead, so even your mis-hits produce a good ball flight,” said Ben Schomin, Custom Fitting/Trial Promotion Manager for Cobra Golf.
The S9-1 is available in six Speed Tuned shaft models: F, M, M Offset, Senior’s, Women’s and Offset Women’s. The S9-1 F is designed for players with faster ball speeds (125-155 mph) while the S9-1 M is for slower swingers (110 to 140 mph ball speeds) who need help launching the ball higher and turning it over from right to left; therefore, the M has more discretionary weight in the heel and the face is slightly more closed to promote a draw-bias. The CG location and face curvature gets progressively more draw-biased as you move from the F model (-0.5 degrees closed) to the M Offset (-1.5 closed).
The S9-1 Pro S and Pro D drivers are designed for highly-skilled players with ball speeds in excess of 155 mph who are looking for a mid-to-high launch and lower spin. Cobra Brand Ambassador Geoff Ogilvy captured the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship with the S9-1 Pro D model (10.5 degrees). Jason Gore also hits the S9-1 Pro D, while Camilo Villegas plays the S9-1 Pro S.
The S9-1 F, M and M Offset drivers have a street price of $299 while the S9-1 Pro models are $399.
– David Allen
Posted March 31
ORLANDO, Fla. – During his press conference on Wednesday, Tiger Woods discussed how the new ball was making it more difficult to shape shots from right to left or left to right. "Shotmaking is more about trajectory now, moving the ball up and down to control your distances, rather than shaping the ball into the wind like you used to," said Woods.
The Leading Edge asked Golf Channel chief technical advisor Frank Thomas to expand on what Woods had to say, and to explain why the ball is traveling a lot straighter today.
"The modern golf ball has been designed to spin less than the old wound ball. This decreases the aerodynamic drag and thus increases the distance it can travel," said Thomas. "A ball which spins less will also have less lift, thus it must be launched higher than the old wound ball to optimize distance. This decrease in spin will not only affect the vertical lift force, but also the side spin component which causes a hook or a slice. In Tiger’s case, his controlled draws and fades will be a little more difficult to produce with a low spinning ball. This does not mean that the ball will not slice or hook, to which we can all attest. Even Tiger is not immune to the occasional wayward shot.
The bottom line is that the advantage the modern ball provides in decreased spin has the added advantage of being a little straighter and, as Tiger suggests, a little more difficult to work."
Thomas doesn't believe the modern golf ball needs to be changed, as some, including Jack Nicklaus, have advocated. If anything needs tweaking on the professional level, it's the courses themselves.
"It is as good as it can be and certainly not more advantageous to the power players than to the average golfer," said Thomas. "As far as reigning in the golf ball is concerned, I believe the best solution is to shorten golf courses and with strategic course setups for major events, penalizing the long wayward drives."
Thomas’ "Let’s be Frank” column appears every week on GolfChannel.com. To submit a question to Frank, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
– David Allen
Posted March 27
ORLANDO, Fla. – I put a lot of miles on my car in March, and heard a lot of things during the PGA Tour’s Florida swing – chiefly about April. It seems a lot of guys are thinking about their putters with The Masters in mind. Phil Mickelson mentioned it at the WGC-CA Championship, as did Boo Weekley at Transitions. It’s about getting soft.
A softer putterface helps slow the ball down just after impact, and that can make a big difference on super-fast greens like those we expect to see at Augusta National. Mickelson, in particular, sets great store by this approach – he tried it out Tuesday of Doral week on a trip to the National; more than likely, he's returned to Georgia since then and may be doing so as we speak (he opted out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational). And it seems to be working – Phil’s putter, and 8802-inspired, heel-shafted wand made specially for him by Odyssey, was sterling at Doral, as was his entire short game.
As for His Booness, he’s not usually as tech-minded as Phil, but he knows his stuff. His Never Compromise model fits with his feel expectations when used with the Srixon golf ball he now has in the bag.
“I don’t worry too much about how it does it,” Boo said to me on the 18th hole during pro-am day at Transitions. “I just like it.”
Bring on the greens of Augusta.
– Adam Barr
Posted March 26
ORLANDO, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus has been a long-time proponent of changing the golf ball because it travels too far. According to the man who is chasing his major championships record, the ball is also flying much straighter today, taking away some of the advantage that the best shotmakers have.
"I grew up maneuvering the ball, but it doesn't move as much now," Tiger Woods said during his Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "Hank [Haney] and I were talking about this not too long ago. The game has changed with the new golf balls because the ball doesn't move from right to left or left to right as much as it used to."
Woods says that he spends more time today on controlling trajectory than he does shaping his shots.
"Shotmaking is more about trajectory now, moving the ball up and down to control your distances, rather than shaping the ball into the wind like you used to," said Woods. "It's changed a little bit and, obviously, you have to change with the times."
– David Allen
Posted March 26
Golfweek is reporting that when Greg Norman makes his much-anticipated return to Augusta National in a few weeks, he’ll be toting a TaylorMade staff bag and playing their irons and woods. The Shark, who last appeared in The Masters in 2002, finishing in a tie for 36th, currently has an ownership stake in MacGregor but is reportedly close to signing with TaylorMade Golf. Norman played the new TaylorMade R9 driver at the Johnnie Walker Classic earlier this year in Australia, and played the TP Red LDP ball during last summer’s British Open, where Norman held a two-stroke leading heading into the final round before slipping into a tie for third with a 77.
Norman, who turned 54 in February, will be in the Dominican Republic this week playing in the Champion Tour’s Cap Cana Championship. He’s also scheduled to play in the Shell Houston Open April 2-5 before heading to Augusta.
Norman acquired a controlling interest in MacGregor in 2007, but the company’s future remains unclear after it pulled out of January’s PGA Merchandise Show. It has yet to introduce any new product this season, and many of its top executives have left.
– David Allen
Posted March 23
As if Sergio Garcia doesn’t have enough pressure on him already to get that major monkey off his back, the current “Mr. Best Player to Have Never Won a Major” now has to win one for the buyer. Golfsmith is running a Masters promotion on its website with TaylorMade staff player Garcia in which it will refund the full purchase price of an r7 Limited, R9 or Burner ’09 driver should Garcia win The Masters.
Here’s the catch: You must purchase one of the three TaylorMade drivers mentioned above (the r7 Limited and Burner ’09 are listed at $299 on Golfsmith.com; the R9 at $399) by April 11, send in your refund promotion form, and then hope that Garcia wins a green jacket.
If Sergio’s recent performance at Augusta National is any indication, Golfsmith shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Garcia has missed the cut in three of his last four starts there, the lone exception a 46th-place finish in 2006. He does, however, have two top-10 finishes to his credit – an eighth-place finish in ’02 and a tie for fourth in ’04.
The interesting thing about this promotion is that it ends at midnight CST time on the 11th, which means you have three rounds to determine whether you think Garcia is a good buy. If Sergio holds a big 54-hole lead, you can then break out your credit card if you’d like and purchase one of the three drivers either online, by phone or at your local Golfsmith retailer. You just might want to check to see where Mr. Woods is lurking first.
– David Allen
Posted March 23
One relatively new term in golf equipment today - thanks to Trackman and other launch monitor systems - is “landing angle.” This is the angle that the ball falls down to the ground. The steeper the angle, the less roll you generate and the better your distance control; conversely, the flatter the angle of descent, the more roll and distance you create. With your irons, you want the ball coming in at a relatively steep angle, so it lands and stops. That’s how you hit more greens. With a driver, you want to maximize distance so the goal is to get the ball to descend on a shallower angle and hit the ground running.
A good landing angle for your irons is around 42 degrees, says Kevin Walker, President of FuZion Golf, a custom fitting company based in Jupiter, Fla. It’s very important to keep that angle fairly consistent throughout your set of irons. “Every iron should have the same apex [highest point of trajectory], and therefore the same landing angle,” said Walker. “If you hit your 5-iron through pitching wedge at roughly 45 degrees, but your 3- and 4-irons come down at 35 degrees, then you need to replace your longer irons with hybrids to give you roughly the same landing angle.”
The landing angle for your driver should be less than 40 degrees, said Walker. A lower spin rate will help bring the landing angle down, maximizing roll and distance off the tee.
– David Allen
Posted March 19
DORAL, Fla. – What's busier, Miami morning traffic or the range at Doral the day before a WGC event? Pick 'em.
Phil Mickelson has begun his warm-up under the critical eye of swing coach Butch Harmon. His move through the ball looks strong, like he's eager to get out there.
Sean O'Hair is looking over some swing video and making fine adjustments. Then there's Carl Pettersson, continuing the iron practice he spent so many hours on yesterday.
Ryuji Imada's bag is here; we're sure Ryuji himself will be along soon. There are three new Titleist/Vokey wedges in the bag: 49 degrees, 53 degrees, and a 60-degree weakened to 61.5. No verdict yet on whether they'll be this week's gamers.
– Adam Barr
Posted March 11
DORAL, Fla. – Ernie Els has found himself back on PGA Tour leaderboards of late and at least part of that is due to the South African’s ability to find fairways.
Since switching to a new driver shaft at the Northern Trust Open (UST Mamiya’s ATTAS, a prototype expected to be available to the public in 2010), he’s hit 64 percent of his fairways, a drastic improvement over his 2008 (56 percent) and 2007 (56 percent) averages. Els has also been able to maintain his length off the tee since switching shafts in his Callaway FT-9 Tour driver.
– Rex Hoggard
Posted March 11
DORAL, Fla. – One of the great things about WGC events is the opportunity to see more overseas players, the ones who ordinarily come just for these things and the majors. On the range Monday at Doral: Lee Westwood and South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, who recently lost to teenage sensation Rory McIlroy in the first round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
A brief survey up and down the range revealed that as far as long-game equipment is concerned, the 2-iron is still in play on the PGA Tour. Westwood is of this camp. But like a lot of players, he favors a cavity back model (his is from long-time equipment partner Ping) over a more blade-like design.
"The idea is to get it up in the air, after all," Westwood said of his i10 2-iron.
Oosthuizen (I got a pronunciation lesson: Loo-ee WEST-hoizen) goes the hybrid route, as so many recreational players have done. (His is also from Ping - a Rapture hybrid, 18 degrees.)
"Even out of rough lies, I can hit it high or low," Oosthuizen said.
Options keep the game interesting.
SEEN in the gym, doing things with weights that you and I shouldn't try: Retief Goosen. If you can do a floating-leg twist-crunch with a dumbbell held between your ankles, by all means, don't let me stand in your way.....
– Adam Barr
Posted March 10
Another artillery barrage, with patents as the Howitzer shells, has begun in the golf ball wars.
Acushnet (through its Titleist brand) and Callaway are suing each other, alleging that each has violated the other’s patents on their tour level golf balls. This, after Callaway won just such a battle against Acushnet last year.
In that suit, Callaway prevailed on its claim that Titleist’s Pro V1 balls (the model known as the 2007 Pro V1) infringed on patents owned by Callaway. Acushnet is appealing that decision. Meanwhile, late in 2008, Acushnet provided a modified, clearly labeled Pro V1 that did not violate the patent, it said. Acushnet has already planned a 2009 model Pro V1 for release in February, and pros had already been working it into their games. Among other things, the 2009 model features a reformulated, more durable cover and a core that yields more yardage, Titleist said.
Now Callaway is saying that even the retooled Pro V1s, the models released for spring 2009, infringe on Callaway-owned patents. And Acushnet has fired right back, claiming that Callaway’s Tour i and Tour ix balls transgress Acushnet’s patent rights.
As with most patent suits, it will take a long time to sort out the claims. And whatever balls you have now from either company are perfectly legal under the Rules of Golf. But lest you think both companies are being overly litigious, keep in mind that in the patent world, you have to protect your rights aggressively, or you could lose them. There’s no selective enforcement of intellectual property rights. So clearly, both companies felt compelled to sue.
But it’s expensive, this litigation stuff, especially in this Brave New World of cost control and depressed economies. One wonders what protracted patent litigation might do to the competitive landscape. Titleist is far and away the leader with half of the domestic market (measured in dollars) in off-course shops. Bunched more tightly are the chasers, such as Bridgestone with nearly 17 percent (and a lot of momentum from its popular B330-RX ball over the last five months), Callaway/Top Flite at about 12 percent, Nike around 8 percent, and TaylorMade and related brands at about 6 percent.
What could happen on that leaderboard while Callaway and Titleist fight it out?
– Adam Barr
Posted March 4
Sad news from Brockton, Mass., as the down economy claims another victim – this one a venerable bastion of quality and pride. FootJoy will close its golf shoe plant here in about six weeks, resulting in the loss of 103 manufacturing and support jobs. The company will also discontinue its Classics line, which was the main product made at the Brockton facility.
FootJoy’s golf shoe plant in this quiet town south of Boston is the last footwear factory in the former shoe capital of the world. Dozens of three-story brick buildings with big, rectangular windows and hardwood floors housed thousands of machines that clacked away, shift after shift, since the early 1900s. At one time, fully half of the country’s footwear came from Brockton.
Lately, FootJoy’s recently updated factory on Field Street produced the high-end models Classics Tour and Classics Dry. These were Goodyear-welted shoes, using a special process (and machinery) to join the upper, a comfort foot bed made of cork and a material called Poron, and the sole of the shoe with an extremely strong fastening system – call it “power sewing.” The result was a rim, or lip, along the bottom perimeter of the sole, almost like the running board on an old-style Buick. This was how the sturdiest dress shoes were once made, and the appearance and performance resonated for decades with discerning golfers.
Rapid advancements in epoxies have yielded huge performance gains in golf shoes, both in durability and waterproofing. So-called “cement” shoes have become the standard in the sport, and they make up most of FootJoy’s line now. From a competitive point of view, FootJoy felt compelled to shut down Classics and its related dress and casual lines.
“This was a very difficult decision made necessary by the declining demand for premium welted, leather soled golf footwear,” said Jim Connor, president of FootJoy. “While this factory produced a small portion of our worldwide supply of golf shoes, some of our craftsmen and women were from several generations of shoe makers. All of us at FootJoy are deeply saddened by this outcome.”
And touring the plant, which I did several times, you could feel it. The people who made these shoes, whether they cut the leather, assembled the insoles, handled the welting or watched quality control, had pride coming off of them like heat waves off a summer highway. The building itself, until its recent update, spoke of New England in another time: the well-worn floors, grooved by hundreds of carts carrying shoe parts, each set tagged so that every person who handled the more than 80 steps involved in the process would know what they were making. Those parts might have just come from the third floor to the second down a steel chute, where smart-stepping men and women took picked them up and took them to third-generation shoemakers at their machines and tables. There, they worked in summer sunlight streaming in through open windows, not with the repetition of drudgery, but with the confidence of craftsmen. It was industry with a distinctly human touch, hard to find these days in golf, or anywhere.
– Adam Barr Posted Feb. 27
TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s recent announcement that a batch of its TP Red golf balls had exceeded the USGA’s initial velocity rule raises the following questions: Just what is the maximum velocity permitted under USGA rules? And how is it determined?
Golf Channel Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas has the answers. Quoting Thomas, the former technical director of the USGA and founder of FranklyGolf.com: “The Initial Velocity (IV) test is based on the speed the ball leaves a steel striker attached to a wheel weighing approximately 200 pounds and traveling at just under 98 mph. The limit is 250 feet per second plus a tolerance of 2 percent, which set the limit at 255 feet/second. Or, about 173.5 mph.”
Two-tenths of one percent, the amount in which the TP Red balls is reported to have exceeded the limit, would be .51 feet per second, or approximately one-third of 1 mph. According to Thomas, the rule was adopted in 1942 to limit the distance the balls were traveling.
“Manufacturers work so close to the IV limit that a slight change in the chemical makeup of the ball’s core might change the resilience, and this might be enough to exceed the limit,” said Thomas. “As small as this is (one-half of 1 percent in IV may result in less than a yard in total distance), there has to be a limit.”
Thomas’ "Let’s be Frank” column appears every week on GolfChannel.com. To submit a question to Frank, please e-mail email@example.com.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 26
Yes, that was Phil Mickelson taking out a 3-wood on the 18th hole Sunday at Riviera Country Club. Phil the Thrill, needing a par to escape with a one-stroke victory, eschewed his driver on the par-4, 475-yard finishing hole for his 3-wood and proceeded to stripe his drive down the center of the fairway. That set up a 6-iron approach and a successful two-putt for his second consecutive win at the Northern Trust Open.
Mickelson, in a post-round press conference last week, professed his love for his new Callaway Big Bertha Diablo 3-wood (15 degrees), which he used last week as an alternate driver on some holes, including the 18th on Sunday. “I’ve never had a 3-wood that’s this easy to hit and gets up that high,” said Mickelson, noting that it was the first time in his career he felt so confident standing on the tee with a 3-wood.
Mickelson also used his 3-wood on the par-5, 503-yard 1st hole during Saturday’s blistering round of 62, setting up a 5-iron approach for eagle. He eagled the first hole on Friday and Sunday, too, using the same approach off the tee.
“[It] gives me two alternatives off the tee,” said Mickelson. “I can maybe carry some bunkers with the driver, and if I can’t or want to play to a fatter part of the fairway, I feel like I’m not losing any distance with my 3-wood so, it’s giving me an alternative club to drive with.”
The Big Bertha Diablo fairway woods feature a short, straight hollow hosel design which allows more weight to be moved to the perimeter of the clubhead for added stability. The all-stainless steel heads are strategically shaped (in draw and neutral head shapes) to optimize the CG (center of gravity) and help achieve your desired ball flight.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 25
Perhaps no one is happier that Tiger is coming back than Nike Golf, so much so that on Friday they unveiled what the Swooshed One will be wearing next week at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. For his opening-round match next Wednesday, Tiger will be sporting a Nike DRI-FIT Diagonal Stripe Polo in pro cyan (a light blue) with black trousers. Should he reach the 36-hole final on Sunday, he’ll be fitted in his traditional Sunday red (DRI-FIT Textured Mock, Carmine color) and black trousers. On his feet, Woods will be wearing both the white and black versions of the new Air Zoom TW 2009 shoes.
Just in case you’re curious about what’s new in Tiger’s bag for 2009, Woods will be playing the new Nike SQ Dymo driver (8.5 degrees) as well as the Nike Victory Red Forged TW Blades. The SQ Dymo features Nike’s PowerBow weighting, which helps position the center of gravity higher and more forward (toward the clubface) in the clubhead to produce less spin and a more penetrating ball flight. Tiger worked directly with Nike’s development team to create the Victory Red line and the TW Blade, which features a muscle back design and slighter thicker toe to maximize playability.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 21
Late Wednesday, Phil Mickelson walked the hallowed grounds of Riviera CC with Callaway Golf's technology team, explaining to them a look he was trying to achieve in his driver setup. Lefty has been fighting a block, a shot he despises. When he’s not missing low and left, it has been a pull to the right. Missed fairways have been the norm, not the exception.
As they talked, the Callaway team pointed out to Phil that since his Masters victory in 2006, he has consistently taken loft off his driver. He won that Masters with a driver loft of 8.4 degrees. Over the last few years, he has de-lofted his driver to as low as six degrees.
After talking it over, Phil and Callaway's tour and technology team decided to increase Phil's driver loft by a full degree. According to my source at Callaway Golf, Mickelson made an "easy" birdie on 18 Wednesday after striping his tee ball 300 yards up the gut. He turned to the team with a gleam in his eyes and said, "This is going to be a fun week."
He may be right. Lefty fired an 8-under-par 63 on Thursday to take the early clubhouse lead at the Northern Trust Open. Mickelson, the defending champion, averaged 299.3 yards off the tee and hit seven of 14 fairways with his FT-9 driver.
– Casey Bierer Posted Feb. 19
For the fourth consecutive week since its PGA Tour debut at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, TaylorMade’s R9 was the top-played driver on Tour at the rain-shortened AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Seventy-six TaylorMade drivers were in play at Pebble, 26 of them the adjustable R9 driver, which allows you to customize the lie angle, loft and face angle of the clubhead to give you more control over your ball flight. AT&T champion Dustin Johnson played TaylorMade’s Burner 09 driver.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 18
Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee followed AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am champion Dustin Johnson recently at the FBR Open in Scottsdale, and was left amazed by the 24-year-old’s sheer power. “The ball gets small in a hurry,” said Chamblee.
Indeed, Johnson’s ball speed is among the highest on the PGA Tour. According to statistics from TaylorMade-adidas Golf’s Tour Department, Johnson’s ball speed reached 190 miles per hour during testing at The Kingdom, TaylorMade’s performance testing center in Carlsbad, Calif., this off-season. His clubhead speed topped out at 130 mph. Not surprisingly, Johnson led the field in driving distance at the AT&T at 288 yards, and his 309.9-yard average ranked fourth on the Tour a year ago.
What is surprising is that Johnson’s Burner ’09 driver has 10.5 degrees of loft, a degree or two more than the typical long hitter’s specs. The extra loft is required because of Johnson’s steep angle of approach into the ball. Johnson plays from a pretty shut clubface position, which is one of the reasons why he hits his irons so far.
– Casey Bierer Posted Feb. 16
It’s Pebble Beach week, which means players can expect to see all different types of turf conditions.
Turf on a golf course, like the weather, is one of those things you can’t control. But you can control how you react to it. Firmness of the turf is something good players notice, especially when it comes to their ball-striking. And speaking of the weather, climate is generally the No. 1 influence on how the turf feels: spongy, on one end of the spectrum, and like concrete, or a worn driving range mat, at the other.
Some PGA Tour players actually bring two sets of irons on the road, each shafted differently. The “hard turf” set will have slightly more flexible shafts to absorb the shock of the unyielding ground at impact. The “soft turf” set will employ a stiffer shaft to fight some of the torque and inexactitude that can come from hitting off mushy turf.
It’s not an option open to everyone, but it does make you think: In these days of interchangeable and adjustable equipment, surely the day will come when we can all have iron sets so customized. (The industry’s bottom-line watchers would love it, of course.) Also, do the heads in one set have to be identical to those in the other? Does one need a different leading edge for clipping it off hard turf? As always with golf equipment, the possibilities are endless and fascinating.
And by the way, the chance for rain on the Monterey Peninsula is 70 percent both Friday and Sunday.
– Adam Barr Posted Feb. 12
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Bryan Parker, Cobra’s Tour Rep, has had relatively light duty this week with only two Cobra Tour pros in the field at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am: J.B. Holmes and Jason Gore. This tournament can be a hectic week for Tour reps in general, as the event is played on three courses: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Spyglass Hill Golf Club and Poppy Hills Golf Club. The manufacturers’ Tour vans are parked just up the street from the Peter Hay par-3 course, near Pebble’s main range.
After some testing on Wednesday, J.B. Holmes kept his bag's makeup status quo and decided to skip the three-course rotation. He played the sublime Cypress Point Club, Alister MacKenzie’s masterpiece. Nice work if you can get it!
Jason Gore was looking for some firmer performance characteristics in his driver and as a result did make a switch in preparation for Thursday’s first round. For a little less spin, Jason switched from Aldila’s VooDoo XVS-8 shaft to UST Mamiya’s Proforce V2, and married the new shaft to the Cobra S9-1 Pro D (D is for deep face) driver; Gore had been playing the Cobra S9-1 Pro S (S is for shallow face). Jason likes the stiffer-feeling combination and Parker says they had great success with the pairing during his practice round on Pebble Beach Golf Links yesterday.
We all saw the excruciating pain Jason Gore was in last week as he suffered from extreme back spasms during play in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. Jason gutted it out, however, finishing in a tie for 63rd after posting rounds of 80 and 75 on the weekend. Gore went home to Valencia, Calif., following play on Sunday to receive treatment for his back. Parker tells me that Gore’s back has held up well so far this week, although Gore did admit to the back feeling a little tired at the end of his practice round on Wednesday. I’m sure the Gore camp is hoping for the best when he puts the peg in the ground Thursday morning at Spyglass Hill.
– Casey Bierer Posted Feb. 12
Nike Inc. – the big sporting goods company, not just its golf division – anticipates a workforce reduction of up to 4 percent, said an announcement this afternoon from the company’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. It’s all part of an effort to get leaner and more efficient in the tough economy, and hardly unique to Nike or even sporting goods. The final decision will come after Nike’s fiscal year, which ends in May. The company employs nearly 35,000 people worldwide.
Too early to say yet how, or if, the golf division will be affected. But considering they service and exist in economic symbiosis with the world’s most popular athlete, we can expect golf to continue to command significant resources in a get-results-soon economy.
– Adam Barr Posted Feb. 11
Remember Callaway Golf’s commercial for the ERC family? The face of the export version of the driver exceeded the COR limit under the Rules of Golf that applied in the United States at the time. In a TV commercial, a father and son leave the U.S. rather than play under what they consider restrictive driving rules. It was funny, of course, and all part of the hoopla surrounding the advent of springy-faced drivers.
Thank goodness no one is going crazy over the impending restrictions on grooves, because it won’t change golf for most of us – just as hot drivers haven’t. Technically, the new groove shape rules apply to clubs with 25 or more degrees of loft – essentially, 5-irons and shorter, and not drivers or putters. But as a practical matter, they’re aimed at wedges.
Background: On Jan. 1, 2010, certain dimensions of clubface grooves will have to adhere to ratios prescribed by the game’s rulemaking bodies, the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. The sharpness of the groove edges will round off ever so slightly, making it tougher to spin the ball out of the rough and other bad lies. (The groove can still have a flat bottom; it need not be a complete “V.”) The idea is to put more emphasis on driving the ball in the fairway, of course, since pros can spin it out of piled cotton balls if they want. And the 2010 activation date will only apply to professional tournaments.
Here are the two facts recreational players are fast becoming aware of: 1) Most of us don’t generate enough clubhead speed to spin our wedge shots like pros do, especially out of the rough; (So we’re not losing anything by losing square grooves.) and 2) the grace period is half a generation long. Yes, we weekend players can keep our so-called square grooves until 2024. That’s right…a 14-year grace period – at least.
I ran into USGA senior technical director Dick Rugge and the PGA Merchandise Show; he confirmed the “at least” part. (It’s also mentioned on the USGA website.) The next level of enforcement would be top-level amateur tournaments, and the date being considered for those is 2014.
So the way we watch top-level professional golf may change. But for most of us, the way we play won’t.
– Adam Barr Posted Feb. 11
With Tiger Woods sidelined by the most famous surgically-repaired left knee in recent sports history, there have been few streaks to talk about on the PGA Tour early this season. (Remember: Tiger won his first five PGA Tour starts in 2008.) But there is one impressive streak going, thanks to the late heroics of Nick Watney at last week’s Buick Invitational. Watney’s victory made it five consecutive wins for Titleist dimple users, running their record in 2009 to a perfect 5-0 on Tour. Eight of the top 10 finishers at Torrey Pines played Titleist golf balls, including third-place finisher Camilo Villegas, who used the New 2009 Pro V1x. In all, 32 players in the field teed it up with the New Pro V1x, and 22 with the New 2009 Pro V1. Watney, however, wasn’t one of them. He played the 2007 version of the Pro V1x.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 10
SAN DIEGO – We rattled the bushes to dig up some more on Phil Mickelson’s new Callaway driver. According to Mickelson, Callaway golf rushed the FT-9 model to the U.S. Golf Association for an expedited approval process.
Contacted on Friday, the USGA’s technical director Dick Rugge confirmed that the association will, on occasion, rush equipment through the process, but Rugge stressed that it is not done very often and the FT-9 was not expedited because it was for Mickelson.
“The company asked us to do it and we did,” said Rugge, who added that the normal approval process takes about 20 days. “They don’t abuse that. They do it once in a while and they really, really respect that.”
– Rex Hoggard Posted Feb. 6
There has been a lot of talk this week regarding Phil Mickelson’s change to Callaway’s new FT-9 driver, but here is an interesting tidbit about his irons. Lefty played last Thursday and Friday at the FBR Open without True Temper shafts, the first time that’s happened since he switched from graphite to steel many moons ago. As we know, Mickelson missed the cut at the FBR, which is rare for him–in the three majors and 10 non-majors Phil has won since 2004, he has played True Temper's Project X series shafts.
In the off-season, Mickelson tested with KBS steel shafts manufactured by Boulder, CO–based FEMCO Steel Technology. He put these in the bag for the FBR Open and continued to play KBS yesterday, firing a 2-under-par 70 in the first round of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. True Temper says they were very surprised to see Phil make the switch given the extraordinary success he has had with Project X; however, a source close to Mickelson tells me a set of his Callaway irons shafted with Project X is close at hand. It will be interesting to see which way he goes today.
– Casey Bierer Posted Feb. 6
SAN DIEGO – The most- talked-about implement in Phil Mickelson’s bag wasn’t the most important element of Lefty’s arsenal. That honor belonged to the world No. 4’s putter, and that suited the three-time Buick Invitational champion just fine.
Mickelson’s high-profile switch to a new FT-9 Callaway driver this week turned out to be something of a non-story, with Mickelson finding seven of his 14 fairways on Thursday, more than twice as many as he hit in Round 1 last week in Scottsdale.
“I’ve been able to hit little cuts and keep it in play and I’m excited to put this back in play,” said Mickelson, who carded an opening 70 and is tied for 16th thanks to some clutch early putting.
A Callaway Tour rep said the FT-9 is the progression of the company’s FT-5t and FT-5th Tour models and that it took Mickelson just one day of testing with the FT-9 to make the switch.
Callaway officials had to scramble to build two more models, one to ship to the U.S. Golf Association for approval, and a third model in case something happened to the original. The USGA’s approval came early this week.
– Rex Hoggard Posted Feb. 5
The R9, which combines the moveable weight technology you’ll find in the r7 with its brand new Flight Control Technology, or FCT, will retail at $399; $499 with TP shafts.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 5
According to a recent GolfChannel.com poll, the country’s economic woes will have a strong grip on golfers’ wallets in 2009, especially when it comes to purchasing new equipment. Fifty-four percent of readers polled said they would spend under $500 on golf equipment, with 11 percent saying they would shell out nothing at all. Fifty-three percent said they would take at least one golf-related trip/vacation, whereas 30 percent said they wouldn’t leave their home course. The good news is that the economy doesn’t seem to be diminishing people’s enthusiasm toward playing golf, with 36 percent saying they expect to play anywhere from 26 to 50 rounds in 2009, and 44 percent playing as many rounds as their other half will allow. The poll was conducted the week of the PGA Merchandise Show.
– David Allen Posted Feb. 5
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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