If The PGA Show Fits

By Adam BarrJanuary 15, 2008, 5:00 pm
2008 PGA Merchandise ShowYou dont hang around for 55 years without building some tradition ' and getting good at a lot of things.
 
The 55th edition of the PGA Merchandise Show begins in Orlando Wednesday with a demo day on the huge 360-degree range at nearby Orange County National Golf complex. The traditional convention part of the Show then runs Thursday through Saturday at the massive Orange County Convention Center. Its a multi-faceted exhibition and meeting that brings together pretty much the entire golf industry to get ready for the new season.
 
But the products to be shown ' and the ways exhibitors will use the Show ' will readjust the boundaries of tradition.
 
Sure, there will be plenty of new stuff to look at. I lost count of the new premium irons that are on the way, and of course there will be bags full of new drivers, putters and wedges. There will be innovative bags, golf balls with the latest that aerodynamic science has to offer (even a new ball for kids), and shafts galore.
 
But what everyone is looking at is'well, how the industry will adjust.
 
I think there will be a great deal of discussion surrounding the [U.S. Golf Associations] recent ruling on club adjustability, says Dan Murphy, senior director of marketing, Bridgestone Golf. From what I gather, PGA professionals and retailers are eager to see how OEMs will be integrating those design properties into their product line-ups.
 
Last year, the USGA told manufacturers they could make clubs that are adjustable for more than just weight, as long as the adjustment couldnt be easily made during a round. And the effective date, January 1, 2008, came up fast. So manufacturers have scrambled to bring out adjustable gear, some of which was already in the developmental pipeline. And the first frontier of adjustment: fitting.
 
So what well see is some innovative product mixes ' such as Callaways I-MIX system, which allows clubheads and shafts to be purchased separately. Players can get a driver head and multiple shafts to try ' or change out round to round, depending on conditions. Nickent has an interchangeable shaft system called Evolver that uses its large, stable 4DX head. Other manufacturers are planning innovation on a similar level, all supported by space age connection systems and wrenches that work at the tip end of the shaft.
 
Look also for moveable weights in hybrids and putters ' not exactly a new development, but due for a bigger push. Thats true for much of the fitting and customization technology, some of which has been around for years but not promoted vigorously. The tour van in a box concept ' giving consumers the kind of adjustability in their equipment that tour players have enjoyed for years ' is the focus of the recreational side of the industry and the intent of the new USGA rule.
 
And fitting isnt just a matter of screwing shafts in and out of heads. Some manufacturers are going deep with technology ' including Ping, who returns to the Show for the first time since 2003.
 
Our main objective is to introduce our nFlight fitting software, as well as our fitting system, which includes interchangeable fitting clubs, says Pete Samuels, director of communications for Ping.
 
The software, which arises out of a lot of hours and sweat by Ping engineers, can be used indoors or out. It provides a 3-D ball flight readout, and can process more than a million fitting combinations from a support database that includes 20,000 equipment tests and the performance characteristics of 30,000 shafts. Sophisticated modeling engines make precise fitting recommendations.
 
But as novel as Pings new technology is the way the company has decided to use the Show. Rather than have a traditional booth, Ping will present more of an education center right next to the hall-wide indoor test range, the Equipment Testing Center. The company will have its gear there, but the main idea, concocted in conjunction with the PGA of America, is to invite pros, club fitters and others in to learn about the new approach to fitting from Pings experts in the field. There will even be a special section on the unique task of properly fitting golf clubs for women.
 
Its one of six stations, so that doesnt necessarily mean its the main focus, says Samuels. But it will highlight what were doing with our Rhapsody equipment line. And fitting women is different from fitting men, Samuels said, noting that Ping wants to take custom fitting to the next level for all kinds of golfers.
 
But dont forget ' the PGA Merchandise Show is not just a product platform, but also a huge industry meeting. For some people, the meeting function is paramount. Bridgestone is the official golf ball fitter of this years show, but the meeting will also help its execs take the pulse of the industry.
 
The Show has become much less of a launching pad for new products and much more about having an opportunity for collaboration with key audiences such as media, vendors and retailers, says Bridgestones Murphy. I value these opportunities as I believe each plays an important role in better serving the end-user. The show is a great source for generating ideas, whether theyre R&D related or marketing/sales focused.
 
Another thing you can usually get out of the Show is the general mood of the industry for the coming year. By speaking with retailers and taking a close look at all the product offerings you can typically gauge what type of year this will be for golf. The Show is a great barometer for what opportunities or challenges the new season holds.
 
And the Show tends to have a lasting effect on manufacturer mindsets ' even those who have been in a position to see it all.
 
I cant say that Ive seen a lot of truly unusual things at the Show over the past handful of years, but Ive definitely seen lots of interesting trends develop, Murphy says. Probably the most significant is the fact that the Show and industry as a whole has become a lot less about hype and more about substance. Consumers are taking on much more a show me mindset rather than being satisfied just being told what is good. That mindset is forcing some changes; it is forcing some myths to be dispelled and some truths to be revealed.
 
What will be revealed this week will set the tone for the golf industry, certainly for this year and perhaps beyond. One thing is for sure every year ' whatever the economic health of the game may be, theres always something interesting at the PGA Show. For the 55th version, theres no reason to believe things will be any less exciting.
 
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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.

     

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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.