Is There a Thorn on the Rose of the Spring-Like Settlement Proposal
The recent proposal by the U.S. Golf Association and the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews to erase the disharmony on the matter of spring-like effect off the face of drivers pleased the ruling bodies, a number of manufacturers, and a great many golfers. Whether they favored .83, .86, or a reins-off approach, everyone agreed that the whole problem was an enormous distraction that needed to be settled quickly.
To recap: The ruling bodies proposed that so-called hot drivers that measure up to .86 coefficient of restitution be given a five-year grace period beginning Jan. 1, 2003. On Jan. 1, 2008, the whole world will back down to the current U.S. limit of .83, an effective distance of six yards on dead-center hits.
The significance is that instead of having a regulation just in the United States and Mexico, where the USGA rules the rules, the whole world will be subject to the same golf laws. The agreement, of which USGA executive director David Fay and R&A secretary Peter Dawson are so proud, arises from the R&As new willingness to have a regulation where they formerly saw no need for one.
Everyone concurs that Fay and Dawson worked hard on this solution for 18 months and followed the true spirit of negotiation: You give some to get some. Both men agreed that in an international game, uniformity is worth getting by doing some giving.
So why is Wally Uihlein unhappy?
Uihlein has not taken issue with the value of uniformity, or even the specific COR regulations. From his seat as chief executive of Acushnet, owner of the Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle brands, another part of the May 9 proposal could have a significant impact on his market.
Part of the proposal suggests a Condition of Competition for tournaments involving highly skilled players. That condition would limit drivers to .83 COR, which is to say that for professional tournaments and top amateur events, drivers will stay where they are now. That provision, read in conjunction with a joint statement of USGA and R&A principles on equipment regulation, shows the ruling bodies concern about the distance modern golf clubs can drive modern golf balls when used by the worlds best players ' most of whom play on the major professional tours.
Titleists number one franchise is golf balls, of course. But its golf club business, which it has always positioned as complimentary to the ball business, concentrates on the better player, or the player who is trying to enter that rarified GHIN air.
Thats why the words that first jumped off the page at Uihlein on May 9 were highly skilled players.
Whats the size of the highly skilled player market? Uihlein asks. The way this announcement was received, with the major tours endorsing it within hours, it was generally thought that highly skilled players meant the professional tours.
If theres a distance problem, you need to go beyond the PGA Tour. How far down the pyramid do you go to enforce this? And how will state golf associations enforce the rule?
Fay has said that highly skilled players participate in tournaments down to the state level, where state, regional and local associations must enforce the rules.
Were putting that Condition of Competition into effect at the U.S. Open, Fay said, and at our meetings that week well talk about what to do with our other championships. As with the one-ball rule [which requires competitors to play with the same model of golf ball throughout a stipiulated round], we dont tell other golf associations what to do. But I think if you ask them, youll find they take their cue from us.
As for picking out the drivers that cant be played in tournaments, Fay says the USGA will now have to maintain two lists of the 62 drivers now considered nonconforming: One for clubs with a COR between .83 and .86, and another for .86 and above. If anyone showed up at a tournament with a club on either list and the suggested Condition of Competition were in effect, out of the bag it would come.
Uihlein sells clubs to the people who play in tournaments where the Condition could be in force, and to people who want to get good enough to play there. His concern is the inventory of 300,000 to 500,000 drivers at .83 and less (his estimate of all such clubs, not just his companys) in the market now as finished product, or on shelves as components waiting to be assembled.
Will the avid player, who supports the premium golf equipment industry, want to buy a .83 hot driver now, knowing that the Jan. 1, 2003 rule change essentially refrigerates his purchase as his foursome mates move up to .86? Will he pass up a .83 purchase and use his old .83 for tournaments, and buy a .86 to keep up with that foursome?
Rather than wait for the .86 period to begin, at least one manufacturer ' TaylorMade-adidas Golf ' has retooled to introduce its new 500 Series drivers at the .86 level this year.
All of a sudden, January first, these [.83] clubs are performance-inferior? Uihlein said. That could amount to a devaluation of this existing product by some $60 million to $80 million' because of possible lost sales or markdowns to move merchandise.
Uihlein, to whom due process and notice and comment are sacred parts of the process, wants to push the .86 starting date back a year, to Jan. 1, 2004. In his view, that would give ample time to run through the inventory of .83 drivers.
Fay, who is also a devotee of due process and the related concepts, endorses the current notice and comment period, which ends July 15. As for a possible effective date push-back:
We are not looking at this [proposal] as a rolling negotiation, Fay said.
As I said last week ' stay tuned.
Schauffele just fine being the underdog
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.
Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.
Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”
Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.
“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.
So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.
Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: 7/4
Xander Schauffele: 5/1
Kevin Kisner: 11/2
Tiger Woods: 14/1
Francesco Molinari: 14/1
Rory McIlroy: 14/1
Kevin Chappell: 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1
Alex Noren: 25/1
Zach Johnson: 30/1
Justin Rose: 30/1
Matt Kuchar: 40/1
Webb Simpson: 50/1
Adam Scott: 80/1
Tony Finau: 80/1
Charley Hoffman: 100/1
Austin Cook: 100/1
Spieth stands on brink of Open repeat
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth described Monday’s “ceremony” to return the claret jug to the keepers of the game’s oldest championship as anything but enjoyable.
For the last 12 months the silver chalice has been a ready reminder of what he was able to overcome and accomplish in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, a beacon of hope during a year that’s been infinitely forgettable.
By comparison, the relative pillow fight this week at Carnoustie has been a welcome distraction, a happy-go-lucky stroll through a wispy field. Unlike last year’s edition, when Spieth traveled from the depths of defeat to the heights of victory within a 30-minute window, the defending champion has made this Open seem stress-free, easy even, by comparison.
But then those who remain at Carnoustie know it’s little more than a temporary sleight of hand.
As carefree as things appeared on Saturday when 13 players, including Spieth, posted rounds of 67 or lower, as tame as Carnoustie, which stands alone as The Open’s undisputed bully, has been through 54 holes there was a foreboding tension among the rank and file as they readied for a final trip around Royal Brown & Bouncy.
“This kind of southeast or east/southeast wind we had is probably the easiest wind this golf course can have, but when it goes off the left side, which I think is forecasted, that's when you start getting more into the wind versus that kind of cross downwind,” said Spieth, who is tied for the lead with Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner at 9 under par after a 6-under 65. “It won't be the case tomorrow. It's going to be a meaty start, not to mention, obviously, the last few holes to finish.”
Carnoustie only gives so much and with winds predicted to gust to 25 mph there was a distinct feeling that playtime was over.
As melancholy as Spieth was about giving back the claret jug, and make no mistake, he wasn’t happy, not even his status among the leading contenders with a lap remaining was enough for him to ignore the sleeping giant.
But then he’s come by his anxiousness honestly. Spieth has spent far too much time answering questions about an inexplicably balky putter the last few weeks and he hasn’t finished better than 21st since his “show” finish in April at the Masters.
After a refreshingly solid start to his week on Thursday imploded with a double bogey-bogey-par-bogey finish he appeared closer to an early ride home on Friday than he did another victory lap, but he slowly clawed his way back into the conversation as only he can with one clutch putt after the next.
“I'm playing golf for me now. I've kind of got a cleared mind. I've made a lot of progress over the year that's been kind of an off year, a building year,” said Spieth, who is bogey-free over his last 36 holes. “And I've got an opportunity to make it a very memorable one with a round, but it's not necessary for me to prove anything for any reason.”
But if an awakened Carnoustie has Spieth’s attention, the collection of would-be champions assembled around and behind him adds another layer of intrigue.
Kisner, Spieth’s housemate this week on Angus coast, has led or shared the lead after each round this week and hasn’t shown any signs of fading like he did at last year’s PGA Championship, when he started the final round with a one-stroke lead only to close with a 74 to tie for seventh place.
“I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow,” said Kisner, who added a 68 to his total on Day 3.
There’s no shortage of potential party crashers, from Justin Rose at 4 under after a round-of-the-week 64 to 2015 champion Zach Johnson, who also made himself at home with Spieth and Kisner in the annual Open frat house and is at 5 under.
Rory McIlroy, who is four years removed from winning his last major championship, looked like a player poised to get off the Grand Slam schneid for much of the day, moving to 7 under with a birdie at the 15th hole, but he played the last three holes in 2 over par and is tied with Johnson at 5 under par.
And then there’s Tiger Woods. For three magical hours the three-time Open champion played like he’d never drifted into the dark competitive hole that’s defined his last few years. Like he’d never been sidelined by an endless collection of injuries and eventually sought relief under the surgeon’s knife.
As quietly as Woods can do anything, he turned in 3 under par for the day and added two more birdies at Nos. 10 and 11. His birdie putt at the 14th hole lifted him temporarily into a share of the lead at 6 under par.
“We knew there were going to be 10, 12 guys with a chance to win on Sunday, and it's turning out to be that,” said Woods, who is four strokes off the lead. “I didn't want to be too far back if the guys got to 10 [under] today. Five [shots back] is certainly doable, and especially if we get the forecast tomorrow.”
Woods held his round of 66 together with a gritty par save at the 18th hole after hitting what he said was his only clunker of the day off the final tee.
Even that episode seemed like foreshadowing.
The 18th hole has rough, bunkers, out of bounds and a burn named Barry that weaves its way through the hole like a drunken soccer fan. It’s the Grand Slam of hazardous living and appears certain to play a leading role in Sunday’s outcome.
Perhaps none of the leading men will go full Jean Van de Velde, the star-crossed Frenchman who could still be standing in that burn if not for a rising tide back at the 1999 championship, but if the 499 yards of dusty turf is an uninvited guest, it’s a guest nonetheless.
It may not create the same joyless feelings that he had when he returned the claret jug, but given the hole’s history and Spieth’s penchant for late-inning histrionics (see Open Championship, 2017), the 18th hole is certain to produce more than a few uncomfortable moments.
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.
One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.
McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”
McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.
“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”