It Looks to Be the End of an Era for 1-Irons
There was only one other 1-iron in the store - a Callaway Big Bertha in a clearance bag.
Gates didn't even know it was there.
'It's just not existent anymore. It just isn't happening,' said Gates, who has been in business for 21 years. 'Call it what you want. It's a dying breed.'
The 1-iron, perhaps the most fascinating club in the bag, has been on its way out for years as players opted for fairway metals to more easily get the ball in the air. Then came the hybrids, a cross between fairway metals and long irons, that are replacing even the 2-iron and 3-iron in some bags.
But the death of the 1-iron might be traced to two weeks ago in the MCI Heritage at Hilton Head.
Joey Sindelar took his trusty 1-iron out of the bag for the first time in 15 years.
'I'm a very stodgy, slow-to-move, dumber-than-a-rock kind of guy. I stay in my cave. I'm very slow to change clubs,' Sindelar said. 'But this had to happen.'
Sindelar attributed the inevitable to two factors - the hybrid clubs, which are more versatile, more forgiving and still produce like long irons; and golf balls designed to spin less so players with a high launch angle can get more distance.
'That's the spin I need for my 1-iron,' he said.
The 1-iron is often referred to as a butter knife, although even some butter knives are more forgiving. It often requires the perfect blend of speed and power, which most players don't have or don't want to risk trying.
That made the 1-iron the source of some of the most famous lines in golf.
'Actually, the only time I ever took out a 1-iron was to kill a tarantula,' wrote Jim Murray, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Los Angeles Times. 'I took a 7 to do that.'
Lee Trevino once suggested holding a 1-iron when lightning was in the area.
'Even God can't hit a 1-iron,' he joked.
But the club was responsible for some of the greatest shots in golf, starting with Ben Hogan hitting a 1-iron into the 18th green at Merion to win the 1950 U.S. Open. That remains one of the most famous of all golf photographs.
And then there's Jack Nicklaus.
'I would say that probably the best shots that I've played in golf, and the ones I remember the most, have been 1-iron shots,' Nicklaus said.
Baltusrol, 1967 U.S. Open:@ Nicklaus needed a birdie on the 18th hole to tie the U.S. Open scoring record held by Hogan, but he had 238 yards for his third shot - uphill, all carry, into the wind. He hammered his 1-iron to about 20 feet and made the putt to finish at 272.
Pebble Beach, 1972 U.S. Open:@ In what many consider his most memorable shot, Nicklaus hit a 1-iron into the wind on the par-3 17th. The ball hit the flagstick and settled 6 inches away for birdie to clinch his third U.S. Open.
Augusta National, 1975 Masters:@ With a 1-iron that Nicklaus said was better than the shots at Baltusrol and Pebble Beach, he desperately needed a birdie to keep pace with Tom Weiskopf. He had 246 yards and went straight at the flag, so flush that he thought it might fly into the cup for double eagle. It stopped 15 feet away.
'A lot of people had trouble getting the 1-iron in the air,' Nicklaus said. 'I don't think it has anything to do with a sweet spot. I think it's basically a technique of power and speed to be able to hit the ball up in the air.'
Asked if the club was now extinct, Nicklaus replied, 'Evidently, it must be by today's standards.'
'Part of the game of golf is being able to hit high shots, low shots, so forth and so on,' he added. 'If you've got golf clubs that do it for you, you don't have to do it.'
Enter the hybrids.
Taylor Made was among the first equipment companies to develop a hybrid, which it called the 'Rescue.' Other companies eventually followed, and now there's even a hybrid made by the Ben Hogan Co.
Gates, meantime, has started selling some sets of irons with the hybrids replacing the 3- and 4-irons.
And here's more proof that the 1-iron is becoming a relic: Even Ping stopped pushing it.
With its perimeter weighting and cavity-back irons, Ping was among the first manufacturers that shot down the myth about how difficult it was to hit a 1-iron.
'We used to have a lot of single orders for those because they were easy to hit relative to what was out there,' said Pete Samuel at Ping. 'They were a mini-category, the predecessor to the hybrid in a way. Obviously, it's not a big part of our iron offering any more.'
Some players will use the 1-iron if conditions warrant, such as at the British Open or on a blustery course where the ball might roll forever and it helps to keep the ball under the wind.
Sindelar's 1-iron was a Tommy Armour 845, which he called 'revolutionary' when he got it in the early '90s.
'I believe that 1-iron has to be the greatest ever made,' Sindelar said.
Sindelar, like several players who kept a 1-iron in the bag, used it primarily off the tee. And while he didn't knock down any flags at Pebble Beach, or pose over perfection at Merion, it came in handy when he won the Wachovia Championship last year. He smoked his 1-iron down the middle of the 18th fairway twice in the final round, once in regulation and once in the playoff.
What caused him to finally give it up was the BellSouth Classic, when he was paired with Jonathan Byrd and played on the tight, damp fairways of the TPC at Sugarloaf.
'It hit me like a ton of bricks,' Sindelar said. 'He's on these tight, wet fairways hitting 9-wood or 7-wood, these magnificent 230-250 yard shots, high and soft. I'm standing there watching. I've a got a similar shot, a little farther back, and I'm looking at my caddie saying, 'I couldn't do that.''
Sindelar missed the cut at the MCI. He says his hybrid that replaced the 1-iron 'failed miserably,' but he's going to keep trying. It will take him a while to get used to what looks like a bulky iron - either that or a fairway metal on a crash diet - but said the advantage of such a versatile club is too much to ignore.
For now, anyway.
'My 1-iron is not gone yet,' he said. 'But it has to be gone. It has to.'
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Following an even-par 71 in the first round of the 147th Open Championship, Tiger Woods looks to make a move on Day 2 at Carnoustie.
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McIlroy responds to Harmon's 'robot' criticism
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy said during his pre-championship news conference that he wanted to play more "carefree" – citing Jon Rahm’s approach now and the way McIlroy played in his younger days.
McIlroy got off to a good start Thursday at Carnoustie, shooting 2-under 69, good for a share of eighth place.
But while McIlroy admits to wanting to be a little less structured on the course, he took offense to comments made by swing coach Butch Harmon during a Sky Sports telecast.
“Rory had this spell when he wasn’t putting good and hitting the ball good, and he got so wrapped up in how he was going to do it he forgot how to do it.
“He is one of the best players the game has ever seen. If he would just go back to being a kid and playing the way he won these championships and play your game, don’t have any fear or robotic thoughts. Just play golf. Just go do it.
“This is a young kid who’s still one of the best players in the world. He needs to understand that. Forget about your brand and your endorsement contracts. Forget about all that. Just go back to having fun playing golf. I still think he is one of the best in the world and can be No.1 again if he just lets himself do it.”
McIlroy, who has never worked with Harmon, responded to the comments when asked about them following his opening round.
“Look, I like Butch. Definitely, I would say I'm on the opposite end of the spectrum than someone that's mechanical and someone that's – you know, it's easy to make comments when you don't know what's happening,” McIlroy said. “I haven't spoken to Butch in a long time. He doesn't know what I'm working on in my swing. He doesn't know what's in my head. So it's easy to make comments and easy to speculate. But unless you actually know what's happening, I just really don't take any notice of it.”
McIlroy second round at The Open began at 2:52 a.m. ET.
How The Open cut line is determined
Scores on Day 1 of the 147th Open Championship ranged from 5-under 66 to 11-over 82.
The field of 156 players will be cut nearly in half for weekend play at Carnoustie. Here’s how the cut line works in the season’s third major championship:
• After 36 holes, the low 70 players and ties will advance to compete in the final two rounds. Anyone finishing worse than that will get the boot. Only those making the cut earn official money from the $10.5 million purse.
• There is no 10-shot rule. That rule means anyone within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds, regardless of where they stand in the championship, make the cut. It’s just a flat top 70 finishers and ties.
• There is only a single cut at The Open. PGA Tour events employ an MDF (Made cut Did not Finish) rule, which narrows the field after the third round if more than 78 players make the cut. That is not used at this major.
The projected cut line after the first round this week was 1 over par, which included 71 players tied for 50th or better.
The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major
Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:
What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.
What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.
How old is it?
It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.
Where is it played?
There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.
Where will it be played this year?
At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.
Who has won The Open on that course?
Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).
Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?
Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.
Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?
This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.
Who has won this event the most?
Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.
What about the Morrises?
Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.
Have players from any particular country dominated?
In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.
Who is this year's defending champion?
That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.
What is the trophy called?
The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).
Which Opens have been the most memorable?
Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.
When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?
Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.