Road Noise from Byron Nelson
This week, Casey reports recent business and equipment news from the EDS Byron Nelson Championship being played in Irving, Texas.
PING / Matt Rollins, PGA TOUR Representative
For Ryan Moore, we made a i-Wedge with a special grind on it. We took a lot of heel out so he has a really easy time opening it up on a tight lie. He loved the standard i-Wedge in the bunker but he had a tougher time on a tight lie in the fairway. So the relief in the heel will help him a lot.
Kyle Reifers is going to put a new driver in his bag this week. He has been playing the G-5 with a Aldila NV 75 gram X flex shaft. And I believe he is going to put the Rapture in play this weeka Rapture 9-degree with a Grafalloy Tour X shaft to kind of flatten his ball flight out and take a little spin off the ball.
And, Hunter Mahan recently changed driver shafts. He uses a Rapture 9-degree head and is now using a prototype shaft that our guys at PING designed in-house and UST is making for us. Since he made that switch he has moved to second on the PGA TOUR in Total Driving. So, this has been pretty big for Hunter and for PING.
Cleveland Golf / Rob Waters, PGA TOUR Representative
Steve Flesh has tried a couple different drivers this week and has decided to switch over from the 460 Comp to the HiBORE XL. Hes playing it in a 9.5-degree loft with a Matrix OZIK Xcon-6 shaft. These shafts cost $600 dollars apiece and it takes them eight days to make one shaft. So, its a completely new driver for Steve.
Nickent Golf / Josh Trivett, Director of Tour Operations
Our new 4DX driver is absolutely off the charts. I have never had so much interest in a club so quickly on TOUR as this driver. This driver is hands down the talk on the Nationwide Tour right now. I cant even begin to tell you how many guys have told me this is the best combination of looks, feel, sound and performance out of a driver they have ever hit. My biggest problem is I havent had many pieces for guys to try. I only had eight heads out there this week and they were gone in a flash. It is not an easy driver to make. The tolerances are very tight; thin walls and a very light crown. And actually, weve only had .350 hosel diameter heads in play that are shimmed so these drivers will be even better once we have .335 hosel product out here. The new prototype Graphite Design ' the 2419 tour only shaft theyve got ' everybody seems to be falling in love with this shaft and it responds really well in our new head. I think when we get rolling with product here in the next few weeks youre going to see a lot of these new 4DX drivers in play.
Odyssey Putters / Jon Laws, PGA TOUR Representative
The most compelling story for us was the storm that ripped through here on Tuesday. Torrential rains, tornadoes touching down in Plano, TXhail coming downit really broke loose here. It was quite an adventure, let me tell you. We got boxed in to our tour trailer and the rain was literally coming down sideways and wind was blowing like crazy. We were in the trailer really, really hoping the storm was going to blow over. It was interesting to say the least. As far as player activity, things are going extremely well for us right not. Players I worked with when it wasnt raining: Eric Axley with a TriHot #2 left-handed. John Cook with an XG7 after seeing some good things happening with Tommy Armour and Fred Funk and Pat Perez playing so well. Nathan Green coming back to a TriHot #3. Gavin Coles playing the TriHot #3. Just a lot of exciting things going on for Odyssey right now. With the greens being in tough shape this weekI mean, there are about four guys on the practice putting green right now and there are 40 guys hitting balls on the range. So, that will give you some idea of the condition of the greens. As a result we have added loft to quite a few of the putters; guys bumping up anywhere from a degree to a full degree in an effort to get the ball rolling better out of a depression on the green. So, its going to be an interesting game of patience rather than confident aggression this week at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
Mizuno / Jeff Cook
Well, guys arent too happy with the TPC greens, I can tell you that. I guess the Cottonwood greens are OK, but theyre having a tough time with the fairways there. So, between that and all the rain, guys are a little bit on edge this week. We have our full staff playing this week and to tell you the truth, we did not have to do any equipment work that I can think of. Guys came in here happy with their gear and it stayed a very light work week for us. We changed grips for one guy and thats about it. I mean, our guys are pretty low maintenance anyway, but this week in particular, we really didnt have to do much. Luke Donald was happy with his set up, J.J. Henry I didnt do anything for, Jeff Sluman was good to go, Billy Andradewe did flatten his putter by two degreesBrian Gay was set. Kris Cox was here this week and he was happy. I cant think of one club we built for one guy. And Tuesdays rain kind of killed it anyway. Then with the Wednesday pro-am, not much happens then anyway. So, all and all, a very quiet week for us at the Nelson.
Callaway Golf / Barry Lyda, PGA TOUR Representative
We did a bunch of work with Rich Beem and Craig Kanada fitting them in to new sets of irons. Rich had a new set of custom grind X-Forged irons. Ronnie McGraw from over in our Hogan plant in Fort Worth did the grind work and he brought them over for Beemer so we did some fitting with him. And the grind work is beautiful to look at. Rich was in the trailer raving about it to us so thats always nice to hear. Ronnie does a great job with that for us. Craig Kanada swapped out an old set of X-Tour irons for a new setso, the same model irons but a brand new set. Lets see, what else did we do? Oh, yeah, also with Craig Kanada we got him in to a new FT-5 driver with a little bit more loft so his spin numbers are looking really good now. You know, a lot of the week for us was regular maintenance workchecking lofts and lies, grips, that kind of stuff. I think we did maintenance work for Charles Howell, Brandt Jobe, Marco Dawson, Rich Barcelobecause when there is a big storm like we had on Tuesday the guys see that as an opportunity to come in to the trailer and get stuff checked out. So, I certainly would say it wasnt one of the busiest weeks weve ever had. I mean, honestly, guys are pretty happy right now. Our product line is so strong this yearguys are happy with the drivers, happy with the irons, happy with wedges and putters and ballswere in very good shape with our tour staff at present.
TaylorMade-adidas Golf / Keith Sbarbaro, PGA TOUR Representative
I think the biggest thing for us on TOUR right now is our Burner fairway wood that was released out here a few weeks ago. We are absolutely blowing through those heads. And whats most interesting to me about this is that this 3-wood head was not designed with the TOUR in mind. It was designed as more of a game improvement 3-wood. Its got a little bit bigger of head than most of the guys are used to playing but they are taking to this head like crazy. Guys who in the past have been very reluctant to change out of their existing 3-woods are not hesitating at all in switching to this new fairway wood. And that really is pretty unusual. Weve got a lot of guys making the move: Sergio, Retief Goosen, Tim Heron, John Daly, Sean OHair, David Toms, Tim Petrovic, Shaun Micheel, Tim Clark, Vance Veazeya bunch of guys. So, for a 3-wood that we didnt even think we would be using out on TOUR, to have all these guys switching to it, thats pretty cool. There are probably twelve guys in this new head and its only been on TOUR for four events. Kind of like how well the Burner driver has been received out here. So maybe there is some carryover from that. But, its been fun to see this new 3-wood get such a good reception.
Nike Golf / Rob Burbick, PGA TOUR Representative
Our main change work this week was with K.J. Choi. He likes to experiment. He is very open minded to new equipment and I think he really enjoys trying different thingsseeing what different clubs feel like to him. He has extremely deft touch in his hands and he can feel even the slightest difference between different types of equipment and different specs that we do for him. K.J. has several sets of irons that he likes to test and re-shaft from time to time. He actually spent a little bit of time at our office in Fort Worth and a little time in our TOUR trailer this week. As his gamers this week he is playing a set of our Slingshot Tour irons and I think he is doing that with an eye towards getting ready for the U.S. Open. Because the Slingshot Tour irons have a deeper center of gravity than some other irons, I think K.J. is looking to be able to launch these irons a little higher and maybe use them at Oakmont where its going to be very hard to stop the ball on the greens. This particular set of irons this week has Matrix Studio graphite shafts in them and they will also tend to launch the ball a little higher. I would say K.J. is just about the most open minded player I have met in terms of trying new technologies. Dont forget, he was the first of our players to put the new Sumo driver in play and he won right out of the gate with it. So, I think he just really likes to try new stuff. You know, he hits everything so solid and so good I think there is a real enjoyment he gets out of seeing what different equipment feels like.
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Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol
Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.
Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET
Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.
“The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.
Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros
Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.
She wondered if there would be resentment.
She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”
PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.
Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.
She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.
Fans have been stopping her for autographs.
“It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”
Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.
He waved Lincicome over.
“He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”
Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.
“The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.
Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.
Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.
“I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.
Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.
Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.
Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.
What are Lincicome’s expectations?
She would love to make the cut, but . . .
“Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”
Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.
“I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”
Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.
Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.
As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.
“The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”
Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.
The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.
“She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”
Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown
There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.
Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.
She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.
It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.
Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.
"It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”
Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.
Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.
Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.
“I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”
Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.
“It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”
The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.
“All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”