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Road Noise from THE PLAYERS

Editors Note: GOLF CHANNEL business reporter Casey Bierer hits the practice ranges, putting greens and tour trailers of professional golf to speak with company owners, tour reps and players in this new series, Road Noise.
This week, Casey reports recent business and equipment news from THE PLAYERS Championship being played in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.


Matrix Composite Shafts / Byron Eder, PGA TOUR Representative
It takes approximately eight days to make a Matrix shaft. This is because of all the special materials we use like Zylon and Boron which are used inside the shaft. These are more expensive materials and the manufacturing process is more expensive as well. When Charles Howell III won at Riviera he was using Matrix shafts. Last week at Wachovia, Ernie Els used Matrix on Thursday and Friday but switched back to his other shaft for the weekend. But this week at THE PLAYERS, Ernie is back to using Matrix shafts. Also at THE PLAYERS this week, Rory Sabbatini is using a Matrix shaft in his 3-wood. And the very hot Ken Duke is using Matrix in his 3-wood and hybrid. We built Ken a driver with the Matrix shaft but it was raining so hard before the tournament started he didnt get a chance to hit it.
Odyssey Putters / Jon Laws, PGA TOUR Representative
OdysseyI spent a lot of time with the guys really just watching what was going on and there were also a couple of builds happening. Eric Axley moved in to the exact putter that Phil Mickelson is using. I built a back-up putter for Rory Sabbatini and this putter is also the exact putter that Phil is using except it is a right-handed version. This is the XG / #9 model putter. Weve been doing some great work with this guy and obviously he is as hot as a pistol right now. Jim Furyk wanted his putter lightened a little bit. We built Charles Howell III a back-up of his Black Series putter but we did it in a nickel plated finish because when it rains the raw finish can have some issues. The nickel plated version is identical in feel but it is going to be a little more durable in wet conditions. I spent some time following up with Ernie Els. As a relatively new work in process for us, we continue to validate where hes at with his new TriHot #3 and the insert technology. Lets see; what else this week? I did a little work with Steve Stricker and we built a couple of putters for Bo Van Pelt. Numbers wise this week we were almost double our closest competitor in PING and we were only eight putters away from Cameron; all in all, a pretty good week for us.
Callaway Golf / Barry Lyda, PGA TOUR Representative
Phil Mickelson came in and had a little bit of a stiffer shaft put in his hybrid so he wouldnt hook it quite as much. He went with a Diamana White Board, 73 grams in the X flex. It is considerably stiffer in the tip and very stable through impact. You know, really, it was a pretty dead week for us. Because of the storm early in the week guys stayed on the course when they could finally get out there. I cant think of any golf ball changes; guys stayed in their same golf ball. Guys seemed to be more focusing on learning the changes in the golf course rather than making changes to their equipment. Lets seeRich Beem hung out in the trailer some but we really only re-gripped his clubs; didnt make any changes per se.
Cleveland Golf / Rob Waters, PGA TOUR Representative
ClevelandDavid Branshaw put the HiBORE XL Tour driver in play. Vijay put a 22-degree SteelHead in play which is like a 7-wood. He wanted a club he could really launch the ball high with because of the firmness of the greens this week. Steve Flesh moved back in to the HiBORE XL driver. Richard S. Johnson put a set of CG4 irons in playtrying to get the ball a little higher in the air than with his blades because of the greens this week. Steve Lowery did the same thing; put a set of cavity back irons in play in place of his blades so he could get a higher launchthose were the CG4 irons he put in play. And of course Steve shot 66 without a bogey on Fridaypretty good out at TPCand its only his second week back after his wrist problems. As far as players commenting on the course, they were telling me the greens were much firmer than in the past and chipping areas were as tight as they have ever seen. Even if you drive it in the fairway they were saying that holding the greens with approach shots was very difficult so birdies were going to be tough out there.
Titleist / Steve Mata, PGA TOUR Representative
TitleistWe did a lot of high-lofted wedge work this week. Guys going to 60-plus degree Spin Milled wedges so they could stop the ball on these firm greens. But Ill tell you, the real story for us this week was how little work we did for our guys. They were more interested in trying to get to know the golf course than in making equipment changes. Especially around the greens. I guess we built a couple of 5-woods for a couple of the guys so they could launch the ball high in to these par-5 greens. The tour vans were located so far away from where the players practice that they didnt really take the time like they usually do to come and visit the vans. And the guys seemed so focused on short game considerations that we didnt really do a lot of club building. Because of the severe winds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, you didnt have a lot guys actually playing out there. Guys were more inclined to walk around the course and take a close look at the new green complexes. Because the wind was so strong, practicing in that wind when it most likely wouldnt be there during tournament play didnt make much sense. Three of my players actually just walked the course with a wedge and putter; didnt even take their clubs out there. That was a first for meseeing that happen.
SeeMore Putters / Jim Grundberg, Managing Partner
SeeMore PutterI think Zach Johnsons win at The Masters is certainly helping us with other guys out here on TOUR. Stuart Appleby, Joe Ogilvie, Bob Estes and Shigeki Maruyama switched in to the putter this week. We actually had seven putters in play this week. And holy smokes, thats great for us. Thats probably the most weve had in play in the last six or seven yearspretty close to the high-water mark from the Payne Stewart era when he was playing the putter. So the profile that another major championship brings to our putter is clearly significant. And lets face itour putter is different. Its a uniquely different kind of a putter. It is a choice that guys make to try something completely different than what they have been putting with. Its not like just going to another flavor of the same basic putter. The SeeMore putter is a different animal entirely. So it is pretty darn gratifying when guys put our putter in play. It means they are continuing to validate that the Rifle Scope technology works. Thats the really exciting thing. I think the other big thing for us right now on TOUR is that we have added the CNC milled models to the line. Guys can get more of the weight and feel they are used to in other milled putters but now they can get it in our SeeMore putters. That has helped us considerably in getting the putter in to players hands. One extremely high profile player ' I dont think I should mention his name because he is under contract to play another putter ' came up to me unsolicited and asked to try one of the putters. He ended up putting with it for about 45 minutesI think he hit close to 200 putts with it. He didnt put it in play but I would be surprised if he didnt try the putter again on the practice green at the next tournament he plays. That was certainly a first for mea player of that calibernot the kind of player you just walk up to and start talking to. Hes at the level that you dont approach him and he doesnt make the habit of talking to too many people. But he came up to me and asked to try one of the putters. That was pretty cool. So, I think there is a growing awareness that is happening. Players are talking to one another about the putter.
Srixon / Dean Teykl, PGA TOUR Representative
SrixonTim Clarke has put the new 506 Tour Grind irons in play. Its more of a tour style cavity back with a higher center of gravity. He had been playing a Japanese model iron, the 404. But the 506 has more of a blade type sole - a little narrower sole ' and more or a TOUR type cavity. John Rollins has the same irons in play, the 506 Tour Grind irons. And Brian Bateman has also gone with these irons. In fact, Brian has made a lot of changes. Hes gone from a 6.5 Rifle Flighted shaft to a 7.6 with half an inch over in length. And lets seewhat else? Well, Jim Furyk, he has been working on getting his clubs more upright. He felt like he was having to work too hard to get the ball to start down his line. So over the last three weeks weve moved everything about
2-degrees more upright. And the reports I have had from him so far is that is easier to keep the ball on the line he wants to start it off on.

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