Breaking down the equipment switches on Tour

By Jason SobelJanuary 4, 2013, 1:22 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Their eyes meet through the crowd. There’s a wink. A nod. A knowing acknowledgment of mutual interest. They slowly start moving toward each other. Dalliance becomes flirtation; flirtation becomes attraction. Soon they are standing face to face and the first words are spoken.

“So … would you be interested in playing with our equipment?”

If player recruitment by golf manufacturing companies sounds like a scene from Casablanca, that’s because the process of wooing an object of one’s desire doesn’t necessarily imply romantic undertones.

Hyundai TOC: Articles, videos and photos

Tuesday was considered National Signing Day in professional golf, with many big-name players spurning old flames in favor of new partners for the impending season. While more announcements are expected to be made over the next few weeks, some competitors at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions have already forged relationships leaving them with new logos on their hats and new clubs in their bags.

And yes, the underlying subplot of the process sounds sneakily familiar.

“They check and see if you’re interested, first of all,” said Nick Watney, who made the switch from Titleist to Nike. “It’s just sort of like you feel each other out. What they’re all about, what you’re looking for in a club company. Then decide if it lines up and you want to do it going forward.”

“I wasn’t even really thinking that it was the end of a contract year and I was going to have some options coming out,” explained Kyle Stanley, who similarly made the move to Nike. “You hear they’re interested, so you test out the stuff and see if it’s something you get better with. That’s really about it.”

Double entendres aside, there is a laundry list of things players look for before switching companies, which includes meeting both monetary and technical needs. Ask any pro though, and he’ll contend that comfort level prevails over everything else.

“I’m not going to whore myself out to a bunch of different companies for the most money – that’s not what I’m looking for,” said J.J. Henry, who recently signed with TaylorMade after his relationship with Callaway expired in the middle of last season. “I did some legwork. Last year was like a trial period to me. I’ve been out here long enough, so I know it comes down to the fact that you want to play the equipment you play the best with.”

“My experience this year was just a little bit different because they now own the company I was with before,” Ryan Moore said of going to a TaylorMade hat and woods deal after leaving Adams. “Part way through last season, I started playing some of their clubs and really liked them. Played them really well at the end of the year. It was kind of a no-brainer for me. Keep doing exactly what I was doing? Sure, just tell me where I can sign up.”

Much like other hazy flirtations from across a crowded room, every player is aware of the horror stories out there. Tales of woe from players who sought the almighty dollar or changed for the sake of changing – only to find less success on the other side.

“I’ve definitely heard stories about so-and-so switched and he’s never been the same. Guys who chased the money,” Watney said. “I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t in the back of my mind, but after testing the equipment and playing with it at home, I haven’t had one shot that was a mystery or big surprise. I feel pretty comfortable with the stuff.”

While different players may sign with different companies for different reasons, the end goal remains the same across the board. If the move equates to better performance, then it’s the right one.

“Let’s say you sign a pretty big deal, but you don’t like the equipment that much,” Stanley hypothesized. “If somebody offered you half of that with equipment you do like, well, you’re going to more than make up for that on golf course. Bottom line, I wouldn’t have switched if I didn’t feel like I could get better.”

From dalliance to flirtation to attraction, the annual quest of players matching up with manufacturers is a delicate dance, with each side hoping that its final decision is less unfortunate fling and more match made in heaven.

Getty Images

Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish

By Associated PressJuly 23, 2018, 12:25 am

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.

Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.

The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.

Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.

The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.

Getty Images

Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him

By Will GrayJuly 23, 2018, 12:07 am

It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.

Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.

The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:

The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.

For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.

Getty Images

Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

Getty Images

Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.