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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Rory McIlroy used to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-rory-winnersbag-bridgestone-518.jpgAs was the case during his British Open triumph last month, Rory McIlroy won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational thanks in large part to his Nike VRS Covert 2.0 driver. The new World No. 1 led the field in driving distance at Firestone CC (334.8 yards) and finished 12th in accuracy (60.71 percent fairways hit).

There were only minor differences in McIlroy's club lineup in his encore victory in Akron, Ohio. Instead of the Nike MM proto 2-iron he carried at Hoylake, McIlroy had a VRS Covert 5-wood (19 degrees). He also took out his VR Pro Blade 3-iron in favor of a third VR Forged wedge, adding the 52 degree to the 54 and 59 degree models he previously carried.

Here is McIlroy's bag in its entirety at Firestone.

Ball: Nike RZN Black

Driver: Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour (Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 15 degrees
5-wood: Nike VRS Covert, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9):
Nike VR Pro Blade; (PW): Nike VR Forged
Wedges: Nike VR Forged (52, 54, 59 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 006

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News & Tours

Column: The PGA Tour's pretend drug policy

By Matthew Rudy

When I wrote the first national story about the steroids-in-golf issue for Golf Digest back in 2007, I was struck most by two pieces of information that came out of the reporting. 

It was fascinating to learn how easy it would be for a player to find and use a $40 cream that would give him (or her) 10 percent more clubhead speed and do it with virtually no long-term health risk. 

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And it was illuminating to hear Dr. Charles Yesalis, the Penn State professor who literally wrote the book on steroids, lay out the pragmatist's guide to building an anti-doping policy. 

"You'd want to keep control of the testing, so that if a star tested positive, you could cover it up and deal with it internally,"Yesalis said. "You want to pick specific drugs that apply to your sport. There are loopholes, but what we're talking about is the perception, not the actual ethics or morals of what is happening."

The PGA Tour must have been taking good notes, because what Yesalis described is exactly what has happened over the last six years.  

It took less than a day for Dustin Johnson's announcement that he was taking a leave from tour golf to work on personal problems to be followed by reports that the PGA Tour actually suspended Johnson for six months for his third failed drug test -- once for marijuana in 2009 and twice for cocaine, in 2012 and 2014. Johnson was reportedly suspended before, for the failed 2012 test, but maintained publicly than he missed time for a back injury (the tour has refuted the published reports by maintaining Johnson has not been suspended). 

The timing of the reports about an official suspension only matters because the PGA Tour doesn't disclose player conduct violations or suspensions. Johnson could be the only player who failed a test since 2009, or he could be one of 100 who did. The tour is content to stand by its statement that it forbids the use of (certain) performance enhancing and recreational drugs, and that it will punish players that violate the rules. 

Commissioner Tim Finchem told me in 2007 that he believed in golf's culture of integrity and rule-following, and that "the notion that a player would cheat in this sport is an anathema to the athletes."

If that's really true, the tour's policy should be complete transparency in its drug program. If cheating (or recreational drug use) is so rare, the occasional player who is announced to have been suspended would only serve as more of a reminder about how dedicated the tour is at preserving fair play and protecting the health of its members. 

If you're following Vijay Singh's legal dispute against the tour over his suspension for admitting he tried deer-antler spray -- a substance for which the tour doesn't even test -- for its performance-enhancing benefits, it's easy to see why the tour is fighting so hard to keep from having to reveal what players have tested positive for a banned substance and what the punishments have been for those violations. 

The term "punishment" can be pretty elastic when everything happens in secret. 

How would it look if a journeyman like Doug Barron got suspended for a year for elevated testosterone and a star player received a different punishment for the same violation? Or if one player got fined for a positive test, while another got some secret time off or received no punishment at all? 

It would mean the tour's primary concern is a player's marketing value, not enforcing basic fairness. 

Say it isn't so. 

Nobody believes Finchem and the tour will adopt Olympic-level openness about anti-doping. In a couple of years, we'll see if it matters. PGA Tour players will go to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics -- where they'll get the same random drug tests as the swimmers and track stars, and be held to standards that make the tour's drug policy look like a junior high science project.

If the winner loses his gold medal because he used testosterone cream or smoked a joint, I'll bet we hear about it. And I bet they won't give it back if he promises not to do it again.  

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Tim Clark used to win the RBC Canadian Open

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-tim-clark-celebration-290.jpgThere was something apropos about the pictures of Tim Clark fist-pumping in celebration Sunday at Royal Montreal G.C. In his other hand was the club that the new winner of the RBC Canadian Open has become most associated with: an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long putter.

Clark has used a long putter since his days playing college golf at N.C. State in the 1990s. The South African was among the more vocal players arguing to keep the USGA and R&A from outlawing the anchored stroke when the governing bodies proposed the rule change in 2012. The 38-year-old uses the long putter out of what he says is necessity; a congenital problem with his arms prevents him from supinating his wrists and causes discomfort while using a short putter.

With the anchoring ban having been approved and set to be implemented in January 2016, several players who use belly or long putters have begun to experiment with other shorter models. Clark, however, is among a dozen or so players who remain anchoring holdouts.

Here are the rest of the clubs and ball Clark played in picking up his second PGA Tour title.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Titleist 913D3 (Accra M4 55), 9.5 degrees
4-wood: Titleist 913Fd, 18 degrees
5-wood: Callaway Steelhead Plus, 18 degrees
Hybrid:
TaylorMade Rescue FW Dual, 19 degrees
Irons (4-9): Titleist CB; (PW): Titleist Vokey SM4
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM4 (56 degrees); Titleist Vokey SM5 (60 degrees0
Putter: Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball Long

Photo: Getty Images

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Angel Cabrera used to win The Greenbrier Classic

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-angel-cabrera-ping-driver-greenbrier-518.jpgAngel Cabrera had a couple of equipment highlights during his win at The Greenbrier Classic:

* Cabrera used a Ping S55 7-iron when he jarred his approach from 175 yards on the par-4 13th hole to help stretch his lead.

* The two-time major winner also was one of eight Ping staff players to use the company’s G30 driver, a club the company debuted just this week. Cabrera was 11th in driving distance at 307.1 yards and was fourth in driving accuracy, hitting 82.14 percent of his fairways.

Here's a look at the rest of the bag of the Argentine:


Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Driver: Ping G30 (Aldila Rogue 80X), 9 degrees

3-wood: Ping G30, 13.5 degrees

Irons (2): Ping i25; (3-PW): Ping S55

Wedges:
Ping Anser (54 degrees); Ping Tour Gorge TS (60 degrees)

Putter: Ping Scottsdale TR Anser 2B

Photos: Getty Images




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Instruction

Haney: Tiger comeback not as simple as just hitting balls

By Matthew Rudy

Tiger Woods warned everyone that he'd be rusty for his first tentative steps back into competitive golf at the Quicken Loans National last week. He only started hitting full shots again over U.S. Open weekend, two and a half months after March 31 back surgery.

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After two weeks of practice, Woods shot rounds of 74-75 and missed the cut by four shots. How close is he to getting back to full speed? 

Not very close, says Hank Haney, who helped Woods come back from two separate knee surgeries in 2008. 

"I know people were excited to hear that he was back hitting balls, but hitting balls isn't the same as practicing," says Haney, who worked with Woods from 2003 to 2010. "You have to get your swing going and your endurance back first. You don't just walk out there and start pounding balls for four hours. It's not that easy."

After Woods' reconstructive knee surgery in 2008, Haney worked out a four-week plan to get Woods from zero to competitive shape. It incorporated doctors' advice about how fast and often Woods could swing at a given stage of recovery. 

"The doctor said he could start out making 50 wedge swings a day. I calculated how fast a wedge swing would be, and then we worked on all of his clubs swinging at that speed," says Haney. "In the second week, he could hit maybe 100 shots at 7-iron speed, so we did the same thing. Week 3 he was up to 4-iron speed, so he could hit 250-yard shots with his driver. It was only after the fourth week, when he could swing at driver speed but with a limit to the number of shots, that he could really have a 'normal' practice session." 

And what was a normal practice session for off-season Tiger, circa 2005?

"He'd get up in the morning and do a full workout, and then practice from nine in the morning to about six at night, with 45 minutes for lunch," says Haney. "Four hours of hitting balls and four hours of playing. Every day." 

Related: Tiger Woods Injury Slideshow

Age, injuries, kids and money all make it unlikely Woods is grinding as hard at practice as he did when he was 30.  

"A lot of athletes continue to have a lot of drive. I mean, you can't question Peyton Manning's drive," says Haney. "But I saw Tiger's drive diminish as early as 2006. That's speculation and observation, but you can't deny that he doesn't practice as much. It could be because of his kids. It could be because of injuries. It doesn't matter what the because is. It's reality. The question is what happens now."

Woods hasn't said if he'll play again before the British Open July 17-20. He isn't in the field at the Greenbrier this week, which leaves the John Deere and the Scottish Open the week before Liverpool.

"He's basically practiced one week out of the last six months," says Haney. "Tony Romo had the same surgery in December, and he told me that Tiger would come back much quicker than anybody thought because his core was so strong. But Tiger said last week that his swing wasn't explosive yet because he hadn't been able to do some of his weightlifting program. That means he still has some restrictions."

Even the notion that Woods was able to practice chipping and putting extensively during the rehab process is an open question.

"There's a lot we don't know," Haney says. "With the back, how many putts can you hit? How many chips can you stand over?"   

If Haney made Woods' schedule, he would have booked him for a few late-season appearance-fee events to ease back into competition, with the goal of being battle ready for the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. "That would have been a good plan, but his plan is to go play these majors and see what happens," says Haney. "Can he catch lightning in a bottle somewhere? Sure. Liverpool and Valhalla are two courses he's won on, and I'm sure he's looking forward to getting back to them. But is it realistic to expect him to be the player he was this summer, whatever that means? I think it'll be tough."  

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Gear & Equipment

PGA Tour pros testing new Ping prototype driver at The Greenbrier

By Mike Stachura

For more than a decade, observers have known what to expect from Ping drivers: A consistent, oversized shape that emphasizes forgiveness on off-center hits, all with a relatively traditional look. But starting with the alignment stripes on this year's i25 driver, Ping is expanding its horizons.

That trend continued this week as the company unveiled its G30 driver on the PGA Tour. Like the i25, the G30, which according to the USGA's list of conforming drivers includes the word "turbulators" on the top of the club, employs what appears to be a crown technology. Generally, a turbulator is a means of improving the air flow around an object like an airplane wing or car. Clearly visible are a series of ridges on the crown of the G30. 

loop-ping-g30-driver-crown-518.jpg

The G30's crown ridges have the look of airfoil turbulators and could play some role in improving the club's aerodynamic efficiency during the swing. In fact, Ping engineers led by Dr. Erik Henrikson, head of fitting science, are presenting a paper at the 2014 Conference of the International Sports Engineering Association this month in England. The title, "Experimental investigation of golf driver club head drag reduction through the use of aerodynamic features on the driver crown," may say something about what the G30's crown ridges might be trying to do. The presentation is listed here in the Programme Schedule for the conference.

Several players began testing the G30 on Monday at The Greenbrier Classic, including Mark Wilson, Derek Ernst, Jason Gore and David Lingmerth. Angel Cabrera already put both a G30 driver and 3-wood in his bag, and Bubba Watson, who has been testing the driver since mid-May, also is expected to put the club in play this week in West Virginia. 

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More details on G30 and its technology are expected to be available later this week.

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News & Tours

Justin Rose wins, but Congressional prevails in Quicken Loans National

By John Strege

It is called the Blue Course, presumably in a nod to the color of the language it evokes from a vexed PGA Tour constituency. The word of the day there Sunday was “#$&@?$%$!”

Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., occasionally hosts the U.S. Open, suggesting its tournament course is not likely to warrant a Miss Congeniality award. But that’s the U.S. Open. Why was it showcasing its ugly side in a tournament now known as the Quicken Loans National?

Rose Water.jpg
(Getty Images photo)

It almost proved too thorny even for a Rose. Justin Rose survived a 72nd-hole bogey to win the tournament, beating Shawn Stefani on the first hole of a playoff.

“It’s definitely a test,” Rose said Saturday.

What, a calculus test?

Patrick Reed was among those who failed it. Reed took a two-stroke lead into the final round and was threatening to have the last laugh on those who ridiculed him for having declared himself a top-five player in the world. “He has self belief,” Nick Faldo said diplomatically, “the best 15th club in the bag.” Disbelief surely joined his repertoire in the final round, when he imploded spectacularly, shooting a 77 that included three double bogeys and a few impolitic words.

Freddie Jacobson, meanwhile, momentarily misplaced his composure and gouged a chunk of turf from the rough (see video below). He was running hot, despite donning plus-twos that he said were “a little bit cooler in this heat.”

At least Congressional delivered an appropriate winner on a course on which “a U.S. Open broke out,” CBS’ Peter Kostis said. Rose is a U.S. Open champion, who has developed a habit of winning on renowned tracks: Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and now Congressional.

“I think Congressional got its reputation back after the U.S. Open, for sure,” Rose said, referring to Rory McIlroy’s Open win there in 2011, when he played 72 holes in 16 under par. Rose and Stefani each finished at four under par, two of only 10 players to better par in the tournament.

“I was excited to play this golf course this week,” Rose said. “I really enjoy this type of golf and this kind of test. And it tested all of us.”

Even the tournament host, Tiger Woods, who missed the cut in his return to competitive golf though apparently avoided injury. That in itself was an achievement with rough so thick that “if we played it every week you’d see more wrist injuries,” defending champion Bill Haas said.

Only six of the 75 players broke par in the final round and only two scored in the 60s, but everyone, ultimately, was a victim of Congressional mettle.

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Gear & Equipment

Winner's Bag: What Justin Rose used to win the Quicken Loans National

By E. Michael Johnson

loop-justin-rose-driving-iron-518.jpgJustin Rose was one of two players who put the company's prototype UDI driving iron in play at the Quicken Loans National. The company brought the club to Congressional Country Club feeling many players would be looking to add a driving iron-type club for the upcoming British Open at Hoylake.

loop-driving-iron-taylor-made-260.jpgRose used a 3-iron version of the club outside Washington, D.C., and told the company's tour reps it provided more control than a hybrid, along with a lower, more penetrating flight. He also said he would be putting the 1-iron version in at Hoylake.


Here's a look at the rest of the bag of the now six-time PGA Tour winner:


Ball: TaylorMade Tour Preferred X

Driver: TaylorMade SLDR 430 (Matrix Ozik 6m3), 10.5 degrees

3-wood: TaylorMade SLDR, 16.5 degrees

Irons (3): TaylorMade Tour Preferred UDI; (4-PW): TaylorMade Tour Preferred MB 14

Wedges:
TaylorMade Tour Preferred (52 degrees); TaylorMade Tour Preferred ATV Grind (58, 60 degrees)

Putter: TaylorMade White Smoke DA-62

Photos: Getty Images




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News & Tours

The good life is having status on both the PGA and Champions Tours

By Kevin Prise

loop-joe-durant-518.jpgPITTSBURGH -- Wednesday evening, Joe Durant fell asleep during the final game of the College World Series. He woke up happy though, when he saw Vanderbilt -- his pre-tournament pick and his niece's alma mater -- was the champion.

Durant carried his good mood into the Senior Players Championship, where he opened with a six-under 64 at Fox Chapel GC to claim a share of the 18-hole lead. Having turned 50 in April to qualify for senior play but also carrying PGA Tour status via last year's Web.com Tour Finals, Durant is the latest player to simultaneously compete on both the PGA and Champions tours.

This is Durant's fifth senior event, and he has already noticed differing vibes between the two tours. "I'm just coming out [on the Champions Tour] and enjoying being out here, enjoying being with the guys," said Durant, a four-time PGA Tour winner, his last coming in 2006. "I'm just looking at this as a reward for having a good tour career, and I just want to have fun when I come out here and play."

Durant already has three top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour while his best PGA Tour showing in 11 starts this season is a T-31 at last week's Travelers Championship.

After his opening round at Fox Chapel, he reflected on how his desire to keep a PGA Tour card into the future might be having the reverse effect on his game.

"Out there, I'm still trying to keep my job," Durant said. "I think I'm putting way too much pressure on myself out there. It's getting to be overkill. I'm trying so hard to make magic happen in one week, and it's just not working out very well."

The pressure has manifested itself on the greens, where Durant ranks 188th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained/putting despite being 24th in greens in regulation. Jeff Brehaut, a friend of Durant from their Web.com Tour days in the mid-1990s, said Durant's ball-striking has always stacked up against the best on tour -- but the putter is a different story.

"He goes as his putter goes," Brehaut said. "He knows he can hit it with the best. When you give yourself so many birdie opportunities, if you don't make some, you get frustrated and it spills over to the rest of your game."

Durant needed only 28 putts in round one at the Senior Players (ranking T-4). If he can handle Fox Chapel's sloping, multi-tiered greens over the weekend, maybe he can channel the positive energy when he returns to the main tour.

Photo: APImages

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Golf & Business

We've got upwards of 1 million reasons somebody might want to slap their logo on Martin Kaymer's golf bag

By Mike Stachura

Players often finish majors upset about missed opportunities, but rarely is it the winner -- or more specifically, his sponsors -- doing the missing. From a marketing perspective, that's what happened with Martin Kaymer.

loop-kaymer-logoless-bag-518.jpgDespite having deals with TaylorMade, Hugo Boss, SAP and Rolex, Kaymer is the first U.S. Open champ in decades to carry a bag free of sponsors' logos (the sunflower was a tribute to his late mother, Rina, who died of cancer in 2008). Had one been on the bag, it could have paid off handsomely. Eric Wright, president/executive director of research at Joyce Julius & Associates, which studies sponsorship value, estimates Kaymer's in-broadcast exposure during the final round alone was worth "in the range of $600,000 to $1 million."

Without a bag sponsor all year, Kaymer might not remain that way for long. His agent, Johan Elliot of Sportyard, predicts a sponsor could sign on "in-the-not-so-distant future."

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