Related: Watch Dubuisson make his great desert saves
Normally that might sound a bit odd. But in case you forgot, Dubuisson is the guy who produced those memorable (and multiple) saves from the desert during his WGC-Accenture Match Play title match against Jason Day. The club Dubuisson used for those shots was a 58-degree Titleist Vokey TVD K-grind with 6 degrees bounce, so naturally that was the club Dill went to work on.
And work it was. Normally stamping a club with a name or initials is a relatively quick task, but for the cactus Dill needed to hand stamp each one of the little dots (a close look at the photo of the wedge reveals approximately 200 dots, maybe more) that made up the shape of the prickly plant. Add in the time it took to do the green paintfill, and it added up to more than an hour that Dill spent on the club.
Fields: Dubuisson adjusts to the limelight
"It was an idea the guys came up with almost immediately after he hit those shots out of the desert," said David Neville, marketing manager for Titleist Vokey wedges. When Victor saw the finished cactus he said, 'Very nice . . . very nice.' "
Dill still had work to do, though. Since Dubuisson's wedges are one-half inch longer than standard, the extra length made the swingweight too heavy. To bring it back down, Dill drilled a pair of weight ports in the back, dropping 3 to 4 grams of weight and bringing the swingweight to Dubuisson's preferred D5.
As with most tour players who are waiting for work to be done on their sticks, Dubuisson had time to tell some stories to the guys in the van. "We asked him what he was thinking as he was getting ready to hit those shots," Neville said. "He told us he just wanted to play fast."
Photo courtesy of Titleist
The decision by the USGA Championship Committee to allow distance-measuring devices (DMDs, or laser range finders, golf GPS units or smartphone apps) in all its national amateur championships beginning this year signals a change that's at once both obvious and complicated.
DMDs will be OK for amateurs but practice rounds only for pros. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
The USGA has been OK with DMDs in tournament play since 2006, but only as a Local Rule applied by the tournament committee. Until now, using one in a stipulated round in a USGA event would have been a violation of Rule 14-3. The USGA decision aligns with a similar one by the R&A announced in January.
The rule will not be extended to the USGA's open championships (U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Women's Open). The PGA of America's board of directors announced last year that DMDs would be OK for several events, including the PGA Winter Championships, the PGA Tournament Series, section championships, the Junior PGA Championship and Junior Ryder Cup and the Playing Ability Test, but still would not be allowed at any of its major national events, including the PGA Championship. The explanation given by Kerry Haigh, the PGA of America's chief championships officer, however, was not critical of the devices themselves.
"The main reasons are that at our spectator championships and national PGA member championships, the competitors are able to have one or more practice rounds at the course and also have caddies whose job in many cases is to be able to calculate yardages and distances, whereas at the vast majority of our events players are seeing the course in many cases for the first time and do not have caddies," he said. "Also, with the major tours throughout the world not allowing their use, it would create some issues with the top players if we started to use them at some events but not at others."
Indeed, the PGA Tour is steadfast about not allowing DMDs for its events. "This remains in full effect, and we are not contemplating a change," said Andy Pazder, executive vice president and chief of operations. The concern seems to be that DMDs would reflect poorly on the tour's image and would not help pace of play.
Of course, a key to getting USGA rulemakers over the hump on DMDs seemed to be that very issue. According to John Spitzer, managing director of equipment standards for the USGA, a trial run at last year's Women's State Team Championship showed that 80 percent of the players used a DMD on par 3s and 89 percent used one for their approach shot on par 4s with "no statistically significant difference" in pace of play. In its announcement the USGA referenced that experiment, saying, "USGA researchers found no evidence that DMDs had a negative impact on pace of play."
The new rule allows both laser and GPS and (in a limited way) smartphone devices, but a player cannot utilize a device that also provides information about measurements of slope or wind speed or club recommendations. A flowchart on the USGA website helps golfers understand what functions are allowable.
Several DMD industry representatives were obviously pleased with the decision. Dan Steiner, vice president at Laser Link Golf wrote in an email, "As you might guess, we think it has been a long time coming, but we're glad something finally happened. We have heard for months from many different people that this is 'a different USGA,' and this step is definitely one to illustrate that."
Paul Herber, senior vice president of sales and business development at SkyGolf, maker of the SkyCaddie GPS, believes the decision could influence consumer attitudes. "What the R&A and the USGA have done in the last few weeks has been the final endorsement we needed," he said. "Those who've wondered whether a GPS is in the spirit of the game, that idea goes away now."
Yet while expanding the use of DMDs to some USGA, PGA and R&A events, a large question remains: If the information and efficiency provided by DMDs is a good thing (and testing from SkyGolf suggests that it improved average pace of play by 20 to 25 minutes in tournament golf), why restrict the rule to amateur events? Why not include it for the open championships? Why not allow players on the PGA Tour to receive exact yardages from ShotLink? In a world of instant information, it seems decidedly backward that fans who go to pgatour.com are able to access more precise yardage information, let alone exact updates on the leader board and cutline, than the players competing in the event.
The game seems better when the ruling bodies embrace technology that enhances the game for all players (such as adjustable drivers) without threatening its basic principles and challenges. The DMD decision is logical, practical and overdue. Golf can only get easier with information, not only about the yardage to the hole but also diagrams and other features that eliminate indecision and confusion. Why not apply this for elite players at the best events? Doing so would likely only enhance the use of DMDs by everyday players while possibly helping the pace-of-play issues that currently plague the professional tours.
It'd be an example of a little efficiency going a very long way.
Adams Pro Hybrid
PRICE: $200 (Lofts: 16, 18, 20, 23, 26 degrees)
A thin Carpenter 455 steel face enhances ball speed and forgiveness. Michael Allen used a prototype of this club at the Allianz Championship.
Although he shot 66 during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Phil Mickelson switched to an Odyssey Metal-X Milled Versa #9 HT putter before Friday's second round. The putter was 34 inches long with a touch of offset added, which Mickelson says sets up the head better for him. The move didn't seem to work in the short term as Lefty struggled with his putting on the Poa annua greens, losing more than three strokes to the field in strokes gained/putting during the final round at Pebble Beach GL. ... Two players at opposite ends of the driving distance spectrum put TaylorMade's SLDR 430 driver in play at the AT&T. Short-hitting Brian Gay had a 10.5-degree version, saying the club produced a more penetrating ball flight than the TaylorMade R1 he had been using. Bomber J.B. Holmes opted for a 12-degree model and used the club to rank third in driving distance for the week at 294.4 yards. ... David Duval used an interesting putter on the Monterey Peninsula. The flat stick was from Kramski, a German company known for producing extremely expensive putters. The 2001 British Open champ finished T-35 -- his best finish since the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas -- and won $29,139.
At the start of last year, Rory McIlroy's switch from Titleist to Nike Golf sent shockwaves through the industry as well as the Twitter-sphere. One reason was the sheer enormity of the deal (in the nine figures). The other was the claim that it was a huge risk for the then-World No. 1 to make a wholesale change when at the top of his game.
Harris English testing his clubs. Photo: Erik Isakson
McIlroy's results in 2013 hardly allayed concerns, but that didn't stop a slew of players from changing clubs and balls for this year. One is two-time PGA Tour winner Harris English, who left Ping to join Callaway. According to English, it's how one goes about making a change that makes the difference.
"Not really," English replied when asked if McIlroy's struggles through much of 2013 had given him pause. "You have to have some controls. You have to keep some stuff the same. You can't switch everything at one time. That's definitely not what I'm doing. You have to change over time."
For English that process began by speaking with several staff players to get a feel for Callaway equipment and how the company works with players coming over.
"Chris Kirk is a good buddy of mine who switched to Callaway," said English. "I talked to him a lot. I also talked to Phil Mickelson about the new stuff. Players who switch know what it's like going through it."
A large part of which is product testing. Golf World sat in on a recent clubfitting session with English at Callaway's Carlsbad, Calif., test center. The day started with English hitting a mere 10 half-wedge shots before he started pounding drivers with Randy Peterson, Callaway's director of fitting and instruction, and Nick Raffaele, the company's VP, sports marketing, carefully looking on.
"For the driver we started with the specs of his Ping G15 and made tweaks along the way," said Peterson. "We don't want to change too much, too fast."
That's not a worry for English when it comes to drivers, as his preference for testing the big stick is to hit relatively few balls on the range to narrow down the choices and then do extensive on-course testing. One of the primary reasons is that English is not a "numbers" guy, but rather a shot shaper who needs to work the ball both ways off the tee.
"I grew up on south Georgia golf courses," English said. "You know, dogleg left, dogleg right, every hole is a dogleg. I like to get on holes where I'm teeing it up on the right side of the box and hitting a cut off the left bunker, or I have to turn it right to left and hit a high draw out there. It's hard for me to do that on the driving range."
That's not to say testing isn't useful for English, who realizes the importance of someone being able to interpret the data to make sure the club is working efficiently. It's also an opportunity to focus on small details. For example, English asked if the chevron alignment aid, which is on the company's new Big Bertha Alpha but not the X2 Hot Pro, could be added to the latter.
During testing, but particularly with the irons, Raffaele constantly reminded English to "make the swing you make--don't adjust to the club." His point is simple: Tour pros are good enough to adapt to almost anything, but you want to build the clubs to the player's swing, not the other way around.
For English there was an added element to the iron testing--as a Ping staff player he had never played a forged iron before. "It feels so different but so much better," English said of the Callaway RAZR X MB irons he put in play at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "It's a lot softer off the face. Sound is so important. I like a more muted sound."
Although English didn't require any work with wedges, having played the company's Mack Daddy 2 late in 2013, designer Roger Cleveland offered some instruction tips, leveling English's shoulders (his right shoulder was lower than his left on bunker shots) to help keep the depth of each strike in the sand equal.
For putters, English prefers mallets (his two wins last year came with Ping's Nome TR and Scottsdale Hohum models) and has no qualms about changing. "Typically, I switch every six months or so," he said. "Confidence is 90 percent of putting. If it looks good to me, that's all that matters." Still, English stuck with the Hohum at Kapalua, where he finished T-11.
Another piece of equipment English won't be changing in the near future is his ball. Subscribing to the theory that too much change at once can get confusing and make the comparison of old clubs versus new more difficult, English continued using the Titleist Pro V1x dot ball, likely switching to Callaway's Speed Regime model later this season.
Although English doesn't own the credentials of McIlroy, he too has had people ask him about switching after such a successful year.
"That's a tough question," English said. "I think getting better equipment in my hands can lead to more wins, and I feel like the guys at Callaway can do that. ... I want to be in the hunt in some majors, and really shoot towards that Ryder Cup team. I played Walker Cup in Scotland, and I loved playing for the United States. I think that's a pretty realistic goal for me, and I'm going to work hard and shoot for it."
A task he takes on both intelligently and incrementally.
PRICE: $400 (Lofts: 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 degrees, all adjustable)
The titanium head features a pair of tungsten weights on the perimeter of the sole to boost forgiveness. A stripe on the crown assists alignment.
It was a busy offseason for players changing equipment companies. Perhaps the biggest name to make a move was Ernie Els, who left Callaway after six-plus years to sign with Adams Golf. Although Adams has some iconic players on its Champions Tour staff (Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer among them), the signing of Els marks the company's first significant PGA Tour player to use its equipment in more than a decade. Another multiple major winner making a move was Vijay Singh, signing with start-up Hopkins Golf to play its wedges, wear its hat and carry its staff bag. Callaway was also active, adding FedEx Cup champion Henrik Stenson, Harris English, Matteo Manassero and Lydia Ko, among others. TaylorMade was busy as well, inking Trevor Immelman and Scott Langley after having previously signed Carl Pettersson. ... Not everybody was on the move, however. U.S. Open champ Justin Rose re-upped with TaylorMade for five years. ... After cracking the face of the Titleist 910D2 he used for three years, including during his win at the PGA Championship, Jason Dufner had a new driver in play at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- Titleist's 913D2. Dufner finished fifth in Hawaii while ranking T-3 in driving accuracy. ... Dustin Johnson changed to TaylorMade's new Tour Preferred MB irons in the offseason and had the clubs in his bag at Kapalua. Johnson finished T-6, ranking T-2 for the week in GIR, hitting 60 of 72 greens. Johnson also used the company's new Tour Preferred X ball.
No, it wasn't the ball he and playing partner Keegan Bradley used, or the Ping Eye2 wedge he had in the bag (unlike a few years ago, this one had conforming grooves). It wasn't even a Phrankenwood. Instead it was Lefty -- maybe the most vocal player when it comes to supporting his equipment sponsor, Callaway -- who did the golf equipment equivalent of sleeping with the enemy by using TaylorMade's new SLDR driver.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Depending on who you speak with, Mickelson's decision to use the SLDR is either a massive blow to Callaway or no big deal. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Certainly the move helps validate the technology of the SLDR (a TaylorMade spokesperson said the company was "flattered" Mickelson was using it) while possibly slowing some of the momentum Callaway has earned in 2013 as it has gained market share in metalwoods. But for those who feel it is a death knell for Callaway or the end of the Mickelson/Callaway relationship, a look at some recent -- and not so recent -- history is in order.
This is not the first time Mickelson, an inveterate club tinkerer, has used a competing company's product. In addition to the Ping Eye2 wedge in his bag last week was a Ping Anser hybrid. Last fall Lefty also used a TaylorMade RocketBallz 3-wood in Asia, prompting speculation of a rift between him and Callaway.
At that time Harry Arnett, senior VP of marketing at Callaway, said, "We'll have something for him very soon. And we're confident he'll find that ours is better."
That "something" turned out to be Callaway's X Hot 3Deep, a club Mickelson used as his driver in winning the British Open at Muirfield in July. Discussing the latest move by Mickelson, Arnett struck a similar tone.
"Throughout Phil's career, he has experimented widely and routinely both within the Callaway range of products and even outside Callaway's range into competitive products from time to time," said Arnett. "We've always allowed him to do so even on occasion when it was within our contracted right to prohibit it. This was the spirit of the agreement with Phil when it began a decade ago and one of the main reasons he signed with us at that time."
Arnett confirmed that about a month ago, Mickelson asked if he could experiment with a "competitor's product" and was granted permission. Then Thursday night of the Presidents Cup, Mickelson called Callaway CEO Chip Brewer and asked permission to put the driver in play at Muirfield Village, feeling he needed to have a driver in the bag since the rain and wet conditions made the course play longer than it had earlier in the week. Again, permission was granted.
"We are aware this creates a conversation and wish the circumstances were different, but we also understand the uniqueness of our relationship with Phil," said Arnett. "We are 100 percent confident the driver we have coming will dramatically outperform the competitive driver he's playing and will be in Phil's bag when it's ready to come to market."
Nike VR_S Covert Tour
PRICE: $200 (Lofts: 3- and 5-wood, adjustable)
Tiger Woods used these fairway woods that feature a sole cavity on several impressive shots on the par 5s at Muirfield Village.
Titleist Vokey SM4
PRICE: $130 (21 loft/bounce options)
These wedges offer five sole grinds from 48 to 64 degrees. Graham DeLaet used both his 54- and 60-degree SM4 to hole shots (from the fringe and then bunker) on the 18th hole of two Presidents Cup matches.
By Marty Hackel
Luxurious: Peter Millar is outfitting the International squad this year.
Presidents cup international captain Nick Price is using Peter Millar as the team's prime supplier, and what a smart choice. The company offers a range of products that are trend-setting and modern. Using super 120s wool and cashmere for sweaters, superfine wools for trousers and imported cotton fabrics for the dress shirts -- all of this spells luxury to me.
The color range is excellent, and I especially love the well-designed outerwear. Additionally, Peter Millar will provide sportswear for the wives and significant others. A nice touch! Make sure you check out the belts. Made of Capetown buffalo with one-of-a-kind buckles, they're being provided by House of Fleming.
Photo: Charles Laberge
When a player wins a big event such as the Tour Championship or FedEx Cup, manufacturers usually like to tout the clubs that were used to help market them to U.S. consumers. That may be difficult in the case of Henrik Stenson.
The on-form Swede, who was T-1 in greens in regulation at East Lake GC and also led the PGA Tour in that stat for the season, used a set of irons -- Callaway's Legacy Black -- currently available primarily in Asian markets.
Stenson's model -- or at least some of its technology -- will likely make its way for sale in the U.S. at some point. Yet it's not so much because of Stenson's success with it, but because of a trickle-down effect seen over the past few decades where technologies that first appear in Japan or other parts of the world ultimately spread globally.
A good example is drivers with a high coefficient of restitution (COR) that produce a springlike effect. That technology was implemented early on by Srixon's Dr. Tetsuo Yamaguchi, who on occasion has been referred to as "The Godfather of COR."
Indeed, designing for increased ball speed has been one of the hallmarks of Asian-based equipment. Japanese golfers, in particular, are keenly aware that their smaller physical stature requires that they access technology that can increase distance, and manufacturers have responded.
In short, there's no question that the Asian market for golf equipment is a different one than that in America. In Japan, for example, if you don't produce a driver that promises significantly enhanced distance, you may as well not introduce it. It's a function-over-form culture. Here in the States, however, you could have the most advanced golf club from a technology standpoint but if it doesn't look right or isn't marketed correctly, it won't connect with the consumer. In Asia that matters less. It's almost strictly a matter of does it work?
That philosophy underscores the difference in mindsets. In the States everyday golfers are frequently drawn to the equipment tour pros use; in Asia the focus is more on game-improvement features, which reflects these golfers' belief that they are not worthy of using the same clubs as those who play for pay. The result? Manufacturers, buoyed by a consumer who doesn't exhibit the same price resistance found in the States, bring out their best technologies for Asian-market clubs -- with some of those technologies making their way into U.S.-sold clubs later on.
After all, technology comes with a price tag, whether it has trickled down or not.
Piretti Cottonwood II
Henrik Stenson uses a prototype of this model made from a solid billet of 11L17 carbon steel. The milled head weighs 365 grams with extra weight in the flange lowering the center of gravity for a truer roll.
PRICE: $1,100 (set of eight, steel)
A Carpenter steel face insert is designed to flex at impact, enhancing ball speed. Tungsten in the soles of the 3- through 5-irons lowers the center of gravity to assist launch.
Henrik Stenson won the Tour Championship (and in the process, the FedEx Cup) with a new driver, TaylorMade's SLDR prototype. The replacement was born out of necessity when Stenson smacked his previous driver into the ground at the BMW Championship, separating the head from the shaft. The SLDR Stenson uses has 1.5 degrees more loft than the R1 model he had been using. ... After a pair of lackluster events (an MC and a T-70) to start the FedEx Cup playoffs, Billy Horschel went back to a half-mallet Ping Redwood Piper S at the BMW Championship and finished T-18 and T-7 in the final two events. He had been using the company's Scottsdale TR Shea model since the RBC Canadian Open. ... TaylorMade had its SLDR fairway woods in Atlanta with Justin Rose and D.A. Points each putting 15.5-degree 3-woods in play. ... Phil Mickelson was presented with a gold-plated replica of his Odyssey Versa #9 putter that he used to win the British Open at Muirfield. The putter was given to Mickelson Tuesday of the Tour Championship during an event with Barclays. ... Sergio Garcia switched back to a counterbalanced TaylorMade Spider mallet putter at East Lake, noting he felt more comfortable with the feel, look and performance.
By Marty Hackel
The Titleist performance institute, a leader in golf fitness with more than 10,000 certified trainers around the world, is stretching in a new direction: apparel. Now available at mytpi.com, its items are organized by their intended uses. TPI apparel's Engage items are designed for intense exercise, so they use fabrics that can withstand workout wear and tear.
Pictured here are the Engage short-sleeve training tee ($55) and training shorts ($70). The fabric is treated with antimicrobial TPI Silver, a "permanent odor inhibitor." The Extend collection is designed with lighter fabrics. You might wear these items for walking or running. Other lines include Transition, made with a serious tech fabric, and Resist, designed for outdoor use. Also, look for the Recover group, consisting of cotton shirts and sweats made for relaxing post-workout. (That's where you'll find me, FYI.)
We all have things we like to hold on to. Cars that we run into the ground and shirts that we wear until threadbare come to mind. Irons also tend to fit that bill.
Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty images
The main reason golfers hold on to irons past their prime is that the technology is often hidden in a plain shape and presented in a quiet way. Such visual understatement leads consumers to believe irons are short on science and engineering, making what they currently have in the bag as good as anything they could possibly purchase. That is shortchanging the benefits of today's improved models.
The creative use of technology and materials has never been more prevalent in irons. Some of it you see (such as better-designed soles to improve turf interaction) and some you don't (optimal center-of-gravity positions). Perhaps the biggest leap has been that driver technologies, such as thin faces that produce a high springlike effect and high moment of inertia (helping maintain ball speed even on mis-hits), have made their way to irons.
At the BMW Championship, TaylorMade unveiled its latest iron designed for distance, SpeedBlade, having staff players Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose exhibit its benefits. Rose hit shots with a TaylorMade MB (muscle-back) 4-iron and the SpeedBlade 4-iron, the latter not only resulting in approximately 20 yards more distance, but a greater peak height as well.
"Sure, I'll take the extra yards," said Rose, who switched to RocketBladez irons in his 3- through 6-irons earlier this year. "But it's the ability to get the extra distance with the height that matters. If the ball comes in flat, it's not going to help. But these reach a nice apex and then come down with an angle of descent that it should have. That is a huge plus."
Rose's comments underscore the reluctance of some to put thin-faced irons that produce extra yards in play. Sure, it might be fun to nuke a 5-iron every now and then, but irons are not designed for distance. Distance control and accuracy are the keys. And high COR irons would appear to contradict the very attributes one would want in their irons.
Now, however, designers appear to have tapped into the best of both worlds: extra yards while maintaining consistency with that distance as well as achieving the correct height for the corresponding iron. After all, a 5-iron that flies like a 3-iron isn't helpful no matter how much more length it produces.
"The face rebound is something that hasn't had a lot of attention on irons until recently," Nike's Tom Stites told Golf World earlier this year. "What we've been able to do for the VR_S irons is take technology from behind the face of our drivers and bring it down to our irons to produce faster ball speeds without sacrificing the height players expect from their irons."
But is there such a thing as too thin? Certainly there are limits on how skinny an iron face can go before issues regarding durability and intangibles such as poor sound and feel come into play. But for now designers seem to have been able to stretch those limits on face thinness while avoiding drawbacks.
All of which means that while you might consider your old irons to be trusted allies, new ones with thinner faces that allow you to hit an 8-iron the same distance you used to hit a 7-iron will give you a better chance to get reacquainted with someone you might not have seen in a while: Mr. Green In Regulation.
Bubba Watson // The Big Switch
Bubba Watson hates changing equipment. Being the quintessential "feel player," the 2012 Masters champ can sense the slightest differences, which makes adapting to new clubs challenging. In fact, Watson has used Ping's S59 irons since 2004, getting a new set each November and working into them over a couple months. Which is why Watson's change at the BMW Championship to a set of Ping's new S55 irons is noteworthy.Watson used the off week prior to the BMW to test the clubs at his Orlando home. Although ready to make the change, there was work still to be done as Watson felt the irons were hooking too much. Taking an earlier flight (yes, commercial) to Chicago, Watson arrived at Conway Farms where Ping's tour reps flattened the lie angle on his irons 1 degree, alleviating the problem and prompting Watson to put the irons in the bag. "I trust my feel so when it feels right to me, I trust that we've done the right things," Watson told Golf World earlier this year. Watson's instincts about that were pretty much spot on as he ranked T-7 in greens in regulation with the new irons at the BMW.
TaylorMade Speed Blade
PRICE: $799 (set of eight, steel)
TaylorMade's latest iron marries a thin face with a "speed pocket" (a slot in the sole of the 3- through 7-irons) that enables the face to flex at impact. The result is a faster ball speed with a higher launch. The clubs boast a satin nickel chrome plating with a dark smoke satin ion plating.
The clubs Jim Furyk used to birdie his final hole and shoot 59 during the second round of the BMW Championship have a story. Playing the 405-yard, par-4 ninth hole (he started on the 10th), Furyk struck a perfect tee shot with a Callaway FT Optiforce 440 driver he put in play at the RBC Canadian Open. The approach from 103 yards that settled three feet from the hole was with a Callaway X Forged 50-degree wedge that Furyk asked for with plenty of offset -- an unusual request for most tour players but something the 2003 U.S. Open champion has employed for some time. Finally, the putt was made with an Odyssey Versa #1W that Furyk first used at Oak Hill CC during the PGA Championship. Furyk had used a similar model earlier in the year, but this putter had a single-bend shaft (instead of a double-bend) and was a half-inch longer at 35.5 inches. ... Strong-lofted irons were in the bags of some players to combat the winds at Conway Farms. Patrick Reed once again had a pair of Callaway X Forged 2-irons, one of them bent to 1-iron loft. Kevin Stadler used Ping's prototype Rapture driving iron at 2-iron loft while Brendan Steele employed Titleist's 712U 2-utility iron.
Data mining: A sample Game Golf screen.
How'd you like to collect and analyze all your stats during a round without writing down a single number or keying anything into your smartphone? That's the promise of Game Golf, a $270 system designed with input from Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.
The program comes with dime-size tags that fit on the butt end of each club. You wave your club in front of a device affixed to your belt buckle before each shot, so it knows which club you're using. Game Golf computes distances, fairways hit, greens in regulation, and more. You can also compare numbers with your buddies.
Game Golf will be available in late October. If you pre-order, you'll be entered in a contest to win a nine-hole round with McDowell. More information.
With a tip of the cap to the start of the NFL season, it seems like an appropriate time to look at one of the more nebulous statistics kept by the PGA Tour's ShotLink system: hang time, the seconds it takes a drive to go from clubface to landing spot.
Photo: Darren Carroll
Although it is easy to understand its significance in football (a lengthy hang time on a punt allows players on the kicking team a greater chance to get downfield before the return man catches the ball), its importance in golf is debatable.
The golf statistic, still in its relative infancy (it has only been kept since 2007), is, if nothing else, fodder for discussion. Looking at the standings, some things jump out. The average hang time on tour has not fluctuated much, clocking in at 6.1, 6.2 or 6.3 seconds each year. Big hitters also don't always keep the ball in the air very long. Dustin Johnson and Jason Kokrak are both inside the top 10 in driving distance but each rank T-146 in hang time. Rickie Fowler, meanwhile, ranks 103rd in distance, but is T-2 in hang time.
Other tidbits include Henrik Stenson leading the tour in average hang time at 6.9 seconds (a good hang time for punts in the NFL is approximately 5.5 seconds), while Luke Guthrie, Patrick Reed and Nick Watney are tied for the individual shot that stayed in the air longest at 8.2 seconds. No word on whether the fairway called for a fair catch on those. However shots hit this year by Chris Stroud and Brendon de Jonge wouldn't have allowed enough time to even get the hand up. Each had a shot with a hang time of less than one second -- 0.8 of a second, to be exact.
Although fun to peruse, does this stat serve a purpose in helping players get in the proper equipment?
Most players pay little attention to hang time, focusing instead on initial launch conditions -- ball speed, launch angle and ball spin -- as well as peak trajectory and angle of descent. However there is value in evaluating a player's hang time -- so long as you know what you're looking at. In golf, that means knowing that more is not always better.
Like a punt in football, the shape of the flight will play a big role in how far the ball carries. A punt in which the nose turns over from pointing up to pointing down at the apex of the flight -- like a long pass -- will carry significantly further than one that stays nose up throughout the flight, like most pooch punts. Similarly, a golf ball that has excessive spin per launch angle will climb with an upward curvature toward its apex. This flight may stay up in the air a long time but will rob the shot of carry distance and create a steep angle of descent that won't roll much, either.
Which may help explain why of the 14 players ranked T-8 or better in hang time, only four -- Keegan Bradley, Sean O'Hair, Graham DeLaet and Jason Day -- rank among the top 20 in driving distance. So although the ball is staying in the air longer, it is not necessarily going farther. It may, however, be straying more off line as eight of those same 14 players rank outside the top 100 in driving accuracy with only Stenson inside the top 20.
Given that, maybe it's time to put the stopwatch away in golf.
Tour Edge XCG7
PRICE: $300 (Lofts: 8.5 to 12 degrees, adjustable)
A cavity in the sole allows for more weight in the rear heel and toe areas to promote forgiveness. A variable-thickness face boosts ball speed.
TaylorMade Ghost Tour
PRICE: $150 (Seven models)
The white-black contrast is designed to improve aim. The grooved-face insert is 80 percent Surlyn and 20 percent aluminum to enhance feel and improve initial roll.
Callaway and TaylorMade each took advantage of having their best players at TPC Boston to offer peeks at prototypes. Callaway revealed a game-improvement iron and a driver with a channel along the rear where weight can be moved from heel to toe to affect ball flight. TaylorMade, meanwhile, had several members of its tour staff, including U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, test a prototype ball. ... Sergio Garcia put TaylorMade's new Ghost Tour putter in play at TPC Boston, using the Maranello 81 model. Garcia finished T-4 at the Deutsche Bank, ranking 37th in strokes gained/putting. ... Phil Mickelson made a driver switch mid-tournament in Boston, benching his Callaway Phrankenwood for the company's new 440cc FT Optiforce. Lefty averaged 277.7 yards off the tee and 67.9 percent fairways hit with the Phrankenwood and 282.0 yards and 64.3 percent fairways, respectively, with the FT Optiforce.