Lost Clubs Are An Occupational Hazard For Pros On Top Tours
Brandt Snedeker's sticks didn't make it to Spain for the Volvo World Match Play, so he cobbled together a 10-club bag -- and hoped. Traveling pros always need a plan B
When Brandt Snedeker got off a plane in Spain for the Volvo World Match Play Championship, he was missing some prized luggage: his clubs. And with his opening-round match against Thomas Björn looming and his bats nowhere to be found, Snedeker scrambled to put together a makeshift set of 10 clubs.
"I didn't like my chances on the first tee having just 10 clubs because I knew Thomas is a world-class player, and a world-class ball striker," said Snedeker. "I just thought to myself all I can do is to go out there and try to beat him playing with what I had."
What Snedeker had was John Senden's backup TaylorMade R11-S driver (with 10.5 degrees loft -- Snedeker's gamer is 9 degrees), a TaylorMade Ghost mallet putter he purchased in the golf shop for $100 and a set of Bridgestone J40 irons, a model similar to the irons he normally plays but three-quarters of an inch shorter. One of Bridgestone's international distributors also provided gloves, balls and headwear. Snedeker was confident his clubs would arrive during the round so he left out the 7-iron. He was on the fourth hole when his clubs arrived so he added his 3-wood, hybrid, lob wedge and putter (a player can add clubs during a round as long as the total does not exceed 14). Surprisingly, Snedeker coasted to an easy 5-and-4 win over Björn.
Difficult as it might be to believe, tour pros lose their clubs more often than one might think. At the 2007 Australian Open, Rod Pampling arrived in Sydney sans clubs. Determined to find out where his sticks were, Pampling, whose flight was delayed in Los Angeles for 24 hours, spent another four hours at the airport until he was satisfied that his clubs were on their way.
Tim Clark endured a similar experience at the 2010 John Deere Classic. When Clark's clubs went missing, the 5-foot-7 South African was forced to play his practice rounds with ill-fitting clubs and a conventional-length putter (Clark uses a long putter). Luckily for Clark his clubs showed up prior to the start of the tournament. "If I didn't have them, I would have been in trouble," said Clark, who noted he did not have a backup set but would have one made after the incident.
Perhaps the most notable incident of missing clubs in recent years, however, was when Morgan Pressel's clubs went AWOL after she arrived in Fort Lauderdale the day after winning the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship. "My grandfather thought they were lost or stolen in Palm Springs," said Pressel. "I think they actually made it to Fort Lauderdale and were stolen there." Luckily for Pressel, a little more than 48 hours later, Callaway had replaced all her clubs, including three wedges personally ground to her specs by Roger Cleveland, who was in Augusta for the Masters and did the work in the company's equipment trailer there.
According to several PGA Tour reps, clubs are lost about a half-dozen times during a season. When players are in the United States, replacing the clubs is usually not a big problem as backups can be built in the company's tour vans or second sets can be sent overnight. Rick Nelson, PGA Tour rep for Titleist, tells players to have backup sets already boxed with overnight labels on them so they could be shipped right away if need be, while Titleist's wedge man, Bob Vokey, often takes digital photographs of the wedges he makes for players so he can easily replicate the grinds.
Still, no matter how prepared a company might be, getting the replacement set to exact measurements is difficult. Although equipment companies have a database with everyone's specs, a player might have a grip worn down to a feel he likes or has some lead tape on a club that's just so. Those personal touches are harder to replicate.
Which is why Allen Doyle takes no chances when it comes to his clubs, including the Scotty Cameron putter he has used since 1990. "One time everyone else was sending their clubs out ahead on a bus, but I wanted my bag," said Doyle. "They didn't want to take it off, but I told them to 'pull the bag out or I'll pull it out!' The guy was ticked, but I didn't care. If I lost that putter, I'm convinced it would cost me a quarter-million a year."
Much angst has been lessened over the past decade by using Hulka's Overland Players Express. The brainchild of Steve Hulka (caddie for Brian Davis) and his wife, Mary, Hulka started a service in 2003 where players purchase their own bins and stuff them with their clubs or anything they want transported to the next tour stop. Hulka then drives the trailer with the items (one time a player had his motorcycle on board) to the next event and even has a GPS Tracking System so players can know where their clubs and other belongings are at any time. On most weeks Hulka has close to 50 customers.
Come next week he might have one more in Snedeker.
Nike Method Midnight
Price: $270 (Lengths: 33, 34, 35 inches)
The Method Midnight features the same polymetal groove technology as its predecessors while offering new milled head shapes and a dark chrome finish. The putters will be available in three head styles (Method 006, 007 and 008).
When changing irons many players will swap out their entire set. Phil Mickelson, however, has been doing it piecemeal. Lefty changed his Callaway RAZR X muscleback 9-iron at the Players and this week added new 4-, 5-, 6- and 8-irons at the HP Byron Nelson Championship where he finished T-7. ... Jason Day tested TaylorMade's deep-face RocketBallz driver and shallower Tour model prior to the Nelson. Day found more distance and a tighter dispersion pattern with the deep face and used the driver during a T-9 finish at TPC Four Seasons, where he ranked fifth in driving distance at 322.3 yards. ... Byron Nelson champ Jason Dufner had Project X PXi shafts in Titleist AP2 irons. The shaft incorporates the spin characteristics and tip stability of the original Project X shaft but in a lighter weight (the 6.0 weighs 112 grams while a typical stiff True Temper Dynamic Gold weighs 128 grams) to boost ball speed. The shafts worked for Dufner at the Nelson where he finished first in greens in regulation. ... Adjustability is a solid fitting tool and Vaughn Taylor took advantage of the triple adjustability on his TaylorMade R11-S driver to get to a point where he felt he could eliminate the left side of the course. Taylor's final setup had the soleplate in the Open+ setting with heavier weight in the toe (7 grams) than heel (3 grams).