Conforming List Can Sometimes Put Hitches In Ball Switches
Justin Rose's last-minute change to a TaylorMade prototype at TPC Boston recalls painful examples of name pros using balls that abbreviated their stays at tour events
The second leg of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs is an interesting time to make a ball change, but that's what Justin Rose -- ranked 15th in cup points entering the week -- did at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Rose put a prototype TaylorMade ball named Project 5 into play. According to Dean Snell, TaylorMade's VP of research and development, Rose tested the ball for nine holes and noticed a boost of five to six yards in distance off the tee -- and nearly double that when hitting into a 10- to 15-miles-per-hour headwind compared to the ball he had been using. The results prompted Rose to make the switch.
"It's the first time in 24 years [working with pros] on tour that a player wanted to play a new ball the same day as prototype testing," said Snell. "I called the plant, had four dozen overnighted and brought them back to him on Thursday."
Rose's ability to use the ball in competition, however, depended on the prototype being on the USGA's Conforming Golf Ball List. Luckily for Rose, TaylorMade had submitted the Project 5 (listed as having a solid-core, "other" construction with a dual cover; rated its spin as being low with the driver and medium on short irons; and described as having 360 dimples). The ball was among approximately 1,300 on the latest revision of the list, dated Aug. 1, 2012 (the list is updated the first Wednesday of each month). Although approval might seem a formality, there have been instances where tour players have been disqualified for using a ball not on the list.
Most noteworthy was Greg Norman. Tied for fourth after two rounds of the 1996 Canon Greater Hartford Open, Norman discovered he had used a Maxfli ball that had markings not on the USGA's conforming list and was disqualified. Norman's crime? He used Maxfli XS-90 golf balls with a marking that read XS-9 instead of XS-90. Norman knew the marking was different but because he knew the XS-90 ball was legal, he assumed it was OK. It wasn't.
Similarly, Jeff Sluman took for granted that the Titleist Pro V1 he teed up on the first hole at Westchester CC for the third round of the 2004 Buick Classic was on the conforming list. When he reached the green, however, he became aware it probably wasn't.
After placing his ball on the putting surface, Sluman did what he always does: lined it up with the Pro V1 side stamp toward the hole with nothing but white showing. This time, however, he noticed the absence of the Pro V1 side stamp -- a mark that, according to the USGA's Conforming Golf Ball List, it needed to be deemed legal for play.
Upon discovering the problem, Sluman contacted a rules official but knew he had an issue, "I asked [the official] after I holed out, and he said he'd have to check the conforming-ball list," said Sluman, who added that the ball was the only one in the dozen box missing a stamp. "I pretty much knew I was going to be disqualified. There's no way a mis-stamped ball would be on the conforming-ball list."
Unfortunately, Sluman was correct. He played through the fourth hole (the last a hole-out for eagle) before being informed he would be disqualified. The delay was so officials could check not only the conforming-ball list, but also for a precedent that might allow the 1988 PGA champ to continue. There was none. "It's a simple rule," said Sluman. "The rule is that the ball is not on the conforming list. It is what it is."
Thirteen years after Norman's conforming-list gaffe, a similar issue arose again in Hartford. After the first round of the 2009 Travelers Championship, Paul Azinger was disqualified for using a non-conforming Callaway ball. In early June, Callaway's Tour i ball with a sidestamp of a single dot to each side of the words "Tour i" came off the list because a small number of them exceeded the USGA's weight limit. In its place was a new ball with a pair of dots to each side of the "Tour i" name. Azinger used the single dot ball at the Transitions Championship earlier in the year and still had some in his bag. After his round at TPC River Highlands, Azinger contacted PGA Tour officials, who informed him the ball was no longer on the conforming list. Azinger was DQ'd.
Interestingly, requiring the use of a ball on the conforming list is not a Rule of Golf, but rather a condition of competition used in professional events and all USGA Championships. Thankfully for Rose, his new ball was on the list, sparing him the lessons learned by Norman, Sluman and Azinger.
JIM FURYK // A wedge for all the shots
Despite ranking fourth on tour in scrambling and first in proximity to the hole from the sand, Jim Furyk has been having some wedge issues of late, feeling he either has a wedge that's great to chip and pitch with, but is not as confident with out of greenside bunkers, especially the flop shot -- or vice versa.
In the two weeks leading up to the Deutsche Bank Championship, Callaway tour reps built seven new wedges for Furyk, all with different sole grinds and with an extreme amount of hosel offset -- something Furyk has long had on his wedges. The result was Furyk selecting a Callaway Vintage X Forged 54/14 with the sole flattened. This moved the bounce to the trailing edge, thus keeping as much bounce in the heel as possible. The finished wedge (nicknamed the "Cork Screw Grind") actually has three different bounces with the heel at 14 degrees, the center of the sole at 10 degrees and the toe at 8 degrees.
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Rarely has a putter switch proved so fruitful as Louis Oosthuizen's change to a Ping Scottsdale Anser at the Deutsche Bank Championship. After taking only 28 and 27 putts, respectively, in his first two rounds at TPC Boston, Oosthuizen needed but 26 during a third-round 63 that included birdies on eight of his first 10 holes. For the week the South African ranked third in strokes gained/putting while finishing second. ... Charley Hoffman and putters don't always get along (a watery toss on TPC Sawgrass's 13th hole during the 2008 Players is the most memorable example), but at TPC Boston Hoffman's switch to a Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo paid dividends. Hoffman ranked 46th for the week in strokes gained/putting (a marked improvement over his year-to-date rank of 177th in that stat) en route to a T-26 finish. ... Hunter Mahan might have been on the bubble for a U.S. Ryder Cup team captain's pick, but that didn't prevent him from using a new Ping Anser driver at the Deutsche Bank. Mahan averaged a healthy 296.4 yards off the tee while improving his accuracy to 69.6 percent, ranked T-23 for the week. ... Scott Piercy won the RBC Canadian Open this year with a Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo putter, but he switched back to his true money club at TPC Boston. Piercy used the Scotty Cameron prototype he wielded when he shot a final-nine 31 to win the $2 million first prize in "The Ultimate Game," a made-for-TV event held in 2007 at Wynn Las Vegas. Piercy's take last week didn't quite match his haul from that event. He won just $16,880 for a T-64 finish at the Deutsche Bank.