EquipmentMarch 1, 2010

The Replacements

The rules covering clubs broken during the course of play provide players with plenty of options

A black-and-orange Mitsubishi Whiteboard driver shaft featuring Pistol Pete, the Oklahoma State University mascot.

A black-and-orange Mitsubishi Whiteboard driver shaft featuring Pistol Pete, the Oklahoma State University mascot.

Hunter Mahan used two drivers during the final round of his Waste Management Phoenix Open victory. But Mahan wasn't taking a page from Phil Mickelson's two-driver playbook. Instead, on the second hole at TPC Scottsdale, Mahan discovered a crack in his Ping Rapture V2 driver, setting off a chain of events that eventually led his girlfriend, Kandi Harris, scurrying to their car to retrieve a backup.

"She had the keys and everything," said Mahan. "Luckily, the rules staff ran her out to the car, and I got it before the next tee shot, which was nice, because the next hole is a par 5. I really didn't want to hit a 3-wood off the par 5."

Mahan's experience is a classic example of why Rule 4-3 is needed. The rule says, in essence, that if a club is damaged during the normal course of play, a player may use it in its damaged state, have it repaired or replace the club with any club, provided it does not come from any other person playing the course and does not unduly delay play.

Harris' timely retrieval of the backup made the last part of that rule moot, but whether or not it was deemed damaged during the normal course of play required a little discussion with officials.

"It was interesting," said Mahan. "It took a little time to make sure that you could take it out of play because...the driver has to be cracked, and it has to be deemed kind of unplayable and not conforming. [But] we got that straightened out."

More intriguing, perhaps, is what Mahan's options were if he did not have a backup readily available.

Could he have asked one of his playing partners to use their driver? No. The only time you can use a club from another player's bag is in a team competition when the total number of clubs in both bags does not exceed 14 (admittedly, an unlikely scenario). However, Mahan could have used a driver from another player in the field, provided they were not on the course. Fortunately, that was not necessary because the only other golfer in the field using a 10.5-degree Ping Rapture V2 was Chris DiMarco, who only finished a little more than an hour in front of Mahan (meaning Mahan would have only been able to use the club for a few holes). Further, DiMarco's driver would not have performed the same since it has a different shaft (an Aldila Voodoo NV) than Mahan's (a Ping prototype).

Another option would have been to call Ping, whose headquarters are in Phoenix, to have a backup sent to the course. Sound outrageous? Kevin Sutherland did just that during the opening round of the same tournament in 2008. Playing TPC Scottsdale's 13th hole (his fourth of the day), Sutherland broke his Ping i3+ 9-iron after making contact with a cactus. Sutherland and his caddie put in a call to Ping rep Matt Rollins. Rollins then contacted co-worker Steve Zeke. Six holes later, Sutherland had a replacement.

Luckily for Mahan, his backup driver closely matched his gamer. Although that would seem to be easily accomplished, tour players frequently speak of how difficult it is to have backups duplicate the feel of the clubs in their bag. Jim Furyk, for one, once spent nearly a year finding a suitable replacement for a broken driver. Mahan had no such issues.

"Ping did a really good job of matching my drivers because the one [I] cracked I've had for three years," he said. "I mean, it's been so good." Indeed it had. In the PGA Tour's total driving statistic (which is a combination of distance and accuracy rankings), Mahan ranked seventh, 23rd and third the past three years, respectively.

Even if the driver was his second choice.

SPOTTED

After being presented with a black-and-orange Mitsubishi Whiteboard driver shaft featuring Pistol Pete, the Oklahoma State University mascot, and putting it in play at the Farmers Insurance Open, Rickie Fowler was back with a conventional gray-and-white Whiteboard at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. But Fowler wasn't dissing his school. The tour rookie damaged the shaft after backing his car over a travel bag housing his clubs.

BAG ROOM

Impressed after using Vaughn Taylor's Burner SuperFast driver from TaylorMade to swat a few drives, Justin Rose had one built to match the specs of his current driver and immediately put the new club in play at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. "I just kind of made an impulse decision yesterday," said Rose after the first round. "I was hitting the other one half decent, but something just didn't feel right. I changed and really drove it well today."...Pat Perez made two fairly radical changes at TPC Scottsdale and both worked out. First, he switched from Odyssey's White Hot XG 7 putter to a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Del Mar, a club Perez has had for eight years. Second, he returned to a conventional style of putting after four years cross-handed. In addition, Perez also made a change in his irons, installing KBS shafts. "They keep the ball down a little bit lower, which I like," said Perez, who ranked T-38 in greens in regulation at the Waste Management event.