EquipmentApril 25, 2010

Unchanged Ways

High-tech clubs are a big part of the Champions Tour, but for some players old sticks still click

Tom Watson benched the Odyssey White Hot XG #7 putter he used at last year's British Open in favor of Odyssey's new Backstryke blade putter.

Tom Watson benched the Odyssey White Hot XG #7 putter he used at last year's British Open in favor of Odyssey's new Backstryke blade putter.

It has been a long-held belief that modern technology is a big reason Champions Tour players continue to play at a high level once turning 50. Without it, many say, the senior set would play like, well, seniors.

Look in the bags of several players at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, however, and it is apparent that the birth certificates aren't the only thing showing some age on the senior circuit. Many of the clubs being used are also past their prime.

Not that the Champions Tour totally eschews technology. There are plenty of titanium/composite drivers, high-tech hybrids and flashy iron sets being used. Along with that, though, are some sets that include clubs rarely seen outside of tag sales and Internet auction sites.

Or a "junk shop," which is exactly where Jim Albus purchased the set of Callaway Steelhead X-12 irons he used at the Legends. Albus found the clubs in Sarasota, Fla., in 2004, put new shafts in them and put them in the bag. Still, if the clubs were junk in 2004 (they were first introduced in 1998) then what is a tour pro doing using them? "They worked better than anything else I'd been playing with so I went with them," said Albus. "They haven't been out of the bag since."

Also tough to get out of play are the Ping Zing 2 irons used by Ed Fiori at the Legends. Then again, the clubs do have some sentimental value to the man known as "The Grip" -- they are the same irons Fiori used to hold off Tiger Woods in winning the 1996 Quad Cities Open.

Albus and Fiori aren't the only players using obsolete equipment. In fact, if golf's governing bodies ever decide on another equipment rollback, some players may hardly notice as they continue to use clubs that might not have the hottest faces, highest moment of inertia or adjustable weights or hosels, but work for them.

How else to explain why Loren Roberts and Joey Sindelar each still use TaylorMade R510 drivers (with Sindelar still occasionally employing his old Tommy Armour 1-iron as well)? Or Hal Sutton using the same Ben Hogan Apex Forged irons that he had in his hands when he hit his memorable, "Be the right club today!" shot on the 18th hole that sewed up the 2000 Players Championship?

But if old is in with some senior players and their irons, it's really in when it comes to fairway woods. Granted, players across almost all the tours seem to have a special affinity for a fairway wood they like. And the landscape on the Champions Tour is no different with many players using older Callaway Steelhead or TaylorMade 200 Tour fairway woods. Or, if you're Mike Reid, you not only have a 200 Tour in your bag, but a 15-degree TaylorMade Burner Tour Raylor, a club Reid says he has been playing "since the early 1990s."

According to Reid, finding a backup in the event his precious fairway wood breaks won't be a problem. "I've got seven copies of the head at home," he said, noting one was given to him by Craig Stadler and was used at one time by Jim Furyk. "I've tried other clubs and found some that were similar, but none that are better."

Which, when you think of it, may be the best reason of all to hang on to a club.

Andy Bean and Chien-Soon Lu, who finished a stroke out of a playoff, each modified their Callaway lineup at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. Bean put in a split set of irons (X-Forged 4- through 7-irons and X-Prototype 8-iron through PW) while Lu added a 7.5-degree FT Tour driver at Savannah...Tom Watson (above) benched the Odyssey White Hot XG #7 putter he used at last year's British Open in favor of Odyssey's new Backstryke blade putter -- a model featuring a reverse bend shaft inserted in the rear of the putter...Old school: Five players at the Legends used only two wedges. In addition to their pitching wedges, Ben Crenshaw had a 57-degree Wilson Staff wedge; Hubert Green a 56-degree Adams Puglielli; and J.C. Snead a 55-degree Cleveland CG15. In the Raphael Division, Ed Fiori (56-degree Ping Eye 2) and Jerry Heard (57-degree TaylorMade TP xFT) also only carried a pair of wedges...Zen Masters: It's difficult enough for small putter companies to get one club in play on the PGA Tour, but at the Zurich Classic, Daito Golf had three pros (Tim Herron, Troy Matteson and Joe Ogilvie) use its Zen model putters in competition. Matteson and Ogilvie finished T-62 while Herron missed the cut.

Senior Allen Doyle, hardly a big change guy, was using a Rife Bimini blade putter at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf in place of the Scotty Cameron blade he had wielded for most of his career. Doyle originally made the change at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am and continued with the Rife putter (which is lighter and has less offset than his old Cameron) in Savannah.