September 7, 2009

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Still a tough sell for some, graphite iron shafts have enjoyed an uptick in usage, reputation

taylormade penta tp: Sean O'Hair and Dustin Johnson had top-10 finishes at the Deutsche Bank in their first week using this five-piece ball.

taylormade penta tp: Sean O'Hair and Dustin Johnson had top-10 finishes at the Deutsche Bank in their first week using this five-piece ball.

You hear it over and over: Only extremely slow swingers benefit from using graphite shafts in their irons. But as often as that axiom is repeated, it doesn't change the fact that it is simply not true.

Although steel remains the overwhelming choice of tour players when it comes to iron shafts, close observers of the PGA Tour have noticed that players such as K.J. Choi, Rory Sabbatini, Rich Beem (who won the 2002 PGA Championship using Aldila's Tour Gold graphite iron shaft) and a handful of others either use or have used graphite shafts in their irons. On the LPGA Tour the numbers have grown even higher the past few years, with more than one-third of players opting for graphite.

The key to increased acceptance has been better product. It used to be that because graphite was lighter than steel, shafts often had to be lengthened by half an inch to achieve the proper balance. Pros, however, were uncomfortable with the added length. Now graphite shaft manufacturers are able to move the balance point to the tip and keep the same shaft length as steel. Additionally, weights used to fluctuate considerably from shaft to shaft, but the tolerances are now significantly tighter.

Still, graphite remains a hard sell for golfers who are steadfast in their belief that graphite shafts make control and workability difficult.

"Why should I switch to graphite?" said Juli Inkster recently. "Graphite gives you more distance, but the distance varies. Steel shafts give you more precision on exactly how far you hit each club." Paula Creamer was even more direct in her assessment, saying, "I've never used graphite in my irons—ever."

Others, however, have seen the benefits. "I wasn't compressing the ball enough with steel," said Mindy Kim, a rookie on the LPGA Tour. "I've tried steel, but I always go back to graphite in my irons because it allows me to get the height I need on my approach shots."

Others use graphite for medical reasons. "After surgery on my back, it was too hard to hit steel," said Stacy Lewis. "I tried hitting steel for a day, but the next morning my back was sore. Now the graphite is so good I have no desire to even try steel."

If you've accepted conventional wisdom about graphite iron shafts, it might be time to reconsider.

Spotted

Needing a strong showing to continue in the playoffs, Vijay Singh changed irons for the first time in more than five years, using a set of Cleveland's CG Tour irons. Not that the clubs were a drastic departure. The CG Tour is a muscleback design nearly identical in look to the CG1 model Singh had been using.

Bagroom

At the Deutsche Bank Championship, Phil Mickelson added a 22-degree version of his prototype Callaway hybrid. It has a small head and sharp leading edge much like the one he first used at the U.S. Open in June at Bethpage Black. ... Inspired by Heath Slocum's winning the Barclays after changing to one of Ping's new drivers, Kevin Sutherland put an 11-degree Ping i15 driver in the bag at TPC Boston. Sutherland finished T-15, aided by a T-15 rank in driving accuracy. ... Sean O'Hair went to a blade-style TaylorMade Rossa Daytona (from his TaylorMade RossaCorza mallet) and finished T-8 in Boston on the strength of ranking sixth in putts per GIR. O'Hair came into the Deutsche Bank ranked T-141 in that stat.