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Rose wins at Doral, but all eyes remain on Tiger

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By Michael Williams

Special to GolfWRX

Seemingly on the brink of regaining the form that propelled him to greatness, Tiger’s Achilles’ heel turned out to be his Achilles heel. Last week, Woods dominated the story line by posting his career Sunday low on the course; he was close to setting a career low off of it when he refused to stand before the press after withdrew from the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

At the time he withdrew, he was having a difficult round, and in the spirit of an event hosted by a car company, he changed tires (shoes, actually) at the start of the back nine in an attempt to gain some traction. He showed some signs of physical discomfort on the 10th hole after hitting his approach into the water. After hitting his longest drive of the day on the 12th hole, he followed it with two even longer drives; the drive in a cart back to his car, and the drive back to his Fortress of Solitude in nearby Jupiter Beach.  Woods was 3 over through 11 holes, essentially playing himself out of contention early in the day. His chances of winning disappeared and he did likewise, pausing only to chuck bag and caddie into the Caddy. The MetLife blimp, appropriately named Snoopy, followed Woods’ car from the air for several minutes, a scene eerily reminiscent of a certain running back in a white Ford Bronco. It seemed that at any moment Al Cowlings was going to call Johnny Miller from the car and say, “I’m in the car with Tiger. He has $100,000, a passport and icepack. But he’s OK, so just stay back!”

These events upstaged the results of the tournament, including eventual winner Justin Rose and hard-luck runner-up Bubba Watson, and put once again the career arcs of Tiger and Rory into juxtaposition. Both had disappointing weekday rounds and came into Sunday needing to put up a low number just to have a chance. Rory did just that, shooting a 67 that could just as easily have been the 64 that would have won him the tournament.  Tiger never seemed to be comfortable, suffering through the distance control problems with his irons that had seemed to be ironed-out with last week’s 62. McIlroy is clearly golf’s Sunday best. He is always in contention if he makes the cut because he is always a threat to post the low round of the day. With every passing week his game and his confidence are growing and the sports world is anxiously anticipating his return to Augusta to see if he will exorcise his demons born on the back nine in last year’s Masters. When it comes to Woods, there is a lingering pattern of having more disappointing Sundays than a missionary in Vegas.

I grow tired of making the connection between mental and physical in golf; surely the long-suffering reader is tired of having it made. The only person that doesn’t seem to get it is Tiger Woods. After all that has happened, how can he not understand that a person who is brittle and petulant in the press room will be brittle and petulant on the course? How can he not be aware that if he is not willing to give answers to the simplest requests that are asked of any performer, then the media and the public will replace information with speculation? How can he not see that the ability to handle your emotions is directly connected to the ability to control performance?

Since Woods gave only a terse written statement to the press, we are once again left to speculate about whether the withdrawal was due to injury or frustration. It was likely some of both, but it is inexplicable that a man who had the physical and mental toughness to play 18 holes on a broken leg to win a major championship doesn’t have the Nike One’s to stand in front a microphone and explain the situation to the fans and sponsors that want him back at golf’s pinnacle. There has rarely been an athlete who has displayed such a yawning gap between the ability to produce sporting heroics and the inability to produce personal courage. The only one that comes to mind is Woods’ erstwhile mentor Michael Jordan, but that is anther story for another day. To those that feel Tiger owes nothing to the press or the public, I say that each side has benefited and each side deserves respect. Compared to the rest of the entertainment media, the golf press is a wet noodle. Providing the few details and cascade of clichés that it is able to whip into a feature piece should be child’s play, but Woods is a child who seems never to have learned to play nice with others.

The Bible says “Be angry, but sin not,” positing that it is not the emotion that is the transgression, rather how it is expressed. Tiger Woods used to understand anger and how to use it. His anger was controllable and not an imminent threat because it was publicly directed only at a golf ball or at himself. He used anger to his advantage. Now, that anger seems to have corroded the vessel that carried it. He was always intense on the course; now he is joyless. He was always dismissive of reporters; now, he is rude and even threatening. He pretends not to care what anyone thinks, but he is trapped inside a cage of public scrutiny.

But Woods holds the key to that cage, and that key is the same media that he so despises. He doesn’t understand that the media can be used to his advantage. He can manage outcomes and expectations by simply telling the truth. If he is still hurting, why not say so? It’s not a sign of weakness to be injured and even Tiger in his current mental state can’t be addled enough to think otherwise. The whole issue comes down to one simple fact; when he leaves room for speculation, speculation will come. And if you truly don’t care about the media, stop getting angry anytime an unscripted question is asked. Whether he’s open or closed, he should be honest and consistent.

It is pointless to resist comparing Woods and McIlroy. At this juncture in their respective careers they are linked in time, in talent and in the imagination. Rory is carefree for now, but he has not had his life opened up with the rib-spreader of long-term life in the spotlight. Tiger has not only worn down the tissues of his body in his march across golf’s landscape; he has also badly frayed the mental cartilage so important to the game of golf and to the game of life. As the Masters and the rest of the majors approach,  the big questions are whether the body will heal, and, if the mind doesn’t heal, does it really matter about the body?

These are questions that even Tiger cannot answer … not that he would if he could.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

Michael Williams is the contributing editor of Newschannel8 Capital Golf Weekly and Bunkershot.com, as well as a member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

You can follow Michael on twitter — @Michaelontv

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Williams has a reputation as a savvy broadcaster, and as an incisive interviewer and writer. An avid golfer himself, Williams has covered the game of golf and the golf lifestyle including courses, restaurants, travel and sports marketing for publications all over the world. He is currently working with a wide range of outlets in traditional and electronic media, and has produced and hosted “Sticks and Stones” on the Fox Radio network, a critically acclaimed show that combined coverage of the golf world with interviews of the Washington power elite. His work on Newschannel8’s “Capital Golf Weekly” and “SportsTalk” have established him as one of the area’s most trusted sources for golf reporting. Williams has also made numerous radio appearances on “The John Thompson Show,” and a host of other local productions. He is a sought-after speaker and panel moderator, he has recently launched a new partnership with The O Team to create original golf-themed programming and events. Williams is a member of the United States Golf Association and the Golf Writers Association of America.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Pam Ward

    Mar 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    To quote Joseph Welch head counsel of US Army during the McCarthy hearings, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? Come on Mike! You’re really going to compare a vicious murder to Wood’s departure due to an Achilles injury? I mean really! OJ Simpson and Al Cowlings! Your article is one of the most racist, destructive reviews I have ever read in my life! I repeat, Have you no sense of decency, at all?

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Tour Photo Galleries

10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship

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GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The field this week featured the best golfers in the world, including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and more.

Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the defending champion, looking hoist the crystal again.

Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from TPC Sawgrass.

General Galleries

Special Galleries

Bettinardi’s St. Patrick’s Day covers  

Brand-new Srixon 745 in Keegan’s bag

Roger Sloan’s custom Cameron

Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal irons spotted in Nick Watney’s bag 

Joel Dahmen with a battle-worn hybrid

Fresh eggs for Patrick Reed…

Justin Rose continues to tweak his equipment

Carlos Ortiz looks to be picking up some supplies to mark the end of his driveway…

Jordan Spieth with a Vokey WedgeWorks Proto 60T in the bag

Kiradech Aphibarnrat with lead tape and stamping on cavity-back irons. Solid! 

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Tour News

GolfWRX Spotted: Justin Rose with mixed bag at Arnold Palmer Invitational

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It’s not very often we get breaking equipment news this time of year on the PGA Tour schedule, but this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the highest-profile players on tour, Justin Rose, was spotted testing multiple brands of clubs throughout his entire bag.

It started last week at the Honda Classic when Rose put a TaylorMade SIM driver with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage in play. As of today’s first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose has a mixed set including TaylorMade, Cobra, and Titleist clubs, along with an Axis1 putter.

Here are the details of Rose’s equipment:

Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees @ 8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 TX

3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 TX

5-wood: Cobra SpeedZone Tour (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 X

Irons: TaylorMade P730 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5

Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design Prototype K Grind (60 degrees)
Shafts: Project X 6.5 (52, 56), Proto Hi-Rev 135X (60)

Putter: Axis1 Rose
Grip: Flat Cat Svelte

Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ‘19 (No. 1)

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Equipment

Inside look: Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges on tour…6 months after launch

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Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges hit professional golf tours months ago. We reported on the launch extensively (see our videos later in the article) with deep coverage on the PGA Tour and at retail. As with any new offering, and especially for the gearheads on GolfWRX, it’s the tour chatter that drives us. What the pros do, play, and think is always a driving force.

However…

Personally, I have always been fascinated by the aftermath of a launch. What are the reactions and tweaks that are made once the shine has worn off?  It’s not uncommon for players to need to warm up to a new product before it ultimately finds its way into the bag permanently.

When Jaws hit the scene, it integrated quite quickly, and that is saying a lot. The MD4 was a very successful wedge line on tour and at retail. It was a huge initial launch and one Callaway was happy with as a solid portion of its staff put Jaws in play straight away.

In my conversations with tour staff and techs, spin and lower ball flight has been a recurring theme. In the case of the Tour, being able to flight a wedge down and not have it float, while maintaining maximum spin, is a weapon. Imagine being at Honda last week and knowing you can hit a knee-high fastball with a 58-degree wedge and trust the ball will stay down, not skip, and will stop dead in its tracks. On tour, its the speed of the stop that is valuable, not ripping it backward—that is typically only fun for TV. Golf these days is more like darts and less like billiards.

As to be expected, the grinds on all Callaway wedges are tour favorites. It’s pretty simple to fall in love with something that comes ought of the mind of Roger Cleveland, who has been the driving force in putting Callaway consistently at the No. 2 most-played wedge on Tour.

But how has the MD5  really done thus far?

Let’s be clear, most guys don’t make switches late-summer or fall (when MD5 was launched on tour). The season is too far down the river and the coming winter gives them quiet time to really test. Also, when you work through the California swing, a good portion of the higher-ranked staff only poke their heads out once or twice. This doesn’t mean the guys on the truck aren’t building new products, but a good portion of it is for winter testing, emergency backups, etc.

But now we hit the Florida swing. The Masters is a month away. The world’s best start to show up consistently, the playing surfaces change from the West Coast to the East Coast, and all of these guys are in full attack mode. Any real testing or guesswork is pretty much done, and it’s time to get going. This is the time when you can actually see if a product has staying power.

The question is since Jaws hit the scene, what have the pros learned, what adjustments have been made to dial them in, and ultimately, is this wedge line a success? I wanted to tackle this question from two different perspectives: from the reps on tour and two young staff players that have them in play.

In this case, there is the guy on the Callaway tour trailer who is in charge of wedges, Simon Wood, and young tour staffers Akshay Bhatia and Min Woo Lee.

Three unique perspectives—and also perspectives that give us an honest look at the performance and popularity of a “new” wedge on Tour.

I talk with Simon Wood quite a bit. He’s a good as they get in this category, having worked for years in Europe and on the U.S. tour. His knowledge is extensive and even more importantly, he is ridiculously honest. If the product is solid and he believes in it, he will tell you. If he goes quiet, there’s that too.

I caught up with him on a day off and this was the update he gave:

Wunder: It seems MD5 came out of the gates quickly and never really slowed down, are you surprised at the response?

Wood: Not at all. Truth is, these players are very particular about what makes it in or out of the bag. A new club has to do something better than the old one and do all the things they liked about the old one. The Jaws really spins. This is a unique groove system, and I’ve noticed the players like it for two main reasons 1) They can keep the trajectory down on the high lofts 2) they can be a bit more aggressive because of the amount of spin these wedges offer. Out on tour that’s a big deal.

Wunder: What percentage of staff (25+players on U.S. Tours) are in the MD5 across the board?

Wood: I’d say close to 50 percent, which is a good number considering how many good options are out there.

Wunder: Now that we are in the Florida swing, are you having to do anything special to adjust to the new grass and conditions?

Wood: No its the opposite actually. I think with the grooves being as good as they are and the number of options we have grind wise, we on the truck are doing less tweaking and grinding to wedges. That’s a sign one the R&D team did a great job with this design and two that our players trust our product enough to let their creativity take over.

Wunder: Any surprise grinds that are popping up more often?

Wood: It’s not a surprise because we knew it was good, but the low bounce W has been a hit thus far. Lots of guys testing and gaming that one.

I then went on to chat with Callaway staffers Min Woo Lee (winning WITB, podcast link below) and Akshay Bhatia on their experience with Jaws. This perspective was interesting because Akshay is young, he’s fighting for a place to play this summer, and he’s still learning the nuances of playing as a professional. Min just recently won in Australia and has enough time under his belt now to understand a real asset over something he’s still trying to make work.

Point is: pressure is high on both of these kids, and the last thing either wants to struggle with is their wedges.

Wunder: You were an early adopter of the MD5 last fall, have you noticed any significant improvement over your previous gamers?

Bhatia: Trust is the biggest one. I love the shape of these wedges and just knowing that Roger and Phil have an influence on the wedges you are playing gives me so much confidence. From a performance standpoint, I like the variety in grinds the MD5 offers. Anywhere I play I have an option, whether it be X in soft conditions or C for the firmer turf.

Wunder: With the aggressive grooves of the MD5, what shots have you gained that you didn’t have before?

Bhatia: Definitely the off-speed/three-quarter shots with some spin. These wedges really keep the ball down and it’s a bonus when I know I can take something off of a shot and the ball will stay down and hold its line into the wind.

Wunder: And your current set up is?

Bhatia: Currently, I’m in the Jaws MD5 50S, 54S bent to 55, and the 60C or X depending on the conditions (KBS $Taper 130X shafts in black with Iomic grips) with some heel and toe relief in the X. I also like to mess around wit the PM Grind 60 if I’m looking for a different look.

Young Callaway staffer Min Woo Lee, who recently triumphed at the European Tour’s Vic Open, has this to say

Wunder: What ball flight differences do you see in Jaws over the past wedge set?

MWL: Overall the same. I like to pick my trajectory. So if I didn’t like it,  I wouldn’t have put it in my bag…need to have every shot at my disposal.

Wunder: Do you do any extra grinding to your S?

MWL: Just in the 60, there is a little leading edge relief ground in. Prevents it from digging and gives me a bit more ability to be aggressive into it.

Wunder: Are there any other grinds you tried?

MWL: I tried the low bounce W and really liked, but the S grind has been my go-to for a long time, I know how to play with that one.

Wunder: As far as full shot turf interaction, why do you prefer the S?

MWL: The S is always what I’ve been into looks-wise, nothing else really caught my eye like that grind did. I do pretty good chipping around with it around the greens and we have some history so why mess with a good thing.

Overall, I think the MD5 wedge line has been a success on tour. Let’s be honest, wedges arent drivers, but identifying a popular line over another is quite interesting. These guys can get a TV remote ground into something useable, so when there is a shift across the staff to a new model, it validates that the ideas in it are sound and the wedge performs like it says it will. For larger tour staffs like Callaway has, operating a 50 percent clip for full line use is a really solid number.

Let’s be clear here, Callaway hasn’t made a bad wedge…like ever. From X Forged to the MD line and now into Jaws, Roger and the team know what they are doing. In my experience with these wedges, I will say that the grooves are ridiculously aggressive, and as Bhatia mentioned, there is a grind to satisfy any conditions.

Do most OEMs make solid wedges? The answer is of course they do; they all do. But the advantage that Callaway has over the rest in this category is Roger Cleveland. Having the man who inspired some of the most iconic wedge shapes ever coupled with a superb R&D team yields a combination that will deliver quality and performance time after time.

Here are some pics from the forums of MD5 out on tour now.

Akshay BhatiaFrancesco Molinari
Brendan GraceIsaiah SalindaJ.J. SpaunAlex Noren
Chun An YunHenrik Stenson Matt Wallace 

Si Woo Kim

Check out the videos below to see me and one of our forum members put Jaws MD5 to the test!

 

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