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Opinion & Analysis

Willams: The deep field in 2012 evokes memories of 1981

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Tom Watson. Jack Nicklaus. Johnny Miller. Greg Norman.

Just looking at the names on paper gives you a sense of awe and the mind begins to churn out familiar catch phrases. 18 majors. Six green jackets. Duel in the Sun. The Great White Shark. 63 on Sunday at Oakmont. Four of the most accomplished and charismatic golfers in the history of the game.

And at the 1981 Masters, they were the top four finishers. Watson won his second Masters championship by two strokes over Nicklaus and Miller, and finished three clear of Norman. And just behind that august grouping was Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Raymond Floyd, making a total of seven Hall of Famers in the top 10. It might just be the finest leaderboard in the history of major championship golf.

Coming into this the 76th Masters tournament at Augusta, there is a sense of anticipation that the sport has not had for years. For the last 14 years, the conversation was centered on the “Tiger vs. the Field” wager. Whether he won or not, on Thursday Woods was the prohibitive favorite to win at the venue that provided the stage for his spectacular introduction to the sporting world. But this year the excitement is not reserved for Tiger alone. There is a full field of players who not only have shown their ability to win, but the ability to compete at the highest level on the biggest stages. With Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Luke Donald, the possibility exists to have a Sunday finish that could rival the ’81 championship in star power.

It starts with Woods and his four green jackets. After his dizzying fall from the pinnacle of golf, Woods has resurrected his game and comes into Augusta fresh off of his seventh win at Bay Hill. Woods’ new swing finds him in the fairway with more regularity than at any time in his career, and he is striking his irons with prodigious length and pinpoint accuracy. Most importantly for this championship, he has rediscovered his putting stroke. Even when he has struggled, Woods has not been far down the leaderboard. If he can keep all three phases together for all four rounds, Woods could find himself shopping for a fifth hanger for his Masers closet.

If Woods is the King, then McIlroy at the tender age of 22 is the Golden Prince. When Woods burst on the scene there was no dominant golfer to depose. For Rory McIlroy, the landscape is cluttered with worthy opponents, none more formidable than Woods. With perhaps the best combination of pretty and potent in a swing since Sam Snead, McIlroy has shown he has the horsepower, the touch and the imagination to go low on any course in the world. He experienced the thrill of victory with a runaway win at the U.S. Open; he also experienced the agony of defeat during his collapse in 2011 on the back nine on Sunday at Augusta. Clearly McIlroy is a thoroughbred, and with a couple of par rounds could have three majors to his credit instead of one. He’s back this year, more experienced, more focused and with a king-sized Irish chip on his shoulder. A victory this week would position him squarely as the heir to Woods’ throne.

Mickelson has spent his career in Woods’ shadow. But Mickelson has won at Augusta twice (2006, 2010) since Woods has won once (2005). He has shed the stigma of playing head to head with Woods, besting him time after time in direct competition. Before taking a break earlier this season, Mickelson was the hottest golfer in the world. Working with Butch Harmon, Mickelson is swinging with more precision and athleticism than ever. A win this week would tie him with Woods at four championships and add to Mickelson’s quest to become the most successful over-40 golfer of all time.

Luke Donald is the Rodney Dangerfield of this group, seeking respect despite his No. 1 world ranking. Donald has won five times in the last year, and when favored son McIlroy took the number one ranking this year, Donald snatched it back with a win at Innisbrook. At 34, Donald is playing stellar golf in the prime of his career. Some have said that he is “too nice” to win a major. Donald will be out to prove that he is too good not to.

It would be a blessing from the golf Gods to have Woods, McIlroy, Mickelson and Donald in the final pairings on Sunday at Augusta. Throw in defending champion Charl Schwartzel, top-ranked American Hunter Mahan, past U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell, defending PGA Champion Keegan Bradley, cartoon-long Bubba Watson … the mind boggles at the opportunities for legends to be born or burnished on Sunday. While the legacies of Woods and Mickelson are secure, the game is afoot to see if McIlroy, Donald and the rest can make to the leap from excellent to exceptional.

To use a line usually reserved for holidays that fall later on the calendar: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

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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.

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Flatstick Focus

Flatstick Focus: Anser-Style Draft and Interview with Nate Stone from Chirrp

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In Episode 10, Glenn and Parker draft a team of 5 Anser-style putters to compete for listener votes on Instagram. We also interview Nate Stone from Chirrp Golf to discuss their new product coming to the market later in 2020.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The best golf commercials of all time

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The world of golf has seen its fair share of commercials; both memorable and well…not so much.

Lucky for us, and cinematographers alike, production values, camera technology, and creative concepts have certainly improved over time with the biggest creative leap thanks to Nike golf. This is look back and both some and the best and, let’s say less creative.

Golf’s Not That Hard, Right?

The Moment Tiger introduces Joe the 27 Handicap, you know it’s not going to end well.

Titleist DT – It’s Wound In.

I don’t know if the best part of this commercial is the music, the fist pumps, or the classic sweater and stiff collar outfits worn by everyone involved.

Shankapotomus

This was a big Superbowl commercial and it was long after that shankapotomus became part of the golf vernacular.

Kenny G Sells Clubs?

I’ll never quite understand that demographic that was targeted at. People, that enjoy forgiving clubs and smooth saxophone? I guess Lisa Simpson wasn’t available.

Boo Weekley – Launching It

When it comes to characters in golf, Boo Weekly will always be remembered as one of the finest. Although considering VJ is well knows for living right next to TPC Sawgrass I feel like they took some liberties with shooting locations.

Get Custom Fit!

Although the company certainly isn’t around anymore the message is a good one – You’re going to play better with custom-fit clubs. Throw in a groin-hit for good measure because that’s always fun right?

Big Bertha Caddies

This one is pretty good, and if you have ever caddied for any period of time it’s quite relatable. But regardless of the clubs there players are gaming, I’d rather not be carrying a staff bag around for 36 holes unless there is “a little something for the effort.”

PING G10 Irons & Driver

These will always be my favorite golf commercials. They are endlessly funny and play directly into many golfers often farsighted aspirations around their own golf games. Best line “Exactly. One good year and that’s all taken care of.”

What did we miss, GolfWRXers? Let us know your favorite golf commercials in the comments!

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Opinion & Analysis

A 2015 conversation with Dean Snell

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In 2015, Dean Snell answered nine questions for our Ronald Montesano, for publication on his site, BuffaloGolfer.Com. As we all know, Snell Golf is still around and succeeding.

Have a bit of time travel with us, as we go back five years and read what Dean Snell had to say.

Dean Snell lists positions with Titleist and TaylorMade golf ball divisions over his 25 years of involvement with the development of golf balls. In 2015, Snell founded Snell Golf, selling golf balls directly to the consumer. He agreed to answer our interview questions, so have a read.

1. Give us an idea of how Dean Snell found golf and how it became the focal point of his professional life.

I actually did not like golf at all growing up.. I was a hockey player my whole life. My first golf experience was when i was playing hockey out in Hershey PA, my dad came out to see me play, and we had a day off, so he wanted to play golf. I rented clubs.. he was a very good player. The first hole I shot my ball so far right, never found it.. he made par.. Second hole I was again way right, in the woods.. when I heard a huge commotion in the fairway.. my dad was also a big boy, and took no crap from anyone… well these two guys were in his face, so I ran across fairway, clothes-lined one guy and we beat the crap out of these two guys on the second fairway. needless to say they threw us off the course.

I asked my dad what happened on the ride home… evidently he was waiting for me in the woods, and the guys behind us hit their ball and it rolled into him.. so he grabbed a 3 wood and fired it back at them… then they came down and it was GAME ON… so i thought maybe golf can be a fun thing after all.. haha..

I was actually working at BF Goodrich Aerospace and Defense in 1990 designing composite parts for F16 and blackwhawk helicopters when I answered an ad for a quality engineer at Titleist… which happened to be in my hometown of Acushnet MA… they sent my resume over to R&D because of the engineering degree and background I had… two weeks later they offered me a job and I started my career in golf.. i didn’t even have a set of clubs…So I got some clubs, started playing and have been hooked on golf since… which makes it easier cause my hockey days are not over…I started working on designing the engineering process to make cast urethane golf balls, and introduced the first cast urethane ball in Titleist Professional in 1994/95.

2. What were the most important lessons you learned while at Acushnet and TaylorMade?

I love both companies… Both extremely professional and very technical… While at Acushnet, I truly had to learn the game of golf.. engineering, performance, what was important, testing, EVERYTHING…. then i began to work with the tour players and developing a good understanding of what they would look for in a design. At TaylorMade it was a complete business start up… They had one ball patent, and didn’t even have a scale to weigh a ball.. so very interesting in building factories, processes, designs, development and complete business practices.. Again, worked very close with tour players and continued to understand what they need and how to make products they eventually would play and win at the highest level. Today, a lot of these players are still good friends and I keep in touch with.

3. Snell has two golf ball lines, the “My Tour Ball” and the “Get Sum.” What are the most important features of each ball?

MY TOUR BALL is a 3-pc CAST URETHANE covered ball..this cover technology has been around since 1994 and I believe nothing will ever replace it.. it is outstanding… allows very soft covers for soft feel, extremely durable urethane and we cast it very thin to allow outstanding short game spin and control…The core is very low compression and FAST in ball speed, which equates to lower driver spin rates and faster ball speeds, both of which make the ball very long off the tee… the mantle layer is designed to control the iron spin… it works with the core on longer irons to keep spin down and prevent ballooning, and then works with the soft urethane cover to create high short game spin and control…LONG, SOFT, ,DURABLE, and spin control… great combo.

GET SUM is made to have low compression, low spin core and thin soft ionomer cover to give very soft feel. This ball is lower in spin, launches a bit higher with all clubs.. great ball for higher handicaps, as the lower spin helps reduce hooks and slices and helps the ball fly straighter… also easier to get up in the air, which is sometimes a challenge…

4. How does a start-up golf ball company hope to compete with established companies, boasting decades of success at all levels of the game?

In all honesty I do not think we plan to compete with the big companies. This is an on line direct to consumer based business where we reduce a lot of expenses and pass the savings on to the consumers… The larger companies will still have the big stores, on course and off course retailers, and even they sell some on line… I am trying to bring the best technologies and processes and performance at a lower price to consumers to help them play more, and want to play more..The way we sell will not be measured in any market share numbers reported by the larger companies.

5. Snell golf has a members forum on its site, for supporters to ask questions, contribute comments and offer opinions. What is the value in dedicating a portion of the site to your customers?

I love education and think that golf is very tough and technical.. I have some good experience and stories over the last 25 years, and if I can find a place to share this info to consumers, I love to do that. anyone can log on and submit any technical questions they may have about golf balls and technology, and I will do my best to give my technical opinion and help them out…

6. Currently, Snell golf balls are available only through the company website. Why is this and will it continue into the future?

We are a small start up… the niche today is selling direct to consumers.. so no big marketing expenses, no big tour contracts, no sales reps, no mark ups… so the balls cost the same to make as other balls, but all the expenses we can save is passed on to the consumers…I have a lot of pro shops call and want to carry… will it ever been seen in pro shops, I am sure it will… but today we have a niche and are not set up to support this type of system. If any pro shop wanted to call and place an order for their club or members, we would certainly take the order and ship out the next day…I have a crawl, walk run philosophy in business… i think if you try to do too many things too fast, you fail. we have a had a lot of requests to have distributors overseas… great ideas, but just not ready to do this yet… LET IT DEVELOP is my favorite saying.

7. How will you measure success for Snell golf balls?

Our plans are realistic and we plan to start small and let it develop… learn and try to do things right. We have target goals to meet in a 3 year plan, and will work hard every day to meet these goals…

8. What aspects of golf ball development and production are most unknown/confusing to the consumer, and deserve clarification?

I think I have two…compression.. people think they have to play a low compression ball to “compress” the ball..not true at all every golfer compresses the ball.. compression is a designers tool that helps us understand spin rates and has a small factor in the overall feel of the ball.. so dont worry about compression.. most balls today have not ratings for a reason.. they are not important… Second is swing speed… in my opinion players should not choose a ball based on swing speed.. if a player picks a lower compression ball based on swing speed, that means he or she is playing a ball that has a lower spin rate… so think about it… you are picking a ball that “may” increase your ball speed by 0.5 mph with a driver.. lets say that did happen.. that means now your 230 yard drive just went 231 yards… so now you are a whopping one yard longer (maybe) and you have to play the rest of the hole with a ball that is made to have no spin or low spin… and where do you need spin the most? around the green…you should play a ball that fits your game around the green.. test several models from inside 70 yards.. chips,… putts, etc.. then dont worry about driver.. they all go about the same distance today… but you score around the green… choose the ball that fits your game where you play the most… not off the tee…

9. What questions haven’t we asked, that you wish we had? Ask them and answer them, please.

Is this a cheap tour ball?

No, I never use the word cheap.. people believe that if the tour ball is cheaper then it is not as good.. i only ask that you try it… I used the same technologies and materials that have been used in tour balls for over 20 years… proven on tour… the performance is there.. the cost is a savings for you to hope you play more…

Will there be any tour players in the ball?

At this point, we have had a few players contact us to play the ball.. unfortunately, as a small start up, we are not paying large tour contracts at this time, and are passing this savings on to you the consumers… I have designed or co designed golf balls for the best players in the world over the last 25 years at both Titliest and TaylorMade, and have a good understanding of golf ball performance, and what it takes to create this type for performance. Golf is my passion today, but hockey is still my favorite sport… even if I have never been successful to tie the two sports together like I had in my first golf experience with my dad.. haha..

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