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Veterans, youth collide in third playing of McGladrey

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By no means did The McGladrey Classic have a sophomore slump in 2011. In fact, the success of the second playing at St. Simons Island’s Seaside Course set a very high standard for the event to maintain. The field featured 15 major champions and 13 PGA Tour winners from the 2011 season. Tack on a stellar final round — Ben Crane defeated Webb Simpson in a playoff after firing a 7-under 63 — and the event planners could not have scripted a better weekend for a second-year event. While this year’s field (10 major champions and six Tour winners from 2012) may not be as haughty as 2011’s, The McGladrey Classic is still poised to provide plenty of entertainment this weekend.

With a consummate professional such as Davis Love III being tied to the event — his Davis Love Foundation is the host organization and Love himself serves as host — there is no question regarding quality, which is probably what led McGladrey to extend its sponsorship agreement through 2015. Love has quickly developed and promoted the tournament in an effort to attract his peers to the resort destination that many tour professionals call home. Charles Howell III, Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk are three more notable local stalwarts in the early foundation of the event and are once again present to compete for the title.

In a year that has seen a variety of winners, ranging from experienced veterans to the breakthrough up-and-comers, this week’s field involves many of the same elements. The 7,005 yard track has proved possible to score on in each of its first two years, with Heath Slocum and Crane coming away victorious with scores of 14-under and 15-under, respectively.

Host Love is the first of several veterans who could make a run this week, as long as he has enough left in the tank. This week marks Love’s 19th Tour event of the season, all coming amid his Ryder Cup captaincy and of course his hosting duties this week. Love is two-for-two in cuts during the Fall Series, but has a stroke average 72.5 when it comes to the weekends. In his previous two outings at the event, Love has a T-33 and a MC.

John Daly, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh are three more headlining veterans who have the ability to play well this weekend, but have had seasons marred by letdowns. Daly returns to the course for the first time after his tale of two tournaments in Vegas. After getting into contention with opening rounds of 69-63, the two-time major champion exploded to go 86-77 over the weekend and finish last at 11-over 295. Furyk will tee it up for the first time since the Ryder Cup, which he called the lowest point of his year. Meanwhile, Singh continues to post his name on the leader board and is coming off a T-4 at the Frys.com Open.

However, one common letdown for these players may be the flat stick. Last year, Ben Crane ranked second in both Putts per Round (28.5) and Strokes Gained-Putting (8.155) en route to victory. Each of these vets may still be able to strike it, but the putter hasn’t come through in the heat of competition. On the season, Furyk claims the highest ranking of the four between the two categories, being No. 24 in Strokes Gained-Putting at .407.

Of the young guns, Jonas Blixt is undoubtedly the hottest as he comes to the East Coast. The rookie has back-to-back top three finishes, claiming his first TOUR win at the Frys last week. Blixt boasts a strong putting game, displayed as he sits atop the Strokes Gained-Putting category at .864.

Bud Cauley is another poised-beyond-his-years type of player and has done well in southern events. Some of his top finishes this year include a T-4 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a solo fourth at the True South Classic and a solo third at the Wyndham. Cauley’s been consistent as of late, with the PGA Championship at Kiawah being his only MC in his last 10 events.

Meanwhile, Michael Thompson returns to St. Simons looking for somewhat of a repeat performance. Last year, Thompson fired four rounds in the 60s at the McGladrey, but came up one shot short of the playoff. The Tour sophomore has missed the cut in five of his last eight events following his T2 at the U.S. Open. In his most recent outing, Thompson finished with a  T-13 in Vegas, including rounds of 68-69 on the weekend.

Finally, Jason Day and Gary Woodland — both a little more experienced than the previous three players mentioned — will look to contend for the title in their first visit to the event. Both have struggled throughout the year, but both are also coming off their best finish of the year. Day closed in Vegas with rounds of 64-65 to claim fourth while Woodland earned a T-9 last week after a weekend of 66-68.

With a field of proven winners and youthful talent, there is no doubt that Sunday’s leader board will carry an assortment of names. As the McGladrey continues to attract the game’s best to supplement its highly talented locals, it will surely have a home as one of the Fall Series’ most talked about and highly regarded events.

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

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GolfWRX fan turned GolfWRX contributor. Sports fan, golf enthusiast. Looking to provide a variety of content to GolfWRX.

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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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