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Tour Rundown: Europe storms back, Kizzire takes trophy in a marathon playoff

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The second week of 2018 returned a number of tours to action around the globe.  The Hawaiian-stretch concluded on the PGA Tour, while Europe began its campaign in South Africa. The PGA Tour Champions and PGA Tour Australasia were also in action. And just for fun, the Web.Com Tour’s Great Exuma Classic in the Bahamas began on Saturday and concludes on Tuesday. At the halfway point, Dan McCarthy holds a 1-stroke lead over three guys named Matt, Mark and Rhein. Dash with us to the first Tour Rundown of this new year.

Eurasia Cup goes to Europe in a final-day comeback

Following the trace of the Ryder and Presidents cups, the Eurasia Cup pitted 12 golfers from the Asian continent against a dozen counterparts from Europe. The Asian hosts acquitted themselves well in team play, surging to a 3.5-2.5 lead after Day 1, and retaining the same margin after Day 2, 6.5-5.5. Unfortunately for the likes of Haotong Li, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Byeong Hun An, Day 3 belonged to Europe. The 8.5-3.5 tally over the final 18 holes gave the visitors a 14-11 win.

How Europe won

Alex Noren has played superb golf the last 24 months, winning five times in Europe. He led off on Saturday for Europe, made 5 birdies, and dispatched Nicholas Fung, 4 & 2. And the boys in blue were off in a hurry. Although Poom Saksanin would level the day’s tally with a second-match win over Paul Casey, Europe proceeded to win the following 7 matches and claim the challenge cup. The greatest win belonged to Rafael Cabrera-Bello, who etched 6 birdies onto his scorecard in a 15th-hole win over Gavin Green.

How Asia lost its lead

Although world top-10 golfers Rahm, Rose and Garcia were not in the lineup for Europe, the squad boasted five golfers currently ranked in the world top 20. The highest-ranked golfer from Asia, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, was absent; his presence certainly would have boosted Asia’s hopes on Sunday. Partner play in team matches is unpredictable, but the talent of a team rises on singles day. And so it was at Glenmarie in Malaysia. The Asian team, while dogged, could not ascend to the level of its opponent.

Kizzire outlasts Hahn at the Sony Open in Hawaii

I’ll confess that I still suffer from Woodsitis, where a front-runner was likely to win the tournament, but I’m in treatment. PGA Tour events are supposed to be competitive, and even go topsy-turvy from time-to-time. Such was the case on Sunday at the Waialae Country Club. Over the closing holes, the leader made double bogey and missed the playoff, the guy who shot 62 snuck into the playoff, and the fellow who played the final seven holes in 1-over won the tournament!

How Patton Kizzire committed trophy robbery on Maui

Maxie Patton Kizzire has yet to win on mainland USA, but he has two tournament titles in his two seasons on the big tour. Kizzire never looked like a winner on Sunday, with pars on his first nine holes. An eagle-birdie run at the advent of the inward nine caught our attention, but his finish was anything but spectacular. When Tom Hoge closed poorly, Kizzire found himself in a playoff with James Hahn. The Auburn alumnus never looked like a winner until he won. He missed shots here, there and everywhere, but somehow stayed afloat. On the sixth extra hole, Kizzire made par to Hahn’s bogey, and the trophy was Alabama-bound.

How Hahn and Hoge came up short

Hahn probably felt like the most fortunate guy in the islands. He birdied half of his holes during the final round, and added two more in overtime. Hahn certainly felt comfortable during extra time; both of his tour wins have come in playoffs. Putts on the first two playoff holes singed the edge but did not fall. The third time wasn’t the charm, but second-place money and points are a warm comfort. Hoge confessed that two bad swings did him in, at 8 and 16, but putts on 17 and 18 gave him a look at the title. Ultimately, his rags-to-riches story received a significant boost from his third-place finish.

Related: Patton Kizzire’s Winning WITB

European Tour opens season at South African Open

Chris Paisley had no business winning this tournament. Branden Grace, a native, had yet to win his country’s Open championship, and he was on a roll. Starting the round 1 behind Paisley, Grace began with birdie and eagle to take the lead. And yet, there was Paisley on the 18th green, owner of a 3-shot victory margin and his inaugural European Tour title. What gives?

How Paisley dumped the monkey

He made 6 birdies and 12 pars on Sunday. Simple, really. Paisley didn’t twitch when Grace blazed early. He kept playing the game that had given him the lead through 54 holes. Paisley spread his birdies out, three on each nine, never consecutively. He forced Grace’s hand, demanded that he play better quicker. On Sunday, Paisley looked more the part of the veteran winning for a 5th or 10th time, and not a 32-year old on the cusp of his first, prime-time title.

How Grace lost his chance at the win

As quickly as the South African golfer grasped the lead on Sunday, he gave it away. Facing a similar bunker recovery to one he had on Saturday where he had to play the ball away from the hole into the fringe, Grace flinched. He pulled it off on Saturday, but left the ball in the sand on Sunday. The resulting double bogey was the only non-par he had from third to the 11th holes. A bogey on 12 was followed by eagle and birdie on the next two holes. For a golfer who prides himself on consistent play, Round 4 was an oddity for Branden Grace.

Champions Tour opens unofficially at the Diamond Resorts Invitational

What better way to start the season than with an unofficial, modified stableford event? Add non-golf athletes and LPGA stalwarts to the field, and the fun really kicks in. Scott Parel held a 1-point advantage on Saturday evening, but felt the weight of expectations throughout the final day. Meanwhile Scott Dunlap made a move with 34 points on Sunday, including a birdie on the last hole. When the dust had settled, two Scotts were tied at the top.

How Parel persevered

Scott Parel last won on the Web.Com Tour in the early part of the decade. He came to the 16th hole 3 points behind Dunlap, but made bogey. His 17th-hole birdie brought him into a tie for the lead, guaranteeing that a closing par would get him the final point he needed for the win. Well, that’s not easy to do, especially after your playing partner shanks his tee ball on the par-3 closer. Parel fanned on his tee shot, left his pitch well short, and made another bogey to finish tied with Dunlap. On the playoff hole, Parel acquitted himself better, two-putting from fairway short of the green for par and the victory.

How Dunlap dunked

It’s unfair to ignore what Scott Dunlap put together on Sunday, and focus solely on the wretched way he played the sole, sudden-victory hole. Dunlap shot the equivalent of a 64 in Round 3, with birdies on his final three holes. Much like Kenny Perry in the 1996 PGA Championship, Dunlap may not have expected to go to extra holes, and may not have prepared for the playoff as expected. What is known is this: he dunked his tee shot, left his par pitch 30 feet short, and left his bogey putt 3 feet short. Ugh.

PGA Tour Australia visits New Zealand for the REBEL Sport Masters

Auckland and its Wainui Country Club hosted the opening event of 2018 on the PGA Tour of Australasia. A full field of hungry young golfers did battle, but in the end, it was a few wizened veterans who held court at the REBEL Sport Masters.

How Millar scaled the mountain

Matthew Millar had as clean a card as one could desire over his closing triumvirate of 67s. One bogey and one double were all that marred his stellar play over the final 54 holes. The result was a 5-stroke triumph and his second career Australasian tournament title. Even Millar’s opening 72, 1-over par, was a thing of consistency. His 15 pars and 1 birdie simply needed a few more of the later; he obliged over the next three days.

How Smail and Fowler locked in their top-3 finishes

David Smail was brilliant over the first six holes on Sunday. Birdies on five of them brought him into the title picture, but he could not maintain the pace. To his credit, not a single bogey soiled his card on the final day. Unfortunately, after birdie at the 6th, it would be nine consecutive pars before closing with birdies at 16 and 18. Nevertheless, his mighty 64 shot him past a host of competitors into solo second. The ageless Peter Fowler led on Day 1 with 66, but would not crack 70 the rest of the way. His veteran guile allowed him to overcome bogeys on 2 and 3 on Day 4, and steady the rudder. With 5 birds against 2 bogeys over the remainder of the course, Fowler came in under par on Day 4, 1 behind Smail and 5 back of Millar.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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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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