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Tour Rundown: Woodland wins in overtime on Super Bowl Sunday

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On the weekend of the big football game, golf offered up excitement across the globe. Playoffs decided events in Australia and Arizona, while an unanticipated comeback from an unknown quantity claimed a European Tour title in Malaysia. On the heels of the “Iggles” big victory in Minnesota, let’s have our own championship Tour Rundown for the first weekend of February.

Woodland claims third PGA Tour title in overtime

Four-point-five years had passed since Gary Woodland won in Reno. His game had improved, but the victories did not follow. On Sunday, one of the tour’s most natural athletes returned to the winner’s circle, dispatching Chez Reavie on the first extra hole.

How Woodland Won

Playoffs are passe on tour these days; four consecutive weeks of them will do that to a fan base. Woodland finished a solid forty minutes before Reavie, thanks to a 9-birdie round of 64 on Sunday. A 10th would have finished things in regulation, but Woodland’s 10-feet effort broke off harmlessly. In the playoff, Woodland drove into the church pew bunkers on the left, but drew a clean lie. He was able to reach the front fringe, and his 2-putt par from 25 feet topped Reavie’s bogey five.

See the clubs Woodland used to win on Sunday

How Reavie went down fighting

The 2001 USGA Public Links champion played in Sunday’s final threesome, but drew little inspiration from his partners. Bryson DeChambeau and Rickie Fowler struggled on the fourth day, leaving Reavie to find his own motivation. A poor iron shot into the 16th led to bogey, but the 36-year old responded with two closing birdies, the latter on the strength of a cross-green bomb of a putt. In the playoff, Reavie had the upper hand off the tee, but played a sloppy iron that spun off the green, leaving him a tricky chip. He was unable to get up and down to extend the playoff. Ollie Schniederjans and Brendan Steele tied for third at 15-under par and 3 strokes out of the playoff.

Scott Langley surges for first Web.Com Win

Panama provided a warm welcome for the left-hand brigade. Eric Axley led entering round four. Edward Loar ended in a tie for second, and Langley came out on top. No lead is safe, on any tour, at any time. Birdies and double were exchanged like currency, leaving nothing certain until the final green.

Langley’s Road Map

The 28-year old alum of The First Tee and the University of Illinois had a scorching back-nine on track, with four birdies in his first six holes. A double bogey on the 16th brought him back to the field, but he was able to hold off Rafael Campos and Loar by two strokes. Three birdies on the outward half stood Langley at 7-under on the day, so if ever a double bogey was not the end of the world, this was it.

How the chasers came up short

The buried lede was this: if you’re going to make a double bogey, make lots of birdies. Axley had two of them, and not enough birdies to remain in the hunt. Loar had birdies at 1 and 3, but a late double was his undoing. Campos had a passel of birdies of his own, but three bogeys meant that his comeback effort would come up a bit shy. The daunting, closing trio of holes at Panama Golf Club offered only one birdie (Campos at 17) to the entire top ten on Sunday.

Sharma blazes past field for second Euro Tour title

Shubhankar Sharma was a little-known quantity from India before Sunday. He had won in South Africa in December, but was not on anyone’s radar in Malaysia. In round four, he played the golf we all dream about, posting 10 birdies and nary a bogey, on his way to a 62 and a 2-stroke win over the third-round leader, Jorge Campillo. Sharma tallied 23 birdies on the week, so it’s safe to say the best was left for last.

How Sharma shook off Campillo

In case you missed it, 10 birdies! At dawn’s first light, Sharma was barely inside the top 20. He finished an hour ahead of the final trio, who had to wonder if the scoreboard had been taken over by jesters. Despite not making birdie at the easy opening hole, Sharma matched 31s on each side to separate himself from the field.

Campillo comes up just shy of a playoff

In truth, it wasn’t as close as it looked. Campillo opened with eagle 3 for the second consecutive day, but had to birdie the final 2 holes to move a stroke ahead of Ryan Fox and countryman Pablo Larrazabal, for solo second spot. Not much that one can do, when golf like Sharma’s is played. Fox had the shot of the week, for an albatross (double-eagle) on Saturday’s first hole, and followed it up on Sunday with an eagle at the opening hole.

Hawkes edges Endycott at Oates Vic Open

In a battle of young pros, third-round leader Simon Hawkes held off Harrison Endycott, emerging triumphant on the first playoff hole. Hawkes had a chance to win in regulation with eagle at the last, but his birdie was enough to cinch a spot in the playoff.

How Hawkes took down Endycott

Simply put, he closed with birdie in regulation to tie, then made birdie on the only playoff hole for the win. Hawkes had 5 birdies against 1 bogey on the final day, enough to dispatch all pursuers save one.

Endycott edged close to victory, but …

He came close, there is not doubt, but Endycott beautiful 66, built by 6 birdies and 12 pars, was just not enough. In the playoff, he and Hawkes both got into bunker trouble, but the runner-up was unable to extract himself efficiently, and settled for par and the second-place check.

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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.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tom54

    Feb 5, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    Maybe Mr Montesano was busy watching Super Bowl pregame instead of Phoenix Open because Chez Reavie was paired with John Rahm and Fowler, not Fowler and DeChambeau. He was correct that both his playing partners did not play that well in his group. Certainly thought Rahm and Fowler would have done better but that’s why we tune in.

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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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