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Opinion & Analysis

Was Tiger Woods really swinging his driver between 124-and-128 mph at the Honda Classic?

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In case you missed Tiger Woods in action at the Honda Classic last week, he looked strong with the driver en route to a 12th place finish. He didn’t find many fairways with the big stick, but he appeared to be swinging it fast and hitting it far — actually, he ranked No. 2 in driving distance (319.1 yards) for the week.

But, just how fast was he actually swinging the driver?

According to Brandel Chamblee’s research (he appears to be using live ShotLink data), Tiger was bringing it between 124.5 and 128.4 mph, as measured on hole No. 3 each round.

And just how high is 128 mph club head speed?

Wait a second. If he was swinging the club that fast, shouldn’t his ball speed and distance be way higher? Well, it makes more sense when you look at the smash factor, which is surprisingly low. Smash factor is a ratio of ball speed and club head speed, and the highest possible (depending on who you ask) is 1.50. So Tiger producing smash factors between 1.416 and 1.456 means that while he was swinging the club very, very fast, he was missing the center of the club face, too.

Here’s top-100 teacher and GolfWRX featured writer Tom Stickney’s take: “As with anyone, this shows that not even Tiger is exempt from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. Usually when you try and swing at the upper end of the spectrum, you will find that impact quality suffers. Therefore, you must find your own balance between swing speed and centeredness of contact.”

Of course, there’s a number of different explanations for the numbers — from a few well-respected names in the golf industry, I might add — in the responses to Chamblee’s Tweet.

 

What do you think? Do you think Tiger was really swinging the driver that fast, and simply missing the center of the face? Or do you think the club head speeds were jacked up?

See what GolfWRX Members are saying about this in the forums.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. ray

    Mar 19, 2018 at 8:55 am

    No way 128. He was going after it pretty hard at Arnold’s tourney and wasn’t hitting 180 ball speed.

  2. Robert Parsons

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Measured hitting a fade?

  3. Stephen

    Feb 28, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    This jurry-rigging won’t last for long. canna’ change the laws of physics

  4. Christopher

    Feb 28, 2018 at 4:06 pm

    The 1.5 Smash Factor Ratio isn’t an absolute, it varies with the data gathering device. A perfect ratio with something like GCQuad is 1.45.

    Seems like a storm in a teacup for 4 measurements over 4 different days with something that usually has decent +/- tolerances at best.

  5. David

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Who cares?

  6. Paul

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    This has been one of Tigers problems all along. The harder he swings, the worst he hits his drives. I have seen him swing controlled and smooth and hit the fairway or al least the first cut. When he swings out of his shoes, the ball goes way right more often then not.

  7. Steve Pratt

    Feb 28, 2018 at 1:04 pm

    As a long time TM owner, I don’t believe Tiger would miss a driver bad enough to get a 1.41 smash…that’s horrible. A tour player’s worst miss is usually 1.46.

    So yah my gut feeling is that 128 he popped is an electronic outlier. If he does it again in his next tournament I will admit I was wrong.

  8. DRod

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:43 pm

    I will take a different approach; he is driving the ball terribly since his return. This is the worst I’ve seen Tiger off the tee. It could be a number of things, regardless of these numbers. Does he even have a driver that fits his swing? I don’t think he does. He’s experimented with several shaft combinations, both on the range and now the last two tour stops. Neither worked. This data means nothing…he needs to figure out his swing and that might entail equipment changes, including the ball. Just my 2-cents.

  9. Bob Jones

    Feb 28, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    We care about this because . . .?

  10. sean coxe

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Would the ball he’s using have any effect?

  11. Scott sinclair

    Feb 28, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I watch people hit balls on Trackman all day and Taylor Made drivers definitely have an amped up swing speed. Since Trackman gets the ball speed correct the smash factor will always be low.
    Also the Callaway Rogue reads slightly lower swing speeds (from my experience) and therefore the smash factor is always high.
    It is possible this was done on purpose on both companies behalf or not.

  12. OG

    Feb 28, 2018 at 9:56 am

    Did it ever occur to any of you that maybe he was intentionally aiming for the heel on the face for say, a heel-cut? Smash factor would be lower of course.

  13. Iain

    Feb 28, 2018 at 6:13 am

    That would mean every players data was wrong or do you think it was only Tigers that was wrong,!?

  14. Mike C

    Feb 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    The smash factor makes no sense. Neither does a 6° Launch.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

      It only makes no sense to the ignorant and anti-science no hope duffers.

  15. Woody

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    Sure anyone on tour can go 128 for one hole…and to everyone who complains about numbers. It’s a golf website, these articles are meant to fill dead space.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:21 pm

      High driver speed – higher risk and better/worst results. No secret here.

  16. Doug

    Feb 27, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I think the explanation is somewhere in the middle… bad reading, mishit, wind, etc. But if we accept that Tiger wasn’t hitting the sweet spot with his new TM M3 and it’s touted Twist Face technology to compensate for the mishit, does that mean Taylormade may have some explaining to do? It might make me start to window shop!

    • foreright

      Mar 6, 2018 at 10:27 am

      supposedly tour players don’t actually use the twist face

  17. CrashTestDummy

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Too many factors involved (AOA, spin rate, launch angle, wind, turf conditions, smash, etc) to determine carry distance and total distance. However with that being said, I have found that all launch monitors are not 100% accurate exact science even though the numbers portray it as. Obviously, there is discrepancies with readings, but it doesn’t really matter a few yards here or there. The score is the important fact.

    • Ogo

      Feb 27, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Only if launch monitors were as accurate as your Scotty/Bettinardi/Ping/Odyssey/Other Studio Tour Only putters…. and PXG clubs. Your need for perfect accuracy from launch monitors just reveals your high standards of performance.

  18. Dana Upshaw

    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    I can’t begin to count the number of “caved” TM driver faces I saw the last six years I operated my shop. First hint was low smash readings with center hits. Radius gauge confirmed flat or caved faces. Hand the client a new club and with same swing speed smash goes up.

    Easy driver carry computation is swing speed x 2.5. Watch the “pro tracer” numbers and run the numbers. You’ll generally be within a few yards of what PT will show for carry. Exceptional ballstrikers who produce high launch/low spin can use a 2.6 factor.

  19. SK

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    If Tiger was swinging ~126 mph average and his Smash Factor was depressed at ~1.436 average that can only mean he is not impacting the ball with a squared off club face.
    His clubhead path may be on line but if his driver face is skewed slightly that will result in an undesirable initial ball path and errant spin axis which will lower the SM as well as push or pull the ball which he is doing. Simple vector physics.

  20. Nick

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Not a chance he was swinging 128. Come on Brandel – it is so easy to tell by his swing that he’s not. 128 looks and sounds different than that! He’s probably around 119-122 Not a chance. He’s swinging fast for sure. 128 is like an LD guy in regular play.

    • What?!

      Feb 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      LD guys swing at 145mph or faster, with a regular 45 length they still top out over 140. 128 is not outside the realm, the top guys on tour have hit that number. In fact a newbie in last years US Open hit 130mph on the radar with a tour swing.

  21. Johnnythunders

    Feb 27, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    Who cares? Why this age of fascination with computer generated numbers. Wow high ball speed, he’s back! Wow low smash factor, he sucks.

    Did he win? No, 12th is all the matters.

    • The dude

      Feb 28, 2018 at 10:16 pm

      Idiot

      • njrp

        Mar 1, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        He lost again…get over it. I would be focussed on instead on how there is no way Tiger won’t blow out his four time operated on back swinging that fast. The only reason he did not blow out his back at a younger age because he let his knee take all the torqueing. Once he had to protect that knee he started to blow out his back.

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Opinion & Analysis

Hot Drivers: What’s really going on!

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Thanks to the R & A and Xander Schauffele, along with (allegedly) at least three other players we don’t know about yet having drivers test over the CT limit for speed, the golf world has exploded with hot takes on the subject.

Did the players know? Did someone else know? Are OEMs building fast drivers to trick the machine?

I’m not here to make hot takes, I’m here to talk facts and truths about how we got here and how Xander Shauffele (and potentially others) arrived at Royal Portrush with drivers over the CT limit.

First, let me make one thing straight, I don’t believe Xander, or any of the other players, had any idea their drivers were illegal/over the limit. Did they know they had a great driver that performed? Yes, but golf is a game of integrity and like life, in golf your reputation is everything; I don’t believe for a second they thought they were getting a distinct advantage against their playing competition.

How Does This Happen?

Modern driver heads are complex things. The tolerances that the OEMs and their suppliers work with are extremely tight—like aerospace industry tight—one engineer I have spoken to many times has said its actually tighter. You have extremely thin yet strong titanium, moveable weights, carbon fiber, and more working together in a complex geometry. They are built to launch golf balls up to 185 MPH all while maintaining flexibility so as not to explode on impact. It’s not easy to make a good one but the good ones make it seem easy.

A driver face will eventually wear out, its a fact. It can only take so many impacts before it will fail. The number it takes is generally very high, so high that many golfers will switch before failure ever occurs. It is well known within the industry that as drivers are used they actually get FASTER! The fastest a driver will ever be for ball speed are the few balls before eventual failure because of the increased flex happening with the face and the great energy transfer… but where does this flex come from?

OEMs are in the business of distance, and making drivers as long as possible. Thanks to advanced manufacturing, processes, and materials, they can now make drivers right to the limit and truly push the envelope with every single head. TaylorMade, for example, even openly talks about how thanks to the new speed injection on the M5 and M6 drivers, they are building drivers beyond the limit and dialing them back—pretty cool technology if you ask me.

Fast drivers + high swing speed players = a perfect storm for drivers to become hot.

The CT (characteristic time ) limit is .239 with an allowance of .018, meaning the absolute limit the OEMs have to work with is .257. If you get a driver that was measured by both the factory and your tour department and deemed legal at say .255 then you are good to go. But, without daily testing, we dont’t know when this “hot” stage in the driver’s life occurs: 100 balls? 1,000? What if you test before and after a round and it only fails after? No way to tell when it failed, maybe it was after the final tee shot and it was never non-conforming during play, what is the outcome? It’s not like the .003 increase would offer any distinct advantage once you factor in player and environmental factors, but still under the rules it’s a NO-NO.

You could even go the other way when it comes to wedges. I’ve been suggested the hypothesis that you could mill illegal grooves into a wedge beyond the limit but after a single bunker practice session of say 150-200 shots it’s now legal and RIGHT at the limit because of wear. In reality, this CT limit-pushing greatly benefits the regular golfer and allows any players to get the absolute most out of their driver (legally) when they get fit for a new one. Tour players get this same advantage, but because of their swing speeds, the likelihood of then getting to the fastest/hottest point is going to happen, well…faster.

Tolerance, Tolerance, Tolerance…

With so much talk about the tolerances of each head, what about the CT measuring devices? We’re talking about .003 microseconds! One tiny change to the way the test is conducted by the user, or how the machine is calibrated and there will be variance.

It’s the same thing when talking about lies and lofts, if unknown to you, the machine you use is off by a single degree then at least the whole set is “off” which from a players perspective is fine as long as you are seeing the intended results. Unfortunately, when it comes to the rules this could be the difference between a driver passing and failing—that’s a big deal.

What this has exposed and shown the world is that modern drivers really are pushing the limit for all golfers. Does it mean we need a rule roll back or adjustment to the CT variance to get the “hot” driver okayed…OR, does this mean the governing bodies to need put a real clamp down of how and when a driver can be tested and what it really means to “be at the limit”?

There is certainly a lot to discuss on many sides of this issue from player, rules,  technology perspectives, but if one thing is for sure, this really is just the tip of the iceberg to another element of the distance debate.

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Opinion & Analysis

Chat with a (soon-to-be) PGA Tour champion: Sam Ryder

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From 2003 through 2008, I had a side job as a high school golf coach for Bishop Moore High School in Orlando, Florida. One of the kids to come up through the ranks during my tenure at Bishop Moore was a young man named Sam Ryder. Now, at 29 years of age, Sam is in his sophomore season on the PGA Tour, qualifying by way of his second-place finish in the standings on the 2017 (then) Web.com Tour.

Ryder played on the PGA Tour Canada in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, he finished fourth in the PGA Tour Canada Order of Merit earning a place on the Web.com Tour for 2016.

In July 2017, Ryder had his first Web.com win, at the Pinnacle Bank Championship, finishing eight strokes ahead of the field. He finished second in the 2017 Web.com Tour regular season rankings to gain a place on the PGA Tour for 2018.

In his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, Sam had a T2 finish at the John Deere, a fifth-place finish at the Houston Open and a T7 at the Barbasol Championship. He finished the year ranked 101 in the FedEx Cup Race.
This year, despite battling an injury, Sam has a third at the Shriners, a T4 at the Safeway and just last week, a T18 at the John Deere. He is currently ranked 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings and 190th in the World Golf Rankings.

I recently caught up with Sam to chat about his run-up to the PGA Tour and all the various experiences that go along with that.

So, let’s go back to your Bishop Moore days…when I was coaching my last year of vrsity, I think you were a junior. Sean took over your senior year. Curious, if back then, did you aspire of playing professionally?

SR: Generally, yes, I think I always saw myself playing baseball growing up. I wanted to be a professional in Major Leagues. When I turned to golf, I continued the path. I have always thought, “Why put in the effort if you don’t have a means to an end?” Without putting the goal on paper, it was always the end goal: to see how far I can go.

How about your years at Stetson? How did that play into your development as a future PGA Tour star?

SR: Stetson was my only Division 1 scholarship offer, and actually the only school I applied to. I knew I wanted to give golf a shot. Playing Division 1 in Florida was going to give me my best opportunity to get better.

At what point during your rise through the Canadian and Web.com did you really feel like you had what it took to play full time on the PGA Tour?

SR: I’ve always just wanted to see how good I can get. I love the game of golf, so it’s easy for me to work hard. I never knew if I was going to be a failed pro who never made it on tour or make it to number one in the world. But I’ve always been driven by the competitive nature of the sport and wanting to see where I “stack up” so to speak.

What was the most eye-opening part of playing full time on the PGA Tour for you?

SR: I think the biggest challenge of being a PGA Tour rookie is trying to learn all of the new golf courses. Everything about being a rookie on Tour is setting you up to be uncomfortable. Rookies are really behind the eight-ball when they get out there. Until you’re able to get into a routine and develop a level of comfort it’s hard to expect good results. I wanted to stay true to my approach for the most part. I earned my way on the PGA Tour and knew I was good enough based on the success I had on the Web.com Tour. I’m always trying to get better, but I wanted to do it my way, the way that got me there. It’s really easy to try to be someone you’re not when you get on Tour.

You have been in contention multiple times on the weekend and deep into a Sunday, what have you taken as the biggest positive from those experiences and what do you feel you still need to work on in regard to notching that first win?

SR: Biggest positive: playing well in big-time pressure moments. I haven’t really “lost” an event, so to speak. I have come from behind to make a good push. Knowing that when I am in these situations, and the adrenaline is going, I am able to hit the shots and make the putts. It gives me confidence that I am not going to fold in a pressure situation.

Something that everyone is always working on, including Tiger Woods, is to stay in the moment. As cliche as that is, it is a constant struggle to focus on the task at hand. Don’t get too high or low- treat each shot for what it is…

As a PGA Staff Professional with Cleveland/Srixon for several years, I know how great the equipment is with them. What had you join their team as a staff Tour Professional?

SR: I’ve been with Cleveland since I turned pro in 2012-13, they were the first manufacturer to approach me, and I love their equipment from the ball to the wedges and now the irons and driver.

What currently are you and your coach working on?

SR: Having missed significant time due to injury recently, we are just working on a lot of the same things I have been working on, my swing doesn’t change much. Right now, distance control with the irons and wedges is a focus.

Any veteran Tour members welcome you as a new member when you first came out? Kind of show you the ropes.

SR: Former player, Fulton Allem, gave me advice about managing strengths and weaknesses. Some players get so consumed with their weakness that they lose their strengths. Other players maximize their strengths and have awareness and the ability to monitor and play around their weaknesses. That goes along with the importance of staying true to your identity as a player as opposed to trying to be someone you’re not.

Chris DiMarco has been a mentor to me, growing up in the Orlando area. He has been able to provide guidance and support over the past few years, as I navigate my first years on TOUR.

For the most part veteran players as a whole have been accommodating and welcoming and are happy to share knowledge along the way.

So, what’s a typical work week look like for you? Tournament week and non?

SR: Tournament Weeks are pretty consistent…

Monday- is usually a travel day and I make a point to good work out in that day, as it’s a day off from golf Tuesday- I play nine holes
Wed- Pro-am
I go to the gym every day before I go to the course, just to get my body warmed up. Thursday and Friday rounds alternate AM/ PM tee times. I get up three hours before regardless of the time of the round, just to get body ready.

Non-Tournament Weeks…
When I am home, I go to the gym with my trainer, Alex Bennet @ TPC Sawgrass performance center 5/6 times per week. Usually, Monday and Tuesday are days off from golf, to give my body a rest.

I practice on Wed/ Thursday and play money games with other TOUR players on the weekend, to keep my game sharp and prepare for the high stakes the next week. I live less than a mile from the beach, and I enjoy going there to relax. I spend time visiting friends too.

You’ve become somewhat of a fashion icon on tour…what is your take on style and dress on Tour? It seems like a big thing for an observer from this side of the ropes…a way of self-marketing perhaps or standing out from the pack?

SR: I definitely care about my style on the golf course. I’m certainly not afraid to make a little bit of a fashion statement and wear things other players may not be willing to wear. The clothes I wear can definitely contribute to some added confidence, and confidence is one of the most important components to playing good golf.

Curious on your take of the health of golf in general?

SR: I think it’s great. The game of golf is in a good spot. I think Tiger Woods being relevant is massively important to the game, it brings sponsors and more viewers to the game. There is a great crop of young players right now. It is in a healthy, sustainable spot. Jay Monahan really has the TOUR moving in a good direction.

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: Gary Player, Irish ambassadors talk Open in Northern Ireland

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Hall of Famer Gary Player returns to the 19th Hole to talk about the Championship, his record and his favorites to win this year. Also features Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Dan Mulhall and Northern Ireland Consul Director Norman Houston.

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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