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TaylorMade CEO: We firmly oppose ball rollback, bifurcation

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Last Monday, the USGA and R&A’s annual Distance Report pointed to an increase in distance in professional golf since last year and pledged continued study of the “concerning” trend.

Titleist was the first of the OEMs to respond, citing several issues with the USGA’s research and stating the uptick in distance “is not suddenly indicative of a harmful trend.”

We’ve also heard from Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker, and Lucas Glover.

Now, David Abeles, CEO of TaylorMade, has this to say.

“We have meticulously reviewed the USGA and R&A’s 2017 Distance Report and discussed its findings with key stakeholders. Additionally, we have carefully considered the inferred implications that the study may have on the game moving forward. The TaylorMade Golf Company firmly opposes any potential roll back of product performance or bifurcation of the rules in any form as we believe these movements will be detrimental to the game at every level.

“We are optimistic about golf’s future and we believe that the growth initiatives our industry has invested in are beginning to drive participation momentum in our sport. Any separation from the rules or any step backward in performance would be disadvantageous to the growth of the game.

“For millions of golfers of all skill levels, we believe innovation and technology lead to better performance, and better performance brings more joy to the game for all who play it.

“As the discussion around bifurcation and rollback formalizes, we look forward to having a seat at the table to lend our voice. Until then, we will continue to create the best performing products for all golfers.”

What do you think, GolfWRX members?

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  1. Harry

    Mar 16, 2018 at 2:15 am

    The USGA “could” standardize the ball and decide that all pros in whatever tour would have to play the same ball. Every ball sport does that. MLB uses wooden bats for the same kind of reasons (also to protect the pitchers)- it limits the velocity of the ball off the bats. The players can use whatever wooden bat brand or design, but the same ball for all of them. To have different balls might truly be game changing for that sport. Why not for professional golf?

  2. Greg Platupe

    Mar 14, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    If something doesn’t happen, we will be needing 8000 yard courses to give same challenge as the 6700 course used to . Rounds are getting too long cause the avg Joe can’t play at these new yardages needed to maintain challenge

  3. steve

    Mar 13, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Here’s the rub…. the tour style balls do not provide the average golfer with more distance or better control. However, duffers will still want to buy the tour type balls in the hopeless hope their game will improve. That’s what TM and others are counting on… scam the gullible recreational golfer with costly golf balls that promise great improvements to their game.

  4. Mat

    Mar 13, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    Don’t bifurcate equipment. If you want to have simplified on-course rules for non-tournament play, great! I’m all in for that. We all kind of do it anyway, and the rules are moving that way. Split or no, whatevs. But absolutely, 100% do not in any way split the equipment rules. It is the one thing that connects us to everyone else. So and so hits it 320? Cool. He’s 40 yards past me. Wow. If you have the conversation “He hits it 280, but he has to use a reduced ball and driver”, that just means that you’re cheating, figuratively, to reach the same results. That’s not fun.

    No one plays basketball with a size smaller just because NBA guys have big hands. High school baseball uses the same baseball, and the same CoR bats (albeit aluminum). If the USGA decided to roll back equipment, that’ll be a small bummer, but fine – just don’t split it.

    • J Zilla

      Mar 13, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      WRT basketball, there are different rules for different levels. Different 3 point lines, different fouls, International basketball had different lines on their courts, women and men use different size balls etc.

      HS baseball typically uses a different ball than the Majors as does college or American Legion.

      NCAA football uses a different ball than the NFL which in turn use a different ball than high school.

      Really what it comes down to is if the pro golf game remains an exciting product and if distance gains tearing apart old courses or distance gains making the product boring, then they should consider making rules to aid in increasing entertainment value. Pro sports are products and so are constantly tweaking their rules at the pro level to maintain or increase their excitement level. So what if they make rules that affect .001% of all golfers? You can still play your current clubs and the latest ball. It’s not like the vast majority of golfers should be playing pro level equipment anyway.

      • Rich Douglas

        Mar 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm

        Yes, but those are all spectator sports for the average fan; they don’t play those games. But they play golf, so using the same equipment (well, equipment conforming to the same standards) and playing by the same rule matters.

  5. tlmck

    Mar 13, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    In defense of bifurcation, that’s sort of already happened. The pros and top amateurs already play a different game from everybody else. On the other side, if you do not maintain a handicap and play in tournaments, you are perfectly free to use non-conforming equipment. The USGA are not law enforcement.

    And, if you want to play the same equipment as the pros, you are free to do that as well.

  6. Joseph Weiner

    Mar 13, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Good for TM. I’ve been tweeting-texting-commenting wherever I can. LEAVE the BALL Alone! and do not bifurcate this game.

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Charles Howell III on his switch to Titleist equipment, the ups and downs of the game, and more

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With his win at the RSM Classic, all golf fans by now well know that Charles Howell III ended an 11-year victory drought.

What may be equally as interesting for GolfWRX Members, however, is that the Georgia native did so just a month after totally overhauling his golf bag, switching to 13 Titleist clubs and a prototype 2019 Pro V1 ball.

The presumptive 2019 Titleist signee talked to our Johnny Wunder about the switch and what it was like to go winless for so long.

JW: Charlie, welcome back to the winner’s circle, my friend.

CH III: I appreciate it…I made it as hard as I could, but fortunately, I found a way there.

JW: There was a transition that happened before this — we’ll call it a month ago — into a whole new bag of Titleist equipment. So, the first quest I have is, “What prompted the change, and how difficult was that process for you?”

CH III: When I look at my career, and where I’m at in my career, I thought that, the most important thing for me going forward is my driver and 3-wood. Where, the way that the game is changing, I’ve got to find something that I can hit as far as possible, but also straight…I know that I’m not going to drive the bar as far as Cameron Champ, but I need to maximize whatever I can do. So going through the process of testing a lot of things, it was very clear that the TS drivers really did that for me. My ball speed went up. My overall dispersion pattern became closer together. Really, it was a home run.

Now, we spent a bit of time testing. I know that I wore J.J. [VanWezenbeeck, Titleist Tour Rep] out. But, by the end of the process, I had a TS2 and a TS3 that I could have played in a golf tournament, and it was a flip of a coin really on which one to use. Not a lot of guys can say that about companies, where you can play either model, but for sure, that was the case there.

JW: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the TS2 and the TS3. You had both drivers ready to cook for the tournament, but what was the deciding factor?

CH III: The TS2 is a driver where you can just tee it up and hammer it. It’s going to go very straight, and the ball isn’t going to curve a whole lot. It’s very easy to launch. The TS3 was a driver where, if I get a hole where I need to work it a little bit left to right, or a little right to left to go with the slope of the fairway, or a crosswind, for me, it was a little bit easier to do that with the TS3, and that’s why I ultimately ended up there.

If I’m playing everyday golf at home with my buddies, and I want a driver with which I can just swing as hard as I can and hammer it, then I’m going to go to that TS2 all day.

JW: I noticed in the driver you have the [Mitsubishi] Tensei AV Blue [65]. Is that personal preference, or is that what tested out?

CH III: That’s just what tested out. We were having this conversation earlier about driver shafts; there’s so many of them out there, and there’s so many companies, and it’s really difficult to know what’s what. What we wanted to do is start with something that’s familiar, and it ended up actually testing out fantastic — we were getting the launch and the spin numbers that we were after, so there was no reason to…go down a rabbit hole.

JW: You have a very interesting set makeup now. You have a T-MB 4-iron, but then you go AP2 in 5, 6, 7, and then the CB in your shorter irons…talk to me about the strategy.

CH III: I grew up playing cavity back clubs my whole life. I’ve always been a proponent of some forgiveness down there and some help down there. The big reason for the [718] CB in the short irons had to do with offset, and that’s strictly a personal preference. I wanted some help down there…but I didn’t want a lot of offset, so the CB…fit that perfectly.

The T-MB 4-iron, that thing is so easy to get up in the air, it’s incredible. That, for me, and for every golfer out there, they need a T-MB 3, 4, and 5-iron, because they are so easy to get up in the air. It really is awesome, the technology of that club.

JW: Let’s talk about the golf ball. You go from a 2017 Pro V1x and you transition into the new Pro V1 proto…

CH III: I loved everything about the Pro V1x ball off the driver and the 3-wood. Now, when the [2019 Pro V1] came out, what I found out was that I gave up no ball speed whatsoever, but I picked up a little bit of a softer feel and a little more spin around the greens. So for me, right away that was a home run.

Now, I say that knowing that touch and feel around the green is highly player dependent. For me, I prefer a bit of a softer feel…I could find you 10 guys who prefer a firmer Pro V1x feel around the greens…but the cool thing was that I didn’t give up any ball speed with the driver whatsoever.

JW: Let’s talk a little bit about the last 11 years. We talked a little bit on the podcast with you about expectations and what you went through to get back to the winner’s circle. Just kind of man to man, how difficult was it at times. — knowing how good you are and being such an amazing player and then going on a drought like that — how difficult was that?

CH III: You know, there were a lot of times where I questioned everything I did from how I practiced, to how I prepared, to who I worked with…just everything. And eventually, I got to a point where I sat down with Grant Waite and Dana Dahlquist who I work with, and John Graham on short game, and I said, “OK, guys, do we really think that I’m doing this the right way?” And through some discussions…the answer was, “yes.” And [I said] let’s just stay the course. Let’s just keep doing this.

Golf’s a funny game. In Mexico, I missed the cut there, and I thought I played close to every bit as good as I did at Sea Island. I just didn’t quite score as well. That shows you how razor thin-edged this game is. You miss a cut, then you win a golf tournament.

I think the most challenging part of the game is staying the course with stuff that you truly believe in and giving it time to work out, because it’s such a results driven game, and you want results yesterday. Between social media and the way golf is covered now, it’s “results, results, results.” I think the challenge is to stay patient amongst all that.

JW: For you, as I mentioned a while back, getting that first one, it’s almost like winning for the first time again in a weird way. Once that first one inspires the confidence, you’re off to the races. Now that you’ve got that behind you…are you looking at your schedule in a different way or is it just week to week?

CH III: A little bit of both. I’ve got the tournaments that I like. I’ll still play a bunch on the West Coast because I like the West Coast…I’ll tell you the one thing I hope comes out of this is that if I get in position to win a tournament on Sunday, I’ll be that much more comfortable, and I’ll be that much more trusting in what I do. I’ll just play normal golf, and I won’t try to do more of anything, and hopefully that continues to evolve, etc.

But that to me is what I’m most curious to find out: When and if I get into that position again, will I feel a little bit more, let’s say, comfortable or different?

JW: Cool. Last question: You’re with Titleist. Big company. Historic company. But now you kind of have access to Vokey, Aaron Dill, Scotty Cameron, what’s it like walking into that scenario where you have access to those clubmakers and designers? Was that an attraction? Was that part of the decision to go to Titleist?

CH III: Well it is, right? I have a leading expert in every field. I can lean on their experience. I can aggravate the daylights out of them. I’m at a point in my career where I want to play good golf, and if these guys are able to help me find a half-of-a-percent advantage, well then…over the course of a year, it matters.

[For example] Aaron Dill’s expertise and changing bounce on wedges in different situations and conditions. Those things I’m really looking forward to…and I’m going to learn a lot in this process too. These guys have been around a long time, and they’ve helped a lot of world-class players, so I’m going to learn a bit.

JW: I’ve got to ask this question or the GolfWRX Members will kill me. When’s that 14th Titleist club going to pop in there…a Scotty Cameron?

CH III: Now this off season, I’ll have more time work with different things…we’ll continue to work on that, and we’ll get that part handled.

JW: Well, Charlie, on behalf of GolfWRX and everybody else, that was a really, really, ridiculously popular win. You’re good for the game, I’m so happy that you won. Go kick some butt and have a great holiday, and we’ll look forward to watching you in 2019.

CH III: You guys, as well, have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I do appreciate it. I know that all the GolfWRX Members understand the difficulty of the game and the challenges of it it. I hope I carry myself in a way where people understand that I know the difficulty of the game, and I can appreciate the ups and downs. I thank everyone and hope everybody has a great holiday.

RELATED: See the clubs Charles Howell III used to win the RSM Classic

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GolfWRX Morning 9: The relatable Mr. Howell | How the Tiger-Phil ice thawed | Anthony Kim sighting

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By Ben Alberstadt (ben.alberstadt@golfwrx.com)

November 20, 2018

Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler-Thomas-produced Alabama-Auburn docuseries cometh
If you recall, Driven, last year’s Golf Channel docuseries offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Oklahoma State golf program.
  • The series is back again this year. Joel Beall with the details…”The show, helmed by OSU alum Rickie Fowler, is returning for a second year, and while Stillwater will still be a prominent storyline, the new campaign will also highlight the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn.”
  • “Joining Fowler as co-producer is Justin Thomas, a former Haskins Award winner who guided the Crimson Tide to a national title in 2013.”
  • “I watched every episode of the first season of Driven and I told Rickie that Alabama would be great for a future season,” Thomas said in a statement. “I’m excited about the opportunity to team up with Rickie and showcase Alabama’s golf program like never before. And it’s weeks like this with the Iron Bowl that remind me why college sports are so great and how much fun I had playing golf for Alabama. Roll Tide!”
2. The relatable Mr. Howell

Nice stuff from Cameron Morfit…”It had been so long since he last won, a span of 333 starts since the 2007 Genesis Open at Riviera, Charles Howell III felt the same self-doubt anyone would.”

  • “The difference was he expressed it.…”Sometimes you wonder, well, maybe you just don’t have it in you,” Howell said. “Quite honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever win one again. I had come up short so many times. I thought I had it in me, but I had never seen me do it.”
3. How the ice thawed
Brian Wacker points to this moment in time as central to the present springtime of the Woods-Mickelson relationship.
  • “Four years ago, with Woods at home recovering from a second micro-discectomy surgery to remove a disc fragment that was pinching a nerve (and soon to undergo another procedure to relieve discomfort in his back), the U.S. Ryder Cup team got drubbed at Gleneagles for its sixth loss in the last seven biennial matches. At the press conference that Sunday night in Scotland, Mickelson blasted his own captain Tom Watson (and in essence the PGA of America) for the mismanagement of the team.”
  • “It was a seminal moment that led to sweeping changes and the formation of the Ryder Cup task force, of which Woods, ever the competitor who had also grown tired of all the losing, readily signed on. Golf’s two biggest stars were aligned, and more importantly the lines of communication, be it the Ryder Cup or other topics, were open.”
4. In favor of The Match
ESPN’s Bob Harig explores the merits of tuning in for the Tiger Woods-Phil Mickelson duel and offers these (reality) checks in the “yay” column.
  • “While not suggesting how to spend other peoples’ money, we are talking about a discretionary income choice that many would squander on other dubious endeavors. And it is Black Friday after all, a day associated with money-spending opulence.”
  • And…”So yes, the event has its flaws, to be sure. Playing this in, say, 2006 — at a point when Woods and Mickelson combined to win four of the five majors played in a 12-month period — might have brought more intrigue, but the result would not be any more meaningful, or historically significant, than what will transpire Friday. This will not alter the legacy of either player.”
  • “This is simply an entertainment play (and perhaps a test to see more of these type of matches in the future, maybe with Tiger and Phil as partners), with a gambling component that we are likely to see more prominent in sports, including golf. Tiger and Phil are two of the game’s biggest stars, even at this late stage in their careers.”
5. Farewell, grass guru
Cal Roth is retiring. And while this may not mean much to you, you’ll want to read Jim McCabe’s profile of the PGA Tour’s departing Senior VP of Agronomy.
  • “And one could argue that that rarely happens, because for all the hoopla about young players swinging fast, hitting far, and wielding state-of-the-art equipment, perhaps no aspect of the golf business has improved as dramatically as turf control and course maintenance.”
  • “I’m not even sure I have enough time to do it justice,” said Roth, when asked how much his profession has improved playing conditions. “I could talk all day about it. The best way to describe it is, it’s like the business has come out of the dark ages, it’s gotten that good.”
  • “Roth remembers being approached by Bob Goalby, who was participating in the Denver Post Champions of Golf at TPC Plum Creek in Castle Rock, Colorado, in 1986. Now, an approaching player can put a superintendent on guard, but Roth quickly felt relief as Goalby heaped praise. “He came up to me on the 16th hole and said, ‘Cal, these Bent fairways are amazing. They are better than the greens I grew up on.'”
6. The wisdom of “make more birdies”
PGA of Canada pro, Erin Thorne, examines the received wisdom that one ought to strive, primarily, to make more birdies to shoot lower scores.
  • A sample of her findings after looking at her roster of college golfers and running some numbers….”Diving a little deeper, the players on the team with the top three scoring averages (74, 77.29 and 78) occupy the top three spots in both of these rankings. And taking a look at all the players’ differentials, their rank stays the same compared to their scoring average rank.”
  • “The fact that many golfers overlook when making the statement “I need to make more birdies to score better” is that each hole accounts for about 5.5 percent of your round. So, if we take our player who averages one birdie (minus 1) and 2.5 doubles/worse per round (plus 5, conservatively), 5.5 percent of her round is birdies and 13.75 percent of her round is doubles/worse.”
  • “If she were to simply focus on making more birdies per round to “balance out” the current 2.5 doubles/worse per round, she would need to increase to five birdies per round. That would be a jump up to 27.5 percent of her round. Compare that to shift a focus to minimizing the doubles/worse category. If this same player could even shave her doubles/worse to 1.5 per round (plus 3,  conservatively), it accounts for 8.25 percent of her round.”
While important not to draw far-reaching conclusions, the piece is an insightful one.
7. A lesson for American pros?
Golfweek’s Martin Kaufmann suggests Sky Sports’ coverage, namely in-tournament player interviews, could be a model to follow for PGA Tour telecasts.
  • “Time and again during the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, we saw players doing walk-and-talk interviews with Tim Barter of Sky Sports. These were players at or near the top of the leaderboard, including eventual champion Danny Willett, who acknowledged as he prepared to play the back nine Sunday that there’s “a few nerves still in there.”
  • “Jon Rahm, who finished T-4, visited with Barter each of the final two rounds, and the gregarious Andy Sullivan illustrated why he’s one of the most appealing characters on the European Tour with his animated conversation with Barter. Dean Burmester, who also finished T-4, looked as if he were out for a pro-am round stroll rather than competing for one of his tour’s biggest championships.”
8. PGA Tour heading to Japan
AP Report…”The PGA Tour will hold its first official tournament in Japan. And the main sponsor of next year’s event, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, is describing it as a kind of “moonshot” for golf in his country.
  • “Maezawa should know….The founder of the Japanese fashion website Zozotown, Maezawa was announced earlier this year as the first commercial passenger to attempt a flight around the moon.”
  • “The tournament, set for Oct. 24-27, will be part of the PGA’s swing through Asia along with stops in South Korea and China. The Japanese tournament replaces one in Malaysia.”
9. AK sighting
Geoff Shackelford...”The reclusive Anthony Kim has surfaced in a video Tweeted by No Laying Up.”
Sitting with at least five of (presumably) his dogs, sounding eerily like Luke Walton and declaring his intention to place his first-ever bet on Phil Mickelson in The Match, Kim was golf’s break-out star in 2008.”
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Ian Poulter plays final round in 2 hours and 22 minutes, fires his best round of the week

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The debate regarding pace of play in the game of golf is rarely far from the surface, and on Sunday at the DP World Tour Championship, Ian Poulter showcased the benefits of speeding around the golf course.

It took Poulter just two hours and 22 minutes to complete his final round at Jumeirah Golf Estates (Earth Course), and what’s more, is that while flying around the golf course, the Englishman recorded his best score of the week, firing a round of 69.

After the round, Poulter, who is well known for his dislike of slow play in the game stated

“I’m a quick player. I don’t like slow play, so today was quite refreshing. It didn’t matter where I finished… I just wanted to get back for breakfast.”

Poulter isn’t the first player to play a final round in rapid time, with Wesley Bryan and Kevin Na both beating the Englishman’s time over the past couple of years. At the 2016 Tour Championship, Na darted around the course in just under two hours, while at the 2017 BMW Championship, Wesley Bryan took less than 90 minutes to complete his final round,

Interestingly, in all three of these cases of speedy play, the players shot their best round of the week while playing at their quickest.

So GolfWRXers, does playing fast bring out the best in a golfer, or is this another case of a player performing well when the pressure is off?

Let us know what you think!

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