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Tour Rundown: Fowler in Phoenix, DJ surges in Saudi Arabia

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With the big NFL game on tap, professional golf was hard-pressed to offer anything dramatic enough to capture the viewing public’s attention. Well, they did so, in spades. Haotong Li and Dustin Johnson did battle in Saudi Arabia, while Rickie Fowler matched wits with rain, the rule book, bad decisions, and Branden Grace in Scottsdale. Oh, and the Web.Com tour let it fly high in the Andes.

For a quick rundown of all things tour, read on, friends!

PGA Tour: Phoenix Open goes to Orange Crush

Rickie Fowler continues to find interesting ways to get himself in contention at the Phoenix Open. In 2019, Fowler shot the low daily round on Thursday and Saturday, and was one stroke removed from that honor on Friday. That magnificence afforded him a four-stroke cushion over Matt Kuchar after 54 holes. The question on everyone’s minds was, could BDR (the acronym for his special, 16th-hole nickname, bestowed by special fans) finally lockdown a win, on a course he owns, against a strong field? If the header for this section wasn’t enough of a spoiler, well…

Blame it on the weather. Blame it on the rules. Blame it on … oh, wait, Rickie won! After two runner-up finishes in Scottsdale, the mod Californian avoided an unthinkable collapse with birdies on two of his final four holes. Despite the double bogey at the 5th, in spite of the inexplicable triple bogey at the 11th, and the bogey at 12, Fowler dug deep and benefited from a Branden Grace collapse. What’s that? Well, as Fowler foundered, Grace stood three under on the day an 16-under for the tournament. Unable to take advantage of the two closing birdie holes (15 and 17), Grace finished solo second at 15 under. Fowler’s 17-under total allowed him to finally taste victory in the desert. Will it lead to his first, career major title? This writer says aye.

European Tour: Inaugural Saudi International to world’s number-three player, Dustin Johnson

There was a story a minute this week in the middle east. From Sergio Garcia’s disqualification, to Li Haotong’s four-eagle performance in round three, pundits found plenty of material to fill columns and posts. Although Garcia’s week ended early, Li hung around until the 72nd hole. He began the day tied with Dustin Johnson for the lead, but was unable to separate by more than one stroke as the pair approached the turn. A bogey-birdie exchange sent the lead to Johnson, and he ran with it. The 2016 US Open champion offset two back-nine bogeys with a quartet of birdies.

Li, meanwhile, bogeyed three of his first five holes on the inward half, and could only narrow the gap to two strokes by day’s end. Haotong finds himself in the enviable/unenviable position of being able to win against lesser competition, but unable to stand tall against the world’s best. If he hopes to challenge at major events, he’ll need to overcome that mental block. England’s Tom Lewis began the day with the hottest of hand, making birdie on his opening five holes. He cooled off to even-par the rest of the way, finishing third alone at 16 under, one behind Li and three behind the champion.

Web.Com Tour: CCB Championship and Mark Anderson survive Saturday lightning delay

The Country Club de Bogota championship ran straight into a round-ending lightning delay on Saturday, necessitating 27 holes for the leaders on Sunday. The organizers and the competitors were up to the task, and the event reached 72 holes on schedule. Not struck by lightning, but the owner of lightning in a bottle, was Maryland’s Mark Anderson. The South Carolina alum opened the week with an eight-birdie 62 and kept the pedal floored.

A Friday 71 was the week’s only hiccough, but the 32-year old closed with 3 birdies over the final four holes to preserve the top spot. Came the weekend, and Anderson went to work. Scores of 66-67 were exceeded by only Drew Weaver (by one stroke.) Weaver ultimately took the second spot on the podium, but the tournament belonged to Anderson. His 17-under effort on the week gave him a four-shot cushion. The win moved Anderson into second place on The 25, the season-long chase for PGA Tour cards.

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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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  1. john

    Feb 6, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Justin Rose wins his first tournament using new clubs and now Rickie wins his first tournament after switching from the Pro V1 to the TP5. Not sure what this means but Trump is probably to blame. ;0)

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Equipment

Abraham Ancer becomes Miura’s first PGA Tour ambassador

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Miura Golf has announced that Abraham Ancer will be the company’s first-ever PGA Tour ambassador ahead of this week’s WGC-Mexico Championship.

As a PGA Tour ambassador for the club manufacturer, Ancer, who has played Miura clubs since 2017, will work directly with the Miura family in Himeji, Japan to craft his custom-designed forged irons and will don a Miura hat at tour events.

Speaking on the announcement, Ancer said

“I switched to Miura irons well before any partnership; I just wanted to play the best forged irons available. I am honored to represent Miura and look forward to introducing Miura to the Mexican market.”

Ancer as well as club fitter Genaro Davila (who initially fit Ancer for Miura clubs two years ago) have also teamed up with entrepreneur Gerardo Benavides to form Dead Solid Perfect (DSP) Golf Mexico, which will become the official distributor of Miura Golf in Mexico.

Hoyt McGarity, President of Miura Golf, shared his thoughts on the partnership, stating

“This is a first for Miura, and it was important to us that this partnership transcend the traditional sponsorship model. Abraham is the perfect partner to grow Miura’s presence on and off the course. As one of the most successful Mexican golfers ever, his personal investment in Miura is the strongest endorsement as we increase our operations in Mexico and other parts of the world.”

Ancer will tee it up for the first time since becoming Miura’s first PGA Tour Ambassador today at the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec. The 27-year-old will play alongside Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau in the opening round at 2.03 pm ET.

 

 

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Equipment

Danny Lee’s Mizuno MP-32 irons: The real inside scoop!

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Hipsters are known for loving “old” stuff — you know the classics, the vintage, the retro. From vinyl, to thrift store sweaters, what’s old is new again. In the case of Danny Lee, he’s leading the charge as the PGA Tour’s iron hipster.

It should also be noted that “old” is a relative term, especially with golf equipment. Now when it comes to “classics,” Mizuno has produced some of the most recognizable irons of all time, including the Cut Muscle MP-32 released in 2004.

We recently spotted Danny Lee at the Genesis Open and it started a LOT of discussion about classic designs, as well as whether these are new old stock (NOS) or new forgings, using the original tooling.

I reached out to Mizuno’s Senior Club Engineer Chris Voshall to get to the bottom of this interesting iron development. (Plus the idea that Mizuno has sets of 10-plus year-old irons kicking around ready for custom builds — I have a huge smile thinking about what that storage room might look like — is a pretty fun thought).

Heres the inside scoop on Danny’s irons from Chris Voshall

“The MP-32s being played by Danny Lee are a new old stock set that came from Luke Donald’s personal stash inside the tour van. The ones Danny is playing are the very last set of custom grind 32s that were made for Luke.”

(HERES WHERE THE STORY GETS VERY INTERESTING)

“Here’s the part that makes the Danny’s set unique – During final development of the 32s, Luke was feeling that the soles for him were not getting through the turf the same as his previous MP-33s, but he loved the profile and extra forgiveness offered by the cut muscle design.

“By working with the Craftsman on the Mizuno team they created a unique sole profile for Luke that modernized that of the MP-33 for his new MP-32s. They rounded off and beveled the trailing edge of the 32s and had multiple sets made that he used during their entire run in the line.

“The tell tale of the Luke soled irons vs. the retail and standard version is how close the trailing edge of the sole is to the “Mizuno” on the back. What’s even more interesting about the development of that sole and grind is that every MP iron moving forward in the line starting with the MP-62 in 2008 utilized the exact sole profile of the one developed with Luke for the 32s and then 62s he used to become Number 1 player in the world.”

Below are comparison pics of Danny’s irons vs retail MP-32s and MP-62s

Danny Lee’s LD Grind 32s

Standard MP-32 7-iron – notice the amount of space above the “Mizuno” text

Right – MP-62 vs Standard MP-32

Danny Lees LD Grind 9-iron

Retail MP-32 9-iron

MP-62 9-iron vs retail MP-32

WOW! How cool is that insider information? True 14-year-old prototypes back in play on Tour! Now we know 100 percent the real story behind this very cool set and how it lead to historical Mizuno design changes that we still see in the MP line today!

 

NOTE: All Mizuno forged irons pre-2010 meet the 2010 USGA Conforming Groove rule; they were conforming before and are still conforming now. This is also part of the reason you don’t see many other classic irons on tour, except for maybe some from Ping which did do a few older models with new grooves –most notably D.A Points’ i5s irons. 

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Tour News

Tiger Woods lofting up for thin air? Examining the switch and what happens when you play at altitude

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It’s not very often a Tiger Woods equipment change flies under the radar, but for one of the world’s most recognizable golfers, a little fairway wood switch should have some big impacts. Per the Darrell Survey and some insider information, the Big Cat has switched from a 13-degree TaylorMade M5 Ti fairway to the same model in 15 degrees (Woods is sticking with the same Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 80TX shaft).

In his press conference at the Genesis Open Tiger said

“I’ve always been pretty good at taking spin off, but I’m trying to get the ball up for this week and trying to hit the ball high. I knew that that was going to be one of the things I needed to do. And also getting ready if I was going to play Mexico, it was going to be two weeks of trying to get that ball up because obviously it’s at altitude next week and the ball doesn’t spin a lot. So to be able to send that ball up in the air and have it pretty soft when it lands I thought was important.”

It’s an interesting point by Tiger, and this also gives us another reason to pay a little extra attention to the shots hit with that club over the next couple weeks. Also, it’s not every day I get to explain, or in this case, help correct, a misunderstanding in a Tiger Woods quote.

Here is the part of the statement “it was going to be two weeks of trying to get that ball up because obviously it’s at altitude next week and the ball doesn’t spin a lot.” 

Let me explain: The golf ball in an inanimate object has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an effect on how much the ball will actually spin. YES increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin (so Woods’ switch is the right one, from that standpoint) but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude does have effects. Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur.
  • Less resistance also means that it harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (like they need the help – eye roll)
  • Less force = less lift, the the ball will also fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some fun math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. THATS A BIG DEAL! That makes this 7,341 yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

We often see the question of what would happen is pros played “my” course, and in the case of the WGC in Mexico City we might have a pretty good idea, owing to the effective yardage.

As for the fairway wood switch, the lofted-up TaylorMade M5 should help Woods navigate the tight, tree-lined fairways at Club de Golf Chapultepec, and potentially help him add to his impressive list of WGC titles.

 

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