Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Patrick Reed. Of the four, one name sticks out, or at least it should. Earlier this month, the European Tour announced that Reed had joined his illustrious counterparts in being named an Honorary Lifetime member of the European Tour.
In practical terms, it is an award the means nothing. It does not provide an exemption to the tour, it does not guarantee starts in any tournaments and it does not bring with it any financial reward. You do get a rather shiny silver membership card and a photo op shaking the hand of Keith Pelley but beyond that nothing else.
In the grand scheme of things, it means little however to those who have been awarded honorary membership, it means a lot. The likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are all honorary members. All three giants of the European game alongside the vast majority of those with their names on the list. So why Reed and perhaps more importantly, why now?
It is an unwritten rule that if you are a European Tour member and you win a major, you will be awarded honorary membership. Reed has completed the task when it comes to winning a major. In addition to Reed recently receiving the honor, Franceso Molinari who claimed his first major just a few months after Reed received the honorary accolade. In the recent past one time major winners such as Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett have all received similar treatment. The one galling difference with each of these recent winners in comparison with Reed is the amount of golf that they have played in Europe. Stenson, Molinari, Willett and even Garcia have played extensively in Europe largely building careers here before stepping up to the PGA Tour.
Outside of the majors and world golf championships, Reed has competed in 16 European Tour events. Reed has built little in Europe and whilst he is a European Tour member which is something of an anomaly for a U.S.-based golfer of his ranking he has not always been overly concerned with his membership. In the past he has failed to play the minimum requirement of events and the events that he does turn up for tend to be the ones that are willing to pay for him to be there.
That he is now in the same company as the likes of Stenson, Molinari and Garcia (let alone the likes of Faldo, Seve and John Jacobs) is wrong. He has not established himself in the way that any of those named have, he has not competed long enough and he has never won an event in Europe. Quite why that is deserving of an honorary membership is something only the European Tour can truly explain, although I suspect that beyond the few soundbites that went along with the release of the news, we will hear little. It seems that Reed is simply being rewarded for keeping his membership up, and that is a sad indictment on the current state of the European Tour.
The European Tour is falling further and further behind the PGA Tour. It is rapidly becoming a two or even three-tier system with all the power lying at the top. That system has seen the advent of the Rolex Series events which cater for those at the top with sizeable prize funds and everything that goes along with it. This is in stark contrast to the relatively modest prizes on offer to those competing in last weeks Vic Open. It is no coincidence that there were no top players competing last week.
The big names have all of the power and they know it. What’s more, the Tour knows it. Sergio Garcia was not banned for his recent antics in Saudi, McIlroy trashed the Tour in the press at the start of the year because he could and he was safe in the knowledge that no one in Europe was going to do anything about it and now we have this, with the Tour bending over backwards to please someone who has supported the Tour in the way that a casual fan watches the Super Bowl but isn’t interested in much of what goes beforehand.
The difficulties that the European Tour finds itself in are further confirmed by recent announcements concerning the changes to the the Race to Dubai. Fewer players will now be eligible for the final events. As a result, whilst prize money is staying the same the share going to the winners will increase. The winner of the DP World Championship will pick up the biggest tournament winners check in golf, a cool $3 million. The Tour doing this is clearly an attempt at getting big names to play in these events. Big names, leads to happy sponsors and happy sponsors leads to more money which is great but the European Tour will never compete with the riches on offer Stateside. Changes to the prize structure, chasing money regardless of where it is coming from and the awarding of honorary membership to players who do not deserve it, simply leads to a dilution of the Tour as it is which will result it in become ever more secondary to the PGA Tour.
It may be that in 20 years’ time, Reed is a multiple winner on the European Tour, having regularly played events throughout the years. He may mean as much to the Tour as the likes of Monty and Seve or even Darren Clarke and Danny Willett however in the here and now, his honorary membership brings little honor for either he or the Tour and the question which goes beyond all of that, will the European Tour as we know it even be here in 20 years’ time?
Hot Drivers: What’s really going on!
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.
Obviously lots of discussion about fast (hot ????) drivers so let’s talk about that for a minute.
As they get used, a driver will get faster. The “hottest” a driver will be is right before the face fails!
To think this is a new thing is shortsighted, there are other examples…
— Ryan Barath ???????? (@RDSBarath) July 21, 2019
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.
Chat with a (soon-to-be) PGA Tour champion: Sam Ryder
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
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.
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.
The 19th Hole: Gary Player, Irish ambassadors talk Open in Northern Ireland
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.
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