This has turned out to be the toughest hole for me to write for so far. It begins, once again, at the TPC Los Colinas at a Ben Hogan Golf Company sales meeting.
If you’ve been following along, you may be wondering why the location has been so popular in my stories. I’ve thought about this as well, and see three reasons why:
- Mr. Hogan was there. A story about him would require that component. He also seemed to become more animated and theatrical at these events, and spoke more freely with his team.
- Mr. Hogan had a group of people there who loved him and hung on to his every word. This also encouraged more discussion.
This was one year after his speech about the mystery club. As clear as I can remember several of Mr. Hogan’s speeches, I cannot remember anything about his speech that year. It may have been a great speech, but the ensuing trauma must have erased his words from my brain.
In the year that went by, we made several real club prototypes of the “flyswatter.” In those days, we did not have the rapid prototype tools of today, so each sample took 6-8 weeks to create. Some of the prototypes performed very well, but as suspected none of them had a chance to be USGA conforming. This was also about the time of the “groove wars” between Ping and the USGA, so our management was not interested in getting into a stink about conformance.
We did, however, try to tone down some of the obvious non-conforming features of the flyswatter club. We thought if we dumbed it down, we might have a chance for approval and future production. I was working with a Southern California tool maker and foundry on one last prototype. If this one did not work out, we would have kissed this frog many times… with no magic. We would have to move on to something else.
The prototype head arrived at my office the afternoon of the sales meeting, just before I was to leave for Los Colinas. I was excited to show it to Mr. Hogan, but he had left the Pafford Street Factory and was most likely at Shady Oaks. He would be going later to Los Colinas after that, so I would have to wait until the next day to show it to him.
After the speech, Mr. Hogan sat down for drinks with a number of his salesmen and held court as he liked to do. He told fantastic stories of past major championships. The group looked like a large covey of quail. This covey, however, did not sit looking outward for danger, but faced inward toward the man.
I began at the outer fringe, but as the stories went on I worked my way closer. I remember him telling a story about the 17th hole of the final round of the 1953 Open Championship at Carnoustie. As the night started to wind down, I found myself very near the center of the covey and just to the left of Mr. Hogan. By that point in my career, I knew many things about the man, but I would soon learn two more things.
- At a sales meeting, you didn’t go near Mr. Hogan if you weren’t a salesman. This night was for them.
- Who Henny Bogan was.
When Mr. Hogan had stopped one story and was about to start another, I leaned in and said this to him:
“Sir, the latest prototype we’ve been waiting on came in today. I will be in tomorrow morning to show it to you.”
He stared intensely at me, and then spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.
“Don’t bother, you are done! I’ve waited too long on that club. Go in tomorrow morning and tell Don Holland (the Ben Hogan Company V.P of Human Resources) that Henny Bogan says you are fired!”
I was stunned, speechless and totally disorientated. Mouths hung open around the covey of salesmen. One of the old timer salesmen actually started to laugh. Others were bewildered and feeling a sliver of my pain.
The fog of unemployment started to grip me. I didn’t know what to do other than head for my Ford Bronco and drive home. Walking to the parking lot, I tried to console myself. I was looking for a job when I found this one, and I would find another. I’d never been fired before, however, let alone by a hero of mine.
I drove the one hour from Irving to my place in southwest Fort Worth. Somewhere on the trip, I started to get mad. I really loved golf. This had been a dream job. How would I ever find a job in the industry after this goes public? Fired by an icon would forever be hanging next to my name.
I did not get any sleep that night, and was the first person at the factory the next morning so I could pack up my personal things. By the time Don Holland arrived to work, I was boxed up and ready to start the rest of my career somewhere else and probably not in the golf industry, I thought. At 8 a.m., I went into the HR area and asked to see Don. When he came out, he asked what I was up to so early.
“Mr. Hogan fired me last night,” I said.
Don could see I was mad. He looked skeptical, however. “Just how did he fire you,” Don asked. “Tell me his exact words.”
I was puzzled. What part of “fired” did Don not understand. It seemed like a simple concept for a VP to grasp.
“He fired me after his speech last night,” I said. “He did it in front of a number of salesmen.” I was getting hot again, reliving the experience.
“Calm down, Tom,” he said. “Tell me exactly what he said.” I explained what happened. When I told Don the exact words — that he said “Henny Bogan” says you’re fired — he broke into a big grin.
“Don’t you know who Henny Bogan is?” Don said.
I’d never heard of him, and assumed that it was a cocktail word slur. After all, Mr. Hogan had a few drinks that night. Don explained that Henny Bogan was the character Mr. Hogan sometimes became when he pulled jokes on people, and he had done this type of thing before.
“I doubt you have real problems with the real Ben Hogan,” Don said. “In fact, if he didn’t like you I doubt he would have had Henny Bogan pull this on you.”
So it was a joke?
No way… It sure didn’t feel like a joke to me last night or early this morning. I thought about the laughing man last night. Maybe that was why he started to chuckle? Don told me to go get my prototype and take it up to see Mr. Hogan. He said I should act like nothing happened. It was hard to do, but what other option did I have?
Before I went to Mr. Hogan’s office, I found Gene and told him what had happened last night and what Don told me to do. Gene had a really good laugh at my expense, and then told me several other Henny Bogan stories. He acted like I should be happy Henny Bogan had pulled a prank on me.
“Why did you never tell me these stories before?” I asked Gene. He said I had only worked there a few years, and he would have gotten around to it eventually.
“Now you know,” Gene said, and he laughed some more. He was really enjoying the moment. God love him and I do too, but if this joke is true then I would need to inflict some payback somehow someday.
So I grabbed the prototype and went to see Mr. Henny Bogan. I knocked on the frame of his door, and still wondered if it would be the last time. Mr. Hogan looked up, but didn’t say a word. He just stared at me. It wasn’t the typical stare, and sly slight grin inched across his face. I walked over to the front of his desk. His eyes were still intensely blue but for the first time, something was different. Was he sorry? I don’t think so. Was he surprised I was there? Maybe. I stared back at Mr. Hogan for a little while myself. I wanted him to know that I knew.
Many years later, a friend told me I should have come in that day with the prototype and introduced myself as Sommy Ttites. I wish I had, but I wasn’t that sharp then. After we did a bit of two-way eye balling, I finally just showed him the prototype. He examined it a while and then we pleasantly talked about the next steps. The whole time I was in there he never said a word about last night, but it was obvious I was not fired.
I had been seriously punked by “The Hawk,” who sometimes became Henny Bogan. With that experience, I guess I entered into some sort of club. Much later I was able to laugh, too. Henny Bogan had a strange, warped sense of humor. I should tell you some of the other stories I then heard about Henny Bogan, but I promised in this series I would only share what I experienced first hand. There is another level of writing that is required for passing on second-hand stuff.
Tim Scott has got some other great stories in his book of Hogan humor and pranks. You should check it out.
One the next hole: Mr. Hogan wanted me to find a specific old club. He sent me to see his friend Mattie Reed and to dig through his private collection of 30,000 clubs. I never found it, but I did find something quite special.
- Introduction: Why I’m writing 18 stories for GolfWRX
- Hole 1: The Day I Met Ben Hogan
- Hole 2: Gene says, “Let’s go see Ben”
- Hole 3: Ben Hogan: “I had a dream”
- Hole 4: Ben Hogan had his own math
- Hole 5: Ben Hogan’s “Prototype” fly swatter
- Hole 6: The night Henny Bogan fired me
The Wedge Guy: A defense of blades
One of the longest-running and most active conversations in all of golf equipment is the subject of blades versus game improvement irons. Over the nearly 20 years I’ve been writing this blog as “The Wedge Guy,” I’ve addressed this in various ways and always stimulated a lively discussion with my readers.
I hope this angle on the conversation will do the same, so all of you please share your thoughts and observations.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have always played some kind of blade-style irons, with only a few detours along the way. But I always come back to my blades, so let me explain why.
I grew up in the 1950s and 60s when blades were all we had. As a teenager with a developing skill set, I became a devotee to those models from the old Ben Hogan Company, and played the “Bounce Sole” model, then several iterations of the Apex line after it was introduced. Those few sets served me well into my 30s, when I became involved in the golf equipment industry. Having Joe Powell Golf as a client, I switched to his pure muscle back model called the “PGI.” They were certainly sweet.
In the late 1980s, I was handling the marketing for Merit Golf, who offered a cavity back forging called the Fusion, which was inspired by the Ben Hogan Edge irons, but offered a more traditional face profile. So, I switched to them.
Playing to a low single digit handicap at the time, I really didn’t see my scores change, but I just wasn’t making as many birdies as I had before. Openly pondering why my golf felt different, a regular golf buddy noted, “You’re not knocking down pins as often as you used to,” and I realized he was right. I was hitting just as many greens as before, maybe one or two more, but I wasn’t getting those kick-in birdies nearly as often. So, I went to the closet and broke out the old Joe Powell PGI irons and had an epic day with three birdies inside five feet and a couple more in the 5-10 range.
Those blades stayed in the bag until I developed my first iron design, the “RL blades” by my first company, Reid Lockhart. By this time, I had seen enough robotic testing prove that the most penalizing mishit with a blade was a toe impact, which mirrored my own experience. So, I sculpted a pure muscle back blade, but added a bit of mass toward the toe to compensate for that deficiency of all such designs.
I played those irons for 20 years, until I created the “FT. WORTH 15” irons for the re-launch of the Ben Hogan brand in 2015. In that design, I further evolved my work to very slightly add a bit of modified perimeter weighting to a pure forged blade, taking inspiration from many of Mr. Hogan’s earlier personal designs in the Apex line of the “old” Ben Hogan Company. Those are still in my bag, going on eight years now.
So, why do I think I can make a solid defense for playing blade irons? Because of their pinpoint distance control, particularly in the short irons — those with lofts of 35 degrees or higher.
I’ll certainly acknowledge that some modern perimeter weighting is very helpful in the lower lofts . . .the mid- and long irons. In those clubs, somewhere on or near the green is totally acceptable, whether you are playing to break 90 or trying to win on the PGA Tour. [Did you know those guys are actually over par as a group outside 9-iron range?] That’s why you see an increasing number of them playing a conservative game-improvement design in those lofts. But also remember that we in the golf club design business deal with poor “hits” only . . . we have no control over the quality of your swing, so the vast majority of bad golf shots are far beyond our influence.
But what I’ve seen in repeated robotic testing and in my own play, when you get to the prime scoring clubs – short irons and wedges – having a solid thickness of mass directly behind the impact point on the face consistently delivers better distance control and spin. In my own designs of the SCOR wedges in 2010, and the Ben Hogan FT.WORTH 15 irons and TK15 wedges, I created a distribution of mass that actually placed a bit more face thickness behind the slight mishit than even in the center, and the distance consistency was remarkable.
I’ve carried that thinking to the Edison Forged wedges by positioning much more mass behind the high face and toe miss than any other wedges on the market. And in robotic testing, they deliver better transfer of energy on those mishits than any other wedge we tested.
So, back to that experience when I switched back to my Joe Powell blades from the Merit cavity back forging, I can sum it up this way.
If your pleasure from your golf is derived more from how good your worst shots turn out, then a game improvement iron is probably the way to go. But if your golf pleasure is more about how good your best shots are, I think there is a very strong case to be made for playing some kind of blade iron design, at least in your scoring clubs.
Alright, fans: sound off!
2022 Open De France: Betting Picks & Selections
After an enthralling Italian Open at next year’s Ryder Cup venue, the DP World Tour moves on to Le Golf National, scene of one of Europe’s finest hours, a 17.5-10.5 victory at the 2018 running of the bi-annual festival.
With Valderrama on the schedule in three weeks’ time, the tour showcases a trio of its best courses within a month, and whilst deserving of a better field than present in France this week, the tournament should again provide viewers with a treat.
With the lowest winning total since 2000 being 16-under, and an average of 11-under, the focus is very much on a strong tee-to-green
game. The rough is up, the greens are tricky, and scrambling difficult. Those with low confidence in any aspect of their game need not apply.
2019 winner Nicolas Colsaerts somewhat went against the grain when winning via a long driving game , certainly compared to the likes of runner-up J.B Hansen and third-placed George Coetzee, as well as previous winners Jaidee, McDowell and Levet. Like the differing results at the Marco Simone course over the last two runnings, we should resume normal service, with bombers not having so much of an advantage.
In a hard event to weigh up, here is this week’s best bets.
Antoine Rozner 28/1
Ewen Ferguson 45/1
Jorge Campillo 45/1
Marcus Kinhult 60/1
There are few of the top lot that can be ruled out.
All of Thomas Pieters, Jordan Smith, Ryan Fox and, Victor Perez appear very high on the season-long tee-to-green lists. The Englishman was the first one on my list but, at 20/1, he can be left alone, especially given I would have expected him to have done better than a best of 21st in three outings here.
Nevertheless, his is the type of game needed for here and with home support probably a boon, plump for Antoine Rozner to make the Gallic crowd go wild for the first time since Levet’s victory in 2011.
Since his last couple of appearances in his home country – ninth and 13th on the Challenge Tour – the 29-year-old has won in Dubai and Qatar in contrasting styles.
The first saw him putt the lights out to win in 25-under, whilst the more relevant victory was at wind-affected Education City, where he grinded out a one-shot victory in eight under-the-card, a final hole 60-plus foot putt sealing the deal.
2022 has been good.
The record of two top-10s in Spain and Crans disguise four further top-20 finishes, and that he was inside the top-10 after round two of the BMW International, round one of the Czech Masters, and rounds one and three at Glagorm Castle.
Indeed, it was after the first of those that he announced he was very happy with the way his game was trending, and, true to his word, his tee-to-green play has been nothing short of stunning.
Since July, he has averaged a ranking of ninth for approaches, two of those efforts rating him leading the field for tee-to-green. Using the older stats, Rozner has recent greens-in-regulation figures of 21/2/2/7/34/5, perfect for a course that will penalise anyone that constantly misses the short stuff.
There may well be a current issue about his putting, but that is true of all the better ball-strikers. After all, it would be neigh impossible to beat them if every facet was ranking in the top five.
Rozner is bound to know this course better than his ‘debutante’ status, so take him to prove himself in a very beatable field.
Qatar seems a bit of a theme with Ewen Ferguson taking the next spot in the plan.
The Scot owes us nothing after two wins this year for the Players To Follow in 2022 column, but I’m not sure he is quite finished yet.
Slightly naïve when in front on Sunday at the Kenya Open, his next two starts might show finishes of 61st and 40th but, again, they disguise better play than the record shows – Fergie was 11th after three rounds at the MyGolfLife and just outside the top-20 at halfway at Steyn City.
That experience no doubt led to a grinding victory – another to be seen in Qatar – where his solid tee-to-green game outlasted most of his opposition.
The game has continued in that vein, with a 12th place at Celtic Manor (7th after three rounds) being a fine correlation with this week’s track, followed by his second victory of the year at Galgorm Castle.
Probably his best effort was in Himmerland at the beginning of the month, when his all-round game was in superb shape, only giving way to a ridiculous pair of putts by Oliver Wilson. As he did in Ireland, Ferguson led the tee-to-green figures via both driving and irons, whilst his scrambling game was also highly ranked.
Despite the smiles, he may have been feeling that defeat when missing the cut at Wentworth, a course that doesn’t suit everyone on debut, and look at his price – over twice that of players that fail to convert winning chances.
At the same price, the mercurial Jorge Campillo is well worth backing to continue a solid bank of recent and course form.
Rather like previous Spanish winners of the French Open, the 36-year-old (yes, I thought he was older than that, too) has that capability to get out of trouble with the short game so identifiable with his compatriots.
One missed cut in his last nine starts shows he has a belief in his overall game, whilst six consecutive cuts sees him in the sort of form that should enable to challenge for his third European victory, after Morocco and (here we go again) Qatar.
Again his record shows just a couple of top-10 finishes this year, but he was in fourth place going into the final round at Kenya, top 10 for the middle rounds in Belgium, led the Irish Open at halfway and was in the final group on Sunday, whilst he closed late last weekend when it turned tricky in Italy.
With an 8th, 15th and 18th in six starts around here, it’s that ability to grind out a result that gives him claims this week. Campillo isn’t a strong birdie machine, so a winning score of around 10 to 12-under will do just fine.
Marcel Schneider and Romain Langasque both tempted me in at the prices, but whilst the former is in flying form, his record shows he improves after a first sighting at a course, so monitor him for a quiet debut and back him next year! As for the French native, he really should do well if his win at Celtic Manor and his home record has anything in them. The issue is that, at the moment, he is hitting it sideways off the tee and unable to recover with his irons – not a great combo around a tight track.
Instead, take a chance on Marcus Kinhult, who beat Robert MacIntyre, Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace to the British Masters in 2019, held at the links of Hillside, his sole victory on tour to date.
The Swede, whose tee-to-green game doesn’t give him as much reward as it may be ought to, followed that win by making a tough up-and-down at the final hole of that season’s Nedbank Challenge to join Tommy Fleetwood in a play-off, both having come from off the pace at the start of the day.
Unfortunately, that one didn’t go his way, but he has continued to bank a solid record, including top-10 finishes in Qatar (hello, again), The Renaissance Club and Wentworth through 2020, before a personal nightmare.
As he explained in his DP World Tour blog, the 26-year-old started suffering with dizzy spells, eventually diagnosed with epilepsy. In terms of golf, we can put a red line through 2021 form.
Fortunately, the condition is now under control and having worked his way through the Nordic Golf League, where in two events he finished ninth and first, arrived at full fitness at Kenya to finish inside the top-10, before a closing third in Qatar (hello…oh, ok.)
Whilst he couldn’t capitalise on a place in the final two-ball at The Belfry, it was a good warm-up for a return to Hillside, where he would finish a never-nearer third, following that effort with a pair of 23rd place finishes at the Czech Masters and Crans.
It is worth noting that his best efforts in 2018 were in Qatar, at Wentworth and around here (when finishing in fifth place), whilst the last time the French Open was played here, he again finished quickly to be just outside the top-10.
Kinhult has ranked top-12 for driving accuracy in his last three completed outings, and in the top-20 for scrambling in five of eight starts. This is his track.
Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama make big gear changes in Napa
Andrew Tursky was on site at the Fortinet Championship this week and got all he could handle in terms of new equipment news. There were new irons, drivers, and even headcovers all over the range, so we had to dig into two of the biggest stories out there on this week’s Two Guys Talking Golf Podcast (give us a follow on Instagram: @tg2wrx).
Rickie Fowler’s new irons
Rickie Fowler has been changing a lot of equipment in his bag as he has struggled to get his golf game back into shape. We have seen him with different drivers, shafts, irons, and putters throughout the 2021-2022 season. Fowler has typically played some form of blade during his career, and Cobra even made him some signature Rev33 blades that were beautiful, but razor thin and intimidating for us mortal golfers.
Rickie showed up to the Fortinet with some brand new, unreleased, Cobra King Tour irons. The King Tour irons look a lot like the current Cobra King Tour MIM irons, and we can only assume that the new Tour will replace the MIM.
The interesting thing about the King Tour irons is that they look a little larger than his preferred blades and that they might have a little more ball speed and distance built into them. From the images you can tell there is a little slot behind the face that might be filled with some type of polymer.
Rickie didn’t get into the tech of the new King Tour irons but did tell Tursky that he was gaining around 3-4 yards on shots that he stuck low on the face. He finished the first round of the Fortinet Championship in the top four, so the new irons have seen some success under pressure. I know many of us hope to see Rickie back to form soon, and maybe these new King Tour irons can be the catalyst.
Hideki Matsuyama’s driver change
The other big story comes from a former Masters Champion testing out some new drivers on the range, Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama is well known as a golfer who loves to test and tinker with new golf equipment. Each week there is a good chance that he will have multiple drivers, irons, and fairways in the bag searching for the perfect club that week.
Earlier this week, Hideki was spotted with some new, unreleased, Srixon drivers out on the range in Napa. We spotted a few pros testing the new Srixon ZX7 MkII and ZX 5 MkII LS on the range.
Andrew spoke to the Srixon reps and learned Hideki has been trying the new drivers and seems to have settled on a Srixon ZX5 MkII in 10.5 degrees of loft (and his trusty Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 TX shaft).
The ZX5 MkII LS looks to have an adjustable weight on the sole that is moved far forward —closer to the face — to possibly lower the spin. We haven’t heard anything specific from Srixon on the new drivers, but with their recent success, we would expect to see some solid performance out of the line.
Check out the full TG2 podcast, below
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