2001: Season signaled wound ball’s end as a winner

The year 2001 left a clear epitaph for wound golf balls: RIP.

It appears that no winner on the PGA Tour, Senior PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Buy.com Tour, PGA European Tour, Japan Golf Tour or Canadian Professional Golf Tour used a wound golf ball.

Some of the other tours around the world are more difficult to scrutinize. Regardless, there might have been no winner on any significant tour using a wound ball. A Golfweek survey of the various tours revealed none.

What is a wound golf ball? By traditional definition, it is a ball with a large core of thread windings around a small liquid or solid center. On the PGA Tour, the Titleist Professional was the most popular wound ball in the 1990s.

That started to change late in 2000, when Titleist introduced the solid-core Pro V1. Spalding (Top-Flite) and Bridgestone (Precept) already had been telling the world that wound balls were headed toward extinction. It seems they were correct.

Think of it: For the first time in the official and unofficial history of the PGA Tour, no winner used a wound ball. This period encompasses 75 years.

Two Maxfli balls, the Revolution and A10, have a thin layer of windings around a large solid core. However, these balls are not considered wound. Rather they belong to the modern category of solid-core balls as personified by the Pro V1, Nike Tour Accuracy, Spalding Strata and various balls from Callaway and Precept. Whereas the Maxfli balls have a mantle layer of windings around the core, the others have a thin, solid mantle layer of plastic or rubber material. All have an outer cover on top of the mantle.

So successful was the Pro V1 that it captured 32 of the 46 tournaments played on the PGA Tour. Nike, with six victories, was the only other ball to win more than three times.

Titleist also was dominant on the Senior PGA Tour (winning 19 of 37 events), PGA European Tour (taking 23 of 40), Buy.com Tour (21 of 28) and Canadian Tour (13 of 14).

The Titleist string was broken by Callaway on the LPGA Tour, thanks to Callaway staffer Annika Sorenstam, who won eight times in 2001. The final numbers: Callaway 17, Titleist 12, Maxfli 5.

In Japan, Bridgestone claimed 11 victories to 7 for Titleist. Callaway was third with 6.

There is no question that golf balls dominated the equipment picture for 2001. It is difficult to count worldwide professional victories for different balls, but the Golfweek tally gives 142 to Titleist, 49 to Callaway, 23 to Bridgestone/Precept, 20 to Nike and 14 to Maxfli.

There were other interesting equipment stories in 2001.

Perhaps the biggest was Mizuno’s ability to once again edge Titleist in overall iron usage on the PGA Tour. Counting all players in all tournaments, Mizuno had 1,114 sets in play during the year. Titleist had 1,106.

Titleist had the most iron victories, though, with 13. That’s because Tiger Woods uses Titleist irons. Mizuno and Cleveland were next with 8 victories apiece.

Mizuno, a large Japanese equipment maker with modest sales in the United States, is famous for its forged blades. The challenge for Mizuno to repeat as iron champ in 2002 might be insurmountable, however, with Nike bringing its forged irons to the PGA Tour. John Cook, for example, won this year with Mizuno irons but will play Nike next year.

Among all golf companies, Cleveland encountered perhaps the most dramatic success in 2001. The company had a major championship winner (David Toms) and four players among the top 12 on the PGA Tour money list (Toms, Vijay Singh, Bob Estes and Joe Durant).

Cleveland also repeated as the winner of the wedge category on the PGA Tour. Counting all wedges in all events, Cleveland beat runner-up Titleist and third-place Ping.

What’s more, Cleveland had a banner year in the golf marketplace.

“Our fiscal year is the calendar year, but I can tell you we’ll be in excess of $80 million (in sales) this year,” said Cleveland president Greg Hopkins.

How will Cleveland repeat this magic next year?

“I don’t want to repeat it,” Hopkins said. “I want to do better. Next year will be our breakout year. We’ll be heading very quickly to the $100 million mark, in my opinion.”

TaylorMade won the overall driver count on the PGA Tour, Callaway was the runaway winner in fairway woods, and Titleist captured the putter category. FootJoy was No. 1 in shoes and gloves.

Orlimar settled into its accustomed position as runner-up to Callaway in fairway woods. Titleist and Ping were the only companies to finish among the top 3 in drivers, irons, wedges and putters.

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