2005: British Open - Equipment drama a constant

St. Andrews, Scotland

There was a bit of Shakespeare about the Open Championship. There was drama in the saga of these men and their sticks, and it went far beyond the two wedges of Colin Montgomerie that were declared nonconforming before the competition started. (More on this later.)

The Open is all about human drama. Humpy-bumpy course conditions and flip-flopping weather can pound players into mental pulp.

Golf company trailers, complete with golf club workshops, lined both sides of the practice range at the Old Course. Clubmakers have to be artisans, but they also must be psychologists.

Touring pros often need help with their clubs and their minds. Early in the week, Montgomerie had worked himself into something of a frenzy over his wedge play. He was searching for new wedges.

Monty came into the Mizuno trailer with two Specialist wedges from a British company that makes classic wedges with longer hosels. He wanted them reshafted.

The Mizuno clubmakers were willing to reshaft them, but they also felt compelled to measure the wedges for conforming grooves. Their measurements were borderline, and they advised Montgomerie to submit them to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

This was done, and the grooves were deemed to be too wide and too deep.

Monty, standing on the range, lamented, “My wedges feel dead. I want more feel.” He was anticipating a flurry of wedge shots from tight lies.

Eventually he went into battle with forged sand and lob wedges from Callaway. They were reshafted with Rifle shafts. He carried a Yonex PowerBrid pitching wedge to go along with his set of Yonex Cyberstar irons.

There was more Monty news, this time in the putter arena. He has been pulling heavier heads from long putters and using them at a more conventional 36-inch length. At St. Andrews, he used a heavier Odyssey White Hot 3 head.

Montgomerie recently tried to carry four Odyssey putters onto a commercial flight at the Dublin airport, but was turned away. So he broke the shafts over his knee and packed the halved putters in his suitcase.

This wedge and putter adventure clearly was worth it, because Montgomerie finished second behind Tiger Woods.

Ping introduced a new iron, called the i5, to its staff players at the Open Championship. Chris DiMarco and Mark Calcavecchia showed interest in using the iron, but this was not possible. The Ping trailer was full of 6-irons and nothing else.

“It’s a new club, and we don’t have full sets yet,” said Ping chairman John Solheim.

The i5 iron appears to be intended to replace the i3 Plus, which is used by many Ping touring pros. The S59 remains the most blade-like iron offered by Ping.

Wedge experts were busy grinding wedges at St. Andrews, and Solheim personally ground Calcavecchia’s Ping lob wedge. For the firm turf of an Open course, less bounce is preferred by most players.

Titleist’s Bob Vokey performed his wedge grinding magic for Brad Faxon, who remained in contention through three rounds. Vokey did the same for Ernie Els, but Els decided to stick with his normal wedges.

“I’d like to take a patch of this turf back to the U.S.,” Vokey said of the hardpan surrounding the greens. “Most players would be better off if they used special (low bounce) wedges in these conditions.”

There was something of a putter soap opera at the Open. Nick O’Hern carried two Ping putters – at the same time. To accomplish this, he removed his 4-iron.

One putter was his normal long one, while the other was conventional length. O’Hern used the short putter for lengthy lag putts from off the putting surface.

Darren Clarke putted with three different putters in the first three rounds. His final candidate, a Rossa Monza Corsa from TaylorMade, made it through the third and fourth rounds.

Retief Goosen, stuck in an uncharacteristic putting slump, started the championship with the same Yes! putter he used to win two U.S. Opens. He later switched, however, to a Zen putter.

Rory Sabbatini, using a Nike Ignite driver, hit two 350-yard drives in the first round within 12 feet of the hole. Both, of course, were on par-4 holes. Sabbatini missed the two eagle putts, one from 12 feet and the other from 7 feet.

Sabbatini, trying a Sonartec 19-degree Md hybrid on the range, aimed a punch shot at a microphone 40 yards in front of him. The microphone was on top of a stick, about 5 feet off the ground.

“Think I can hit it?” he asked.

Without waiting for an answer, he nailed it on his first try. The microphone, covered with a layer of foam, did not break. Sabbatini used the club in the championship.

Jim Furyk experimented with two balls – a Hogan Tour Deep and a Callaway HX Tour 56 – before choosing the Callaway. Furyk was interested in the slightly lower-flying Hogan ball in case ferocious winds invaded the course.

Nine different balls were stocked on the range: Titleist Pro V1, Titleist Pro V1x, Callaway HX Tour 56, Hogan Tour Deep, Bridgestone Tour B330, Maxfli Black Max, Nike Black, Nike Platinum and Srixon Z-URS.

U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell gave a clinic on behalf of Callaway at nearby St. Andrews Bay, hitting an impressive array of high and low drives with his CT-3 driver. Campbell hit several drives without a tee from extremely tight lies.

The CT-3, with a composite crown and titanium body, appears to help remove backspin from the drives of most players. As a result, golfers generally need a little more loft than normal to achieve the proper trajectory.

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