Presidents Cup: Choice of ball strategic decision for many

Presidents Cup - Final Round Ryan Young/PGA Tour

Presidents Cup: Choice of ball strategic decision for many

Golf

Presidents Cup: Choice of ball strategic decision for many

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – If you thought you saw Jordan Spieth, a Titleist staff player, sometimes hit a Callaway ball while Dustin Johnson, a TaylorMade man, sometimes hit a Bridgestone at the Presidents Cup, your eyes did not deceive you.

Neither of those stars has signed a new endorsement deal, but during the foursomes sessions at the Presidents Cup, deciding which ball to play takes on strategic importance.

The Rules of Golf do not require a player use the same type of ball throughout a round. A condition of competition commonly referred to as the One Ball Rule can be put into effect, and when it is, a player (or team) has to use the same brand and type ball throughout a round.

“This is the first Presidents Cup we have played without the One Ball Rule for its entirety,” said Steve Carman, the PGA Tour’s vice president of competition and administration. “We have had it for four-ball and singles, but not played it in foursomes.

“It really came about as a result of what we did in New Orleans when we had a team event this year. We had two rounds that were foursomes and two rounds that were four-ball. We felt like half the tournament was going to be played under the One Ball Rule and half the tournament was not, so rather than confuse everybody, we wanted to play under one rule. Then we brought it to the Presidents Cup for the same reason.”

When the One Ball Rule is not in effect, pros playing in an alternate-shot match nearly always want the golfer who will be hitting into the green to play his ball, because they feel the differences in feel and spin manifest themselves most with irons and wedges.

Balls tend to react differently particularly in windy conditions, and Nick Price failed to take that into consideration when he made his pairings.

“Because there was so little wind on Tuesday and Wednesday, we really didn’t pay attention to, you know, how the balls were,” Price said the Friday night of the matches, when his team was down 8-2. “They seemed to be fine. But when the wind really blew (on Thursday’s first day of matches), that’s when the spin rate on the ball changes. It’s either accentuated or reduced, whichever way, depending if you use a low-spin or a high-spin ball.”

That oversight proved costly.

“There were four guys on the team who used each other’s golf ball in the wind, and it kind of didn’t work,” Price said. “But you would only know that if you had a practice round in a 15- or 20-mph wind. … Obviously, with Ernie (Els) and Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Weir and Tony Johnstone and myself, there are five pretty good brains there and it went past all of us. And only in the middle of the front nine yesterday did, you know, Charl (Schwartzel) came up to us and say, ‘This ball spins too much for me.’ “

Carman said the PGA of America has historically not put the One Ball Rule into effect when it runs Ryder Cups in the United States, while the European Tour has established the condition of competition at Ryder Cups in Europe. Regardless, next year, when the 2018 Ryder Cup is contested at Le Golf National outside Paris, you can be sure Jim Furyk and Thomas Bjorn, the American and European team captains, respectively, will consider golf ball preferences when they make their pairings.

(Note: This story appears in the October 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

What they play

 U.S. Team

  • Daniel Berger: Callaway Chrome Soft
  • Kevin Chappell: Titleist Pro V1
  • Rickie Fowler: Titleist Pro V1
  • Charley Hoffman: Titleist Pro V1
  • Dustin Johnson: TaylorMade TP5x
  • Kevin Kisner: Titleist Pro V1
  • Brooks Koepka: Titleist Pro V1x
  • Matt Kuchar: Bridgestone Tour B X
  • Phil Mickelson: Callaway Chrome Soft
  • Patrick Reed: Callaway Chrome Soft
  • Jordan Spieth: Titleist Pro V1x
  • Justin Thomas: Titleist Pro V1x

International Team

  • Jason Day: TaylorMade TP5x 
  • Branden Grace: Titleist Pro V1x
  • Emiliano Grillo: Callaway Chrome Soft
  • Adam Hadwin: Callaway Chrome Soft X
  • Si Woo Kim: TaylorMade TP5x
  • Anirban Lahiri: Srixon Z-Star XV
  • Marc Leishman: Callaway Chrome Soft X
  • Louis Oosthuizen: Titleist Pro V1x
  • Hideki Matsuyama: Srixon Z-Star XV
  • Charl Schwartzel: Titleist Pro V1
  • Adam Scott: Titleist Pro V1
  • Jhonattan Vegas: Titleist Pro V1 

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