Toy Box: Sabbatini's setup wins Byron Nelson
>> Byron Nelson winner Rory Sabbatini is a TaylorMade staff player and carries TaylorMade clubs – except for a distinctive 61-degree wedge from the Japanese company Fourteen and an Adams 20-degree hybrid. Sabbatini also carries a 19-degree R9 5-wood. The choice of a 19-degree fairway wood and 20-degree hybrid does not create an overlap, because fairway woods almost always fly higher and farther than hybrids.
>> Michael Allen won the Senior PGA Championship with Titleist’s Pro V1x ball, but the next three finishers (Larry Mize, Bruce Fleisher and Tom Watson) played the Pro V1. It is often said that seniors and women prefer the Pro V1, but this might be an oversimplification. Case in point: Yani Tseng won the LPGA Corning Classic using the Pro V1x. Soo-Yun Kang, who tied for second, also used the Pro V1x.
>> Paul Casey, winner of the BMW PGA Championship, mixed and matched his Nike irons (VR Forged Split Cavity, VR Forged TW blades, ProCombo OS) and wedges (VR). Casey also used a Nike prototype putter.
>> No secrets for Stewart Cink, who announced on Twitter that he is considering a wedge change. He would go from his current lineup of 49, 54 and 61 degrees to a new configuration of 47, 51.5, 56 and 61.
“It’s true,” said Nike tour rep Rick Nichols. “The long hitters commonly give up a long iron and go for more wedges. He might do it this year, but, basically, Stewart is a guy who likes to stay ahead of the curve. So he’s is looking at next year and the new groove regulations (the PGA Tour has mandated less aggressive grooves for all wedges and irons).”
Added Tom Stites, Nike’s lead club designer:, “We have received a huge amount of (groove) input from Stewart. He is very interested in the whole process. All I can tell you right now is that our wedges (for 2010) will stay really clean and well-balanced. The only thing we won’t have is a wacky wedge.”
>> As touring pros begin experimenting with TaylorMade’s new 460cc R9 driver, a few are changing over from the 430cc R9. One is Spencer Levin, who had no intention of switching until he played a Byron Nelson practice round with Jonathan Kaye and had a chance to try the R9 460 (9.5 degree).
“It’s in my bag,” Levin said.
The original R9 features interchangeable weights in the clubhead, while the 460 model does not.
Not all TaylorMade players, however, are going with the R9 family. Michael Allen used an R7 Super Quad driver (10.5 degree).
>> The SeeMore putter express continues to roll.
On the heels of Zach Johnson’s SeeMore-aided victory at Valero Texas Open, D.A. Points put a SeeMore in his bag and putted impressively to finish third at the Byron Nelson. Points had 107 putts for 72 holes.
Another SeeMore user, Briny Baird, also cracked the top 10 at the Byron Nelson.
– James Achenbach
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Valero Texas Open champion Zach Johnson won his fifth PGA Tour event in 26 months with his third different SeeMore putter.
All three SeeMores are members of the same FGP family (the FGP is the original SeeMore). Johnson’s newest putter, which he put into play for the first time at the Players Championship, is the recently introduced FGP Stainless, which retails for $185.
Choices abound for this putter. It is available in blade or mallet, black or nickel satin finish, and straight or offset shaft. Johnson used the blade version with black satin finish and straight shaft.
Johnson shot 60 in the third round and became the first Tour player to record two career rounds of 60 or better.
Three other players – Briny Baird, Matthew Loving and Greg Owen – used the SeeMore M1 belly putter in the Texas Open.
>> Who says the long-hitters always win?
Johnson is known as a short hitter, relatively speaking, as are Paul Goydos (T-3 at the Valero) and Justin Leonard (T-5).
Johnson ranked 47th in driving distance (295.8 yards) among 75 players who made the Texas Open cut. Goydos was 50th (294.4 yards).
Leonard, who used a 46-inch Nike STR8-FIT driver (9.5 degrees) with an X-flex Accra Axiv Orange shaft, busted the 300-yard barrier (300.3 yards) but still ranked 31st.
Dustin Johnson led the field in driving distance at 325.1 yards, yet tied for 24th in the tournament.
>> Need more evidence that distance is not everything? Looking at the LPGA Tour, Cristie Kerr is No. 1 on the 2009 money list ($718,905) and No. 2 in scoring average (70.32).
Kerr’s driving average for the year? It’s just 253.3 yards.
Kerr also could be a cover girl for individualism in golf. In this, the age of hybrids, she does not carry a single hybrid in her bag.
Kerr uses a Ping G10 driver (9 degree), along with three Ping Rapture V2 fairway woods (16-degree 3-wood, 19-degree 5-wood, 22-degree 7-wood).
Her irons (4-PW) are Callaway X-16 Pro Series. She has two Scratch wedges (54 and 60 degree, bent to 52 and 58 degree, respectively) and an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball putter. Her ball is the 2009 version of the Titleist Pro V1.
>> Goydos carried 14 TaylorMade clubs in his bag at the Texas Open. He also had Aldila NV graphite shafts in four of them – the NV65 in his driver (9.5-degree R9) and 3-wood (Burner 13-degree), along with the NV Hybrid 85 in two hybrids (Rescue TP, 17 degree and 21 degree).
Goydos switched back to a TaylorMade Monza Spider putter at the Texas Open. He has shuffled between TaylorMade and Odyssey putters.
>> TaylorMade last week formally introduced the new Monza Spider Bolero putter, which has been extensively tested by Sean O’Hair and several other players.
The hallmark of the Bolero is its “ball-in-cup” aiming feature. At address, the image of the ball resting in front of the clubface works in conjunction with a white line on Balero’s crown and a round hole through the back.
>> TaylorMade edged past Titleist in the iron count. The two companies have been battling closely all year, with Titleist on top, although TaylorMade won this one by a 42-40 count.
Titleist, with Bob Vokey designing custom wedges for Tour players, has thrashed the competition all year in the wedge count. At the Valero, Titleist totaled 194 wedges to 75 for runner-up TaylorMade. Cleveland, once the leader in Tour usage, was third with 70.
Adams won the Texas Open hybrid count with 45 in play, but that total seemed small compared with the Nationwide Tour count. At the BMW Charity Pro-Am, 105 Adams hybrids were in play. This is believed to be the first time a manufacturer has surpassed 100 in any PGA Tour, Champions Tour or Nationwide Tour event.
>> Rife, which always states that no players are paid to use its putters, is accumulating some impressive usage numbers on several tours.
Not only did Rife take the putter count at the Regions Charity Classic on the Champions Tour with 23 in play, but the same week it also had 12 in use on the LPGA Tour, 11 on the Nationwide Tour, and 9 on the PGA Tour.
Keith Fergus rode a Rife 2 Bar Blade to the winner’s circle in the Regions event. Furthermore, on the Duramed Futures Tour, Elisa Serramia used a Rife 2 Bar Hybrid Mallet putter in capturing the Mercedes-Benz Championship presented by Zurich.
>> Slotline was one of the most popular putters in golf in the late 1980s and early ’90s. Now it is attempting a comeback.
At the Regions Charity Classic, Morris Hatalsky and Tom Wargo used the Slotline SS-384 mallet.
>> With three playoff winners on three different tours (PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour and PGA European Tour), it was a big week for Titleist. The three champions carried 41 Titleist clubs among their total of 42 clubs.
The only exception was Johnson’s SeeMore putter.
Amateur Shane Lowry on the European Tour and Michael Sim on the Nationwide Tour each had 14 Titleist clubs.
Both Sim and Johnson chose Diamana shafts for their drivers, Sim using the Diamana Whiteboard and Johnson playing the softer Diamana Blueboard. Sim had an old 905R Titleist driver, while Johnson used the new 909 D2 driver.
• • •
>> What’s in a name? Henrik Stenson won The Players Championship with a putter named Donna. It came from Yes! Golf.
Yes! is fond of naming its putters after women, and Retief Goosen won both his U.S. Open titles with a Yes! putter named Tracy.
Goosen’s wife also is named Tracy. Stenson’s wife is named Emma. Oops.
Donna is not just another pretty face. She has a stainless-steel body with an aircraft-grade-aluminum face. Its head weighs 355 grams and is face-balanced.
Stenson has perfected his putting with Phil Kenyon, his instructor, and Harold Swash, designer of the original C-Groove putters from Yes! Golf.
Stenson switched to the Donna model after last fall’s Ryder Cup and also used the putter in winning the World Cup (with Robert Karlsson) and the Nedbank Million Dollar Challenge in South Africa.
>> Stenson played a Srixon Z-Star golf ball and Srixon I-506 forged irons (3-PW) in his victory at TPC Sawgrass.
The rest of his clubs: Callaway FT-3 driver, Callaway Big Bertha 3-wood and 5-wood, Callaway X-Tour 54-degree and 58-degree wedges.
Stenson clearly is a man who sticks with what brought him to the dance. The FT-3 driver is from 2005, and the Big Bertha fairway woods are from ’04.
>> Cristie Kerr won the Michelob Ultra Open with a 54-degree sand wedge that featured a sole grind called Dog. The grind came from Scratch Golf, maker of the wedge.
Kerr’s Dog grind was done by Jeff McCoy, vice president of manufacturing and master grinder for Scratch. McCoy has an engineering degree from Ferris State University and an affinity for naming all his grinds.
Not only did Kerr go into battle with a 54-degree Dog, but she also carried a Scratch 60-degree Spoon. The Dog grind has 10 degrees of bounce with a moderate amount of camber (roundness of the sole). The Spoon grind has 8 degrees of bounce with maximum camber.
>> John Daly used Boccieri Golf’s Heavy Putter K4 Mid-Weight Series model in his second-place finish at the Italian Open, where he was in the top 25 in putts per round and putts per greens in regulation.
The new Mid-Weight models weigh 750 grams, more than conventional brands but less than the original Heavy Putter. The K4 model is the classic “toe-droop” blade-style putter.
>> Titleist and TaylorMade once again were dominant in the overall equipment count. Titleist was No. 1 in golf balls, irons, wedges and putters, while TaylorMade was on top in drivers and fairway woods.
Of 97 players who used Titleist golf balls at The Players, 61 played the Pro V1x and 36 played the Pro V1.
Golf balls: Titleist 97, Callaway 16, Nike 11, Srixon 9, TaylorMade 8, Bridgestone 4
Drivers: TaylorMade 52, Titleist 36, Callaway 15, Nike 11, Cleveland 10.
Putters: Titleist 55, Odyssey 34, Ping 16, TaylorMade 9, Never Compromise 8.
Irons: Titleist 40, TaylorMade 33, Callaway 15, Ping 12, Cleveland 11, Nike 11.
Hybrids: Adams 32, TaylorMade 27, Titleist 22.
Fairway woods: TaylorMade 103, Titleist 54, Adams 36, Callaway 34, Nike 18.
Wedges (sand, lob, approach): Titleist 131, Cleveland 50, Callaway 40, TaylorMade 37, Nike 24, Ping 16.
Gloves: FootJoy 59, Titleist 37, Callaway 15, Nike 10.
Shoes: FootJoy 91, Adidas 26, Nike 12.
>> Natalie Gulbis practically put a whole new set of clubs into play at the Michelob Ultra Open. Frustrated with hitting her irons left, Gulbis spent four days at the TaylorMade testing center after the Kraft Nabisco Championship and went home with three sets of irons, six drivers and 15 wedges to test with her instructor, Butch Harmon.
In the end, Gulbis settled on an R9 driver (10.5 degree) and a set of Burner irons (4-9). She also added a 62-degree wedge, giving her four wedges for the first time in her career.
“That 62-degree wedge saved a lot of shots,” she said.
Gulbis, who tied for seventh at 9 under, said the R9 driver added 10 yards on the fly at soggy Kingsmill. She took her 19-degree Rescue club and her 5-wood out of her bag to add a 4-iron and the new wedge.
>> Kevin Na, who stayed in the Acushnet family but switched from being a Cobra to a Titleist staff player during the off-season, still carries a 13-degree Cobra X-Speed fairway wood (with Matrix Ozik Code 7 shaft) and replaced his Titleist AP2 3-iron in lieu of a Cobra Baffler Pro 20-degree hybrid (with Dynamic Gold shaft) for Quail Hollow and The Players.
>> Rife, known for dominating the putter count on the Champions Tour, came out swinging on the PGA Tour at The Players Championship.
Alexander Cejka, who goes back and forth between a conventional Titleist Scotty Cameron putter and a belly-length Rife, put the Rife Two Bar Hybrid Mallet into play and built a five-shot lead after 54 holes.
Cejka paid a visit to the Cameron Putter Studio before The Players, used a Cameron putter early in the week, then switched to the Rife putter on Wednesday.
Cejka’s Rife belly putter is 41 inches. He prefers a lighter head, so the Two Bar Hybrid Mallet head weighs 345 grams (as opposed to about 400 grams for most belly putters).
>> Ian Poulter, The Players runner-up, used a Rife Island Series Antigua putter. Another Englishman, Justin Rose, switched back to Rife and used a Mr. Beasley model (sometimes called an Aussie Mallet).
>> The 2009 Nike One Tour ball is attracting many Nike staff players.
Among the latest to switch: Stewart Cink, who went from the One Tour D to the One Tour. Other One Tour users at The Players Championship included Tiger Woods, Stephen Ames, Paul Casey, K.J. Choi, Trevor Immelman, Anthony Kim, Justin Leonard, Carl Pettersson and Bo Van Pelt.
The One Tour is slightly softer and spins more than the One Tour D.
>> In anticipation of firm, hard-to-hold greens at TPC Sawgrass, several TaylorMade players asked for more-lofted fairway woods and hybrids for a higher, softer-landing flight.
Sergio Garcia put an R9 5-wood in his bag, and Retief Goosen switched his R9 4-wood for an R9 5-wood. Scott Verplank replaced his 3-iron with a 22-degree Rescue 2009. Martin Laird replaced his 2-iron with a Tour Burner 5-wood. Steve Lowery requested a 22-degree Rescue 2009.
– James Achenbach, Sean Martin and Beth Ann Baldry