“Going to Take a Little Time”

 

A five-over 76 in the second round put Tiger Woods comfortably outside the cutline Friday at the Genesis Open by four shots at Riviera Country Club after Thursday’s round of 72.

This is his 25th missed cut since turning professional in 1996 and 330 career starts.

There are two takeaways, both important for Woods, the PGA Tour and golf fans.

First, his game needs lots of work starting off the tee. Over an admittedly difficult driving course Woods managed just 13 of 28 fairways or 46 percent while the leaders were hitting two-thirds or better. Less than half the fairways would be fine on some layouts but at Riviera the kikuyu rough makes it often impossible to control the line of a shot much less the distance.

So, for two rounds he hit just 16 of 36 greens and was 10 for 18 scrambling…not exactly numbers that bring fear into the eyes of a fellow competitor.

Then there’s his putting which was mediocre at best. Fifty-seven putts for the two rounds put him almost exactly in the middle of the pack and not nearly good enough to compensate for his driving problems.

For any other 42-year old who hadn’t played a full schedule since 2103 this could be expected but its Tiger Woods and normal expectations don’t apply.

Afterwards he said, “I haven’t played golf in years and I’m just starting to come back so it’s going to take a little time. I am progressing, I’m starting to get a feel for tournament golf again. I just need to clean up my rounds.”

“I’m both pleased and also not very happy with some parts of it. It’s nice to be back competing again and to be able to go out there and play, practice after each round. That’s been nice, something I haven’t done in years. So, you know, keep building.”

Optimistically these words aren’t another example of the Woods answering questions with non-answers but truly a reflection of his thoughts and feelings.

Next week is the Honda Classic near his home in South Florida and we will see if he can be competitive at the highest level. The PGA Tour and golf fans need him to be and most of all Woods for himself needs to be.

Diary of a Driver Fitting

 

One of the best ways to hit better shots is to play with clubs that help to correct those individual swing idiosyncrasies we all have. The process for finding the proper sticks is called club fitting and in spite of what you may have heard, to a certain degree it is true, you can buy a game.

Let’s say you are trying to get rid of a slice-producing over the top move that sometimes abruptly morphs into a hard pull to the left. If your clubs could compensate even a little so the ball more often went where you wanted, this maddening game would be a lot more fun.

Some may have doubts about club fitting and question if it is worth the money. Others are hesitant with the excuse they aren’t good enough which may be another way of saying they are unsure of exactly happens during a fitting and perhaps even have a fear of being embarrassed.

As age has imposed itself on my swing, club fittings every couple of years have proven their value if for no other reason than “good shots” become easier. The “I’m not good enough” argument therefore puts the cart before the horse because players at every level of skill beyond rank beginner can be helped with a fitting.

To allay any hesitation from not knowing what to expect we thought it would be worthwhile to follow a typical weekend warrior through a driver fitting and keep a diary of the experience for our readers.

Picking a friend named Scott as guinea pig…oops sorry, the guy to be fitted, an appointment was made at our local PGA TOUR Superstore with fitter Sam O’Donnell. The price for a driver fitting is $100 and O’Donnell pointed out the procedure is the same as what the pros on Tour go through whether only a driver or the whole bag, in fact his area of the PGATSS facility has a big sign, “Fitting Van Experience.”

O’Donnell first asked Scott about his game: how often he played (3-4 times per month), how he scored (mid 90s), his most frequent miss (slice) and what Scott was looking for out of the fitting (straighten the slice). He then measured the length (45.5 inches), loft (9.5 degrees) and grip size (standard) of Scott’s current driver, a 2014 model TaylorMade JetSpeed with a stiff flex Aldila shaft.

After Scott had stretched a bit and drove a few to warm up O’Donnell asked him to hit six drives using his JetSpeed and a TaylorMade TP5, the ball which Scott most often plays. Data on each drive was measured by a ForeSight Quad launch monitor for a baseline O’Donnell could use to judge differences as shafts and heads were changed.

Scott at 6-foot 1-inch generates lot of clubhead speed consistently registering in the 105 to 110 mph range but unfortunately the ball usually started left of the target and then took a tremendous turn to the right. If we had been on the course every one of his drives would most likely have missed the fairway and the straight-line distance from the tee was seldom over 220-yards. Plus, as do most golfers who slice, Scott made impact low on the face and towards the heel which all by itself robs him of yardage.

As was said of the late President Ford, Scott sometimes must wait until his first tee shot lands to see which course he would be playing that day. Though that sounds exaggerated (and it is of course) you can’t mistake Scott’s deep desire to play better…if for no other reason than to beat me.

O’Donnell now took a similar TaylorMade clubhead from his stock of several dozen made by a variety of manufacturers all with quick-connect hosels and had Scott hit more drives using a different shaft than the one in his JetSpeed. In addition to the ball’s path, measurements shown on the launch monitor included clubhead and ball speed, back and side spin and smash factor—the ratio of ball speed to clubhead speed. After a few drives with the first shaft a second was tried with the same head, then a third and a fourth and then back to the second and third again. Finally, the second, a stiff flex Fujikura Pro Green 62 weighing 66-grams and 45-inches in length, was selected since it consistently produced the best combination of distance, trajectory and dispersion.

O’Donnell pointed out in most driver fittings he evaluates at least four shafts and often more.

Now that the proper shaft had been identified the process moved on to finding the best clubhead. Based on his experience O’Donnell had an idea which clubheads were the most likely to produce the results he wanted and selected those for testing on the Fujikura shaft. Each head was hit at least six times and a couple as many as a dozen. Analyzing the results the number of heads was narrowed down to two low spin models, the Ping G400 LST and the Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic Sub Zero. When mated with the Fujikura shaft both produced much improved results over Scott’s JetSpeed, more distance and less left to right slice.

After hitting each of them again the decision was made to go with the Callaway on the strength of slightly lower dispersion and the fact Scott liked its looks at address. All of this took almost two hours but when we left Scott had a set of specifications for a new Callaway Great Big Bertha Epic Sub Zero driver with a stiff flex 45-inch long Fujikura Pro Green 62 shaft. He told O’Donnell he wanted to think over spending the money, $500, and would get back to him if he decided to buy.

Two days later a text message from Scott said he was going in after work to place the order and a week later his driver arrived. Needless to say, he could hardly wait for the weekend to put the new one-wood into play and the following Saturday Scott phoned driving home from the course.

His first words were, “I’d say the driver is an A+. Now when I walk on the tee I’m looking forward to it. I measured at least one of the drives to over 270.”

He continued saying, “I hit eight of 14 fairways and only one drive was way out to the right.”

Wonderful news, not just because it was a validation for Scott having spent all that money but the enthusiasm in his voice was great to hear. By way of comparison, with his old driver Scott often didn’t hit even one fairway a round and 270 was just a dream.

A couple of other points. To put to rest comments sometimes heard about the fitting process at some retailers, neither Sam O’Donnell nor PGA TOUR Superstore receive extra compensation for specifying clubs of any manufacturer nor does O’Donnell receive a sales commission when a driver is sold. O’Donnell put it simply, “We just want players to walk out of here with the best clubs for their game.”

Scott’s evaluation of the fitting experience at PGATSS can be summed up easily, he told me he is going back to have irons fit.

The lesson for golfers of all levels is the better-suited the clubs the better the results. A professional level fitting is making an investment in our future enjoyment of the game.

Tour Edge HL3 – Quality & Performance at Lower Price

One of the more interesting introductions at this year’s PGA Merchandise Show was a family of clubs from Tour Edge Golf called Hot Launch 3 with members running from two versions of the driver down through wedges. Over the past few years the number of models in the premium and ultra-premium price categories has continued to grow as manufacturers look to increase revenue in a stagnate market.

Tour Edge on the other hand with the HL 3 family is taking a different approach and making a major push at the other end of the price spectrum.

Company founder and master club designer David Glod makes the point that HL 3 drivers for example don’t take a back seat in performance to those at two or even three times the price. A rather refreshing approach to say the least and fortunately for golfers Tour Edge has carried through the same relationship of price and performance in the other of models in the family.

The standard and Offset versions drivers are each priced at $189.99 and both feature a variable thickness titanium cup face to preserve ball speed on off center impacts. They have a channel in the sole behind the face’s leading edge to lower ball spin and make the head more forgiving plus there’s a fixed rear sole weight which moves the center of gravity rearward to produce a higher ball launch. Lowering the ball’s spin and pushing the ball’s trajectory toward a more ideal angle are key to getting the most distance from a given swing speed.

In the Offset version, the entry point of the shaft into the clubhead is further forward, i.e., closer to the target, which is more of a “slice-fighting” configuration than the standard.

“Our HL3 line has taken a major step forward in terms of looks and performance over Hot Launch 2 and that was a product that we saw more than double in revenue,” said Glod. “We really see HL3 as being the driving force of growth for Tour Edge and that all comes down to it being the best value available in the custom fitting market.”

He continued, pointing out the company has plans for 1,000 custom fitting centers each having a mobile custom fitting bag filled with HL3 clubs. This will give golfers of every skill level the opportunity to test and be properly fitted with clubs that will maximize results for their particularly swing.

The standard model HL3 driver will be available in lofts of 9.5- and 10.5-degrees and the HL3 Offset in 10.5-, 12- and 13.5-degree lofts. Both come with a proprietary UST Mamiya stock shaft weighing from 48 to 60 grams depending on results of the driver fitting.

HL3 fairway woods, either standard or Offset, are priced at $139.99 with the hybrids at $119.99. A set of HL3 irons (4-PW) is $419.99 with steel shafts and graphite shafts are $70 additional. Adding to the player-friendly choices are forged face Iron-Woods (a category Tour Edge pioneered) at $79.99 with steel shafts or $89.99 with graphite in a range of lofts from 18 degrees to 59 degrees. Iron-Woods make an ideal way to mix-and-match with fairways woods, hybrids and irons to make up just the right set.

Taking a standard version HL3 driver to the course provided the opportunity to see results under actual playing conditions rather than simply a few swings on the range or pounding balls into a net. For comparison drivers from two different manufacturers, both with a custom fit after-market shaft, were also put in the bag.

The comparison was revealing.

Using Titleist Pro V1 golf balls for all the tee shots we saw the Tour Edge HL3 could certainly hold its own. My driver swing speed is 96 to 98 mph and to achieve the most realistic comparison all three drivers were hit on every par four and par five. Without question the distance using the HL3 was essentially the same as the more expensive drivers given the variations in wind, slope and firmness of the landing area and the usual variations in my swing. Also, it was apparent the dispersion left and right with the HL3 was probably somewhat less but since actual measurements were not done we called it “comparable” to the other two drivers.

Does this mean you should rush right out and buy an HL3? Of course not.

This is all about is what works for you not some guy writing a review.

What it does mean though, if you are in the market to replace your one-wood the Tour Edge Hot Launch 3 should be part of your consideration. After all, it only makes sense to find clubs that fit your game and produce the results you need at a price that doesn’t bust the budget.