By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
A new golf ball got into the winner’s circle when Phil Mickelson won for the 40th time in his career Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The Callaway HEX Black Tour is the company’s newest weapon in the battle for market share in the premium-ball category, long the domain of Titleist’s ProV1 line.
The ball has hexagon-shaped dimples, similar to previous Callaway balls, but with a new dual-core construction where the outer core has a higher compression and the inner core a much softer compression, allowing for lower spin off longer clubs and higher spin off scoring clubs like wedges and short irons.
A dual mantle and proprietary urethane cover complete the package, which will go on sale March 2.
"I had a big advantage this week, I felt, because when the winds started coming up, when the rain started coming up, I felt like I had an advantage by the way my ball was flying and being controlled through that wind,” Mickelson said after his win. “We've got a new ball this year, HEX Black (Tour), and it just flew so good and penetrated through the air so much better that in this thick, cold air I felt like I had a big advantage."
Mickelson also touted the company’s RAZR Fit driver, which was moved into sale a week earlier after the win.
”I don't know how the physics of this work, but usually when I hit ‑‑ I'm able to hit a high, long ball off the tee and I'm also able to hit a low, controlled cut shot off the tee to get to the fairway, usually it's one or the other. Usually a driver is not able to hit both. I don't know what they did with the physics of it, but it allows me to hit every shot I'm trying to hit off the tee.”
PUTTER ANGST: The long putter argument rages on, and among PGA TOUR players the spectrum of opinion keeps growing. There are players like Tiger Woods who are strictly against it and have even lobbied for a solution, and young stars like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson who are users and huge supporters.
Then there’s Ernie Els, who uses a belly putter and is completely in favor of its disappearance.
“Although I've used it for, what, six months now, I feel the same as most of the traditionalists. I feel that no club should be anchored to your body,” Els said Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “I don't know how they're going to go around it, maybe use a putter as long as you want as long as it's not anchored to your body in any way, even up your arm. You see a lot of the guys use it in their armpits now.
“Nothing should be anchored to your body, and I still believe that. I was in such a state that I felt that I needed to change something, which I did. I went to the belly. It hasn't really helped me that much, but it has helped me. But I'm for it. Ban it. It's fine.”
OLD SCHOOL: Corey Pavin won the Champions Tour’s Allianz Championship last weekend, his first win in 35 starts on the 50-and-over circuit. As usual, he excelled with one of golf’s best short games, whether it was saving par from a ridiculously hard tree-root depression or making clutch putts.
For the latter, he uses a 28-year-old Bulls Eye putter (pictured). In an era of putters of all sizes, shapes and lengths, the Bulls Eye is as old school as it gets. And Pavin’s doesn’t have any fancy paintfills or initials, just his full name stamped on the back.
NEW SCHOOL: One antithesis of the Bulls Eye is Odyssey’s new Flip-Face putters, which have two faces containing different inserts (Odyssey’s Metal-X or White Ice). Depending on the kind of a feel a player is looking for on slower or faster greens, the face can be flipped with a special tool included with the club. Stuart Appleby put a No. 5 model (pictured) in play at AT&T.
CASH PLAY: Not every PGA TOUR player has a bag full of free clubs. Golf World Monday reported that Matt Bettencourt bought a TaylorMade RBZ driver at a golf store when it was released on Feb. 3, not waiting for the company to bring the drivers to TOUR pros at the AT&T.
WINNER’S BAG: Mickelson at the AT&T
Pebble Beach National Pro-Am:
Driver: Callaway RAZR Fit, 9.5 degrees
3-wood: Callaway Big Bertha Diablo
Irons: Callaway X-Forged 4-iron, X-Prototype 5-iron, RAZR X muscle-back 6-PW
Wedges: Callaway X-Series JAWS 52, 60, 64 degrees
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG PT82 Blade
Ball: Callaway HEX Black Tour
EDISON, N.J. – Steve Flesch has become the fourth player to withdraw from The Barclays, stopping after nine holes of his second round while suffering from a sinus headache.
Flesch came into the week ranked 121st and will not earn any FedExCup points. So he will miss next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship and the rest of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
Stuart Appleby and Chris Couch withdrew prior to the start of their second rounds, citing back injuries. Pat Perez withdrew on Thursday after his first round.
EDISON, N.J. – Stuart Appleby and Chris Couch have withdrawn from The Barclays prior to the start of their second rounds.
Appleby, who opened with an 81, and Couch, who shot 77 in the first round, both cited back injuries. They are the second and third players to withdraw this week – Pat Perez left Thursday after opening with a 79.
If he’s healthy, Couch should still be eligible for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which begins Friday. He came to The Barclays ranked No. 78 in the FedExCup and was projected at No. 89 when he withdrew. The top 100 in the standings will play at TPC Boston.
Appleby started the week at No. 113 in the FedExCup standings and didn’t earn any points at The Barclays. The Aussie will now have a five-week break from competition to heal.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Stuart Appleby's switch to the belly putter this week continued to pay dividends on Friday.
Appleby used 26 putts in the second round after taking 25 in the first. The Aussie veteran has made 10 birdies, one eagle and dropped just three shots to par while moving to 9 under and three strokes off Tommy Gainey's lead.
Appleby said Thursday he was still getting used to the belly putter, which he called "very long and very heavy." He made the switch because he wanted to be more consistent -- and with a win this week could make it three-in-a-row for the non-traditional flat stick.
"My aim has been ordinary of late,” Appleby said.
“When your aim is ordinary you screw it up. I feel like
I can get some quality rolls going today. It felt pretty good.
Didn't make any bombs but rolled the ball nice and scared the hole
as much as I could.
"And, again, like I said, solid golf, something I haven't done in awhile. If I can just stay focused and in the moment, get a run through from now on and just go crazy for another month, it will be great."
Appleby said Sedgefield was very different on Friday morning than when he played the previous afternoon. Course management, the Aussie said, was key.
"The rough was still very long but wet in the morning so you
really wanted to avoid that, sort of made getting any yardage out
of it," Appleby said. "Drove it pretty good. Played pretty good.
The course is a good test. …
"It's tough enough out here where you really need to think about positioning your ball under the hole. There's little slopes kicking off the edges of the greens. Good solid play. Something I haven't been able to say at all for a long time. Nice to be playing on the weekend. It's been a long time."
Appleby has missed the cut in 10 of his last 14 starts. He's
also been disqualified once and had to withdraw from the FedEx St.
Jude Classic. But Appleby said he felt like he began to find some
answers at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational
two weeks ago.
"Some shots I hit that were like impressive, they felt like the guy that when I play well that was the sort of swings and shots I made," Appleby said. "... I felt like that week in Akron I started to hit a couple sweet shots and on the range, started to feel like it. That's the beautiful part of the game.
"When you do play well and have successful tournaments, those feelings are still there when you do get it right, it lets you know you're on the right track."
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Tommy Gainey has never played in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
If he goes on to win the Wyndham Championship on Sunday, though, Gainey could move as high as 14th in the standings -- which gives him a great shot at making it through all four and playing in THE TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola for the first time in his career.
Gainey birdied his last two holes at Sedgefield on Friday to finish at 128, which is the second-best opening 36 holes in tournament history. Carl Pettersson shot 125 in 2008 when he went on to win his hometown event.
Gainey owns a three-stroke lead over Webb Simpson and Stuart Appleby as the morning wave in the second round winds to a conclusion.
The 128 total matches the best of Gainey's career, shot earlier this season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he held the lead each of the first three rounds but went on to tie for eighth.
By John Schwarb and Zak Kozuchowski, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods’ sartorial trademark has always been the Sunday red shirt. This week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, the attire attention has shifted south – to his shoes.
Normally golf shoes aren’t a focal point unless they have a standout color (such as Kris Blanks’ red dogs at the RBC Canadian Open), but for a 71-time PGA TOUR winner recovering from leg and Achilles issues, they’re a point of emphasis.
Woods’ Nike Free prototype shoes, the product of nearly a year of design work between Woods and Nike, are described by the company as boasting “a ‘natural motion’ technology that is designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot, coupled with the protection and traction of a lightweight performance shoe.”
“It was nice to try and get something that I felt comfortable in,” Woods said Tuesday during his pre-tournament press conference at Firestone. “The Free technology is something that I wear every day, and some of the things, some of the aspects, I love training in it, I love running in it, lifting in it, so why can't I play golf in it.
“So eventually we got together and created this shoe, and walking out there on the golf course, it felt good to feel my foot activated, something that I hadn't felt in a long time. That felt very good, so the whole chain was activated, something that I'd always felt off the golf course but not on the golf course.”
There’s no metal on the bottom of the shoe, just rubber and soft cleats, which is a change for Woods. Metal cleats have been fading away on TOUR but Woods is a spike loyalist – or at least he was until this week.
Nike has not said when or if Woods’ shoe would be available to the public, though a big week at Firestone or next week at the PGA Championship would likely answer that.
MORE TIGER: A lot is new for Woods this week. In addition to the new caddie and shoes, he’s got a new putter in the bag.
Woods has been spotted playing his practice rounds with a Nike Method 001, a PING-Anser style putter that he first debuted at the 2010 British Open. That was the first time Woods benched his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS, a putter that he used to win 13 of his 14 career major championships.
Woods cited the Method’s firmer face for the switch, saying it would help him get putts to the hole on St. Andrews’ slower greens. By Sunday, however, he returned to his trusty Cameron.
Since then, Woods had been using a toe-down Nike Method mid mallet putter (similar to the Method 005), which has a radically different design from the Newport 2 and the Method 001 that is currently in the bag.
So, while Woods is making a putter change this week, it’s actually a return to the style of putter that has brought him his most success in his career.
VERY OLD SCHOOL: Bob Estes, last a winner on the PGA TOUR in 2002, nearly broke the drought Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic only to lose in a playoff. Had he won it would have been the first title in quite a while for a Titleist Bulls Eye blade (pictured).
There are far more Bulls Eye-shaped putters at miniature golf courses than at TOUR events nowadays. The more preferred sticks from the Titleist arsenal, of course, are Scotty Camerons – like the Del Mar prototype used by Bill Haas (the other Greenbrier playoff runner-up) and the 009 wielded by Scott Stallings (the winner).
OOPS: Golf World shared the story about Stuart Appleby’s Callaway logo balls, which ended up on sale at The Greenbrier instead of in the Aussie’s bag. The company made 112 dozen balls with the player’s usual apple-bee logo, but Appleby thought the logo was too big.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Phil Mickelson talked earlier this week about how much his family was enjoying the many activities at The Greenbrier.
The way he’s playing on Friday afternoon, though, their stay could be an abbreviated one. Mickelson has played seven holes and just made his third bogey. He’s currently tied for 96th at 3 over and in danger of missing the cut.
Mickelson’s playing partners in the Featured Group – Greenbrier pro emeritus Tom Watson and defending champion Stuart Appleby – aren’t faring much better, either.
Watson, who skipped the U.S. Senior Open to honor his commitment to Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, is even par for the day but 5 over for the tournament. Appleby, who shot an historic 59 in Sunday’s final round last year, just bogeyed the seventh hole and is 2 over for the tournament.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Phil Mickelson wasn't particularly pleased with the even-par 70 he shot in the first round of The Greenbrier Classic.
He didn't have much time to dwell on it, though. After all, he had a date to go white-water rafting with his wife Amy and their three kids on Thursday afternoon.
Still, Mickelson knows he'll need to do better on Friday to extend the family's stay at The Greenbrier into the weekend. But there will be time before his 12:40 p.m. tee time to work out the kinks with his putter which he used 31 times in the first round.
Mickelson had some flashes on Thursday, though. He started on the back nine and turned in 1 under, then birdied No. 1 to get on the leaderboard. But Mickelson made four bogeys over his next eight holes and just two birdies to finish at even par.
"It was a disappointing overall score for me, because I played
well enough to score low," said Mickelson, who is making his debut
at The Greenbrier Classic. "I missed six putts inside six feet, and
I just can't do that.
"I ended up making some longer ones, which was good, to offset it. But I've got to get this turned around for tomorrow."
Mickelson did enjoy the company on Thursday, though, as he played with defending champion Stuart Appleby and teed it up in competition with Tom Watson for the first time. Appleby shot 71 while Watson, the pro emeritus at The Greenbrier who skipped the U.S. Senior Open to play here, had a 75.
"It's great to see him playing in a regular TOUR event,"
Mickelson said. "It's great to see him back out here playing. Gosh,
he strikes it so well and so solid. He made some great putts early
on. Looked like he was going to have a good round. Unfortunately
didn't turn out that way.
"But he still has so much game."