By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Titleist is debuting some new firepower this week at the AT&T National, namely its 913 series of drivers.
The company hasn’t introduced a new driver in two years, but the 913 is the next step in the “900” family (with “9” being its designation for metalwoods and “13” for the model year), with a few subtle differences from the 910 series.
Titleist loyalists will notice the striping on the sole and new markings on the face, as well as a weight cartridge at the rear of the club. The cartridges can be swapped out to optimize launch conditions, and like the 910 models the new 913 has the SureFit Tour hosel to adjust lie and loft.
Like the 910, the 913 has a D2 and D3 model, with the D2 being slightly bigger.
Bobby Gates took the first swings with the club on Monday at the range at Congressional Country Club, with Titleist players Seung-Yul Noh, Jimmy Walker and Brendan Steele also getting licks in. Rory McIlroy has one in Ireland this week, where he’ll play in the European Tour’s Irish Open.
The clubs will go on sale to the public sometime in the fall, retailing for around $399.
MR. 59: After dalliances with several flatsticks, Stuart Appleby returned to the Odyssey White Hot XG 330 mallet that he shot 59 with at The Greenbrier Classic in 2010.
“I really had to assess what was going on in my game and where I had to improve,” he said. “I was chasing around, moving putters. Didn’t know when I was going to hit the hole. It just started sapping the energy.”
Sure enough, he finished T18 at the Travelers for his first top-20 finish of the season.
COLORFUL: More of Callaway’s udesign-inspired Razr Fit drivers are making the rounds on the PGA TOUR. At the Travelers, J.J. Killeen used a purple one in honor of his TCU roots, while Danny Lee used a blue driver that was actually built for Fredrik Jacobson, but the Swede declined to use it in play so Callaway reps gave it to Lee.
WINNER’S BAG: Marc Leishman at the Travelers
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (UST Mamiya AXIVCore, 7.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: Titleist 910F (13.5 degrees)
Hybrid: Mizuno Fli-Hi (18 degrees)
Irons: Titleist AP2 (3-4), MB (5-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled (PW, 54, 58 degrees)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2 Mid-slant T10
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Keegan Bradley takes a behind-the-scenes look at Cleveland Golf's headquarters in Huntington Beach, Calif.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Keegan Bradley’s sophomore season on the PGA TOUR starts Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. To be ready for 2012, the reigning Rookie of the Year visited Cleveland Golf’s headquarters to get his equipment tuned up.
In the video Bradley shows off his Cleveland Classic driver, a modern club with a throwback look. It has the biggest face of any driver the company has made, with variable face thickness.
But those features take a backseat to the appearance, which harkens to the persimmon clubs of decades ago. The Classic has a mahogany-colored crown, brass sole plate and face insert and an oldstyle “1” on the sole that was perhaps last seen on leather headcovers long banished to closets.
BALL TALK: TaylorMade’s RocketBallz line will include balls as well as metalwoods and irons. The company is rebranding its ball stable into three categories – the Penta TP5, Penta TP3, and RocketBallz.
The Penta TP5 is the five-layer ball at the top price point and in many TOUR players’ hands, and TaylorMade said that the compression of the ball’s core has been reduced in order to add distance.
The Penta TP3 has the same urethane cover as the Penta TP5, but just one mantle layer. RocketBallz also has three pieces but with an ionomer cover. RocketBallz will be touted as the pure distance option and be the cheapest of the three offerings.
LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Bobby Gates towers over Rickie Fowler by some eight inches, but Fowler actually wields the longer driver. That’s one nugget in a Golfweek.com interview with Titleist Tour Representative Chris Tuten.
“All golfers are individuals, and there is no such thing as fitting a player strictly by the way he looks,” Tuten said.
Bobby Gates was a latecomer to the top of the leaderboard Thursday, and he’s still up there -- in a tie for second at the moment -- through the first seven holes of his second round.
Part of the morning wave, Gates is hoping to take advantage of soft conditions after storms rolled through the area earlier. He’s already well ahead of how he played the last three weeks when he missed the cut each time.
“I've been struggling lately. Just been really close and haven't made it, haven't really got any momentum going,” Gates said Thursday. “So my new goal this week is just to keep [momentum from the first round] going. Keep thinking about hitting it like I've been hitting it. It hasn't really been rewarded lately, so hopefully this week will be the start of it.
"I hit it really close all day. I played really well, but I left a lot out there. I could have been really good. Hopefully, I'll capitalize on that the rest of the week."
Not surprisingly, players were wary of the wind this week at the Valero Texas Open. And the need for lower trajectory and more control in crosswinds prompted several Titleist players to make changes to their bags.
Chris Kirk had 17-degree and 21-degree 910H hybrids in his bag two weeks ago when he finished second at the Shell Houston Open. His longest iron at Redstone was a 4-iron. This week, though, the rookie has added a 3-iron to match the rest of his Titleist MBs and replaced the two hybrids with a 19-degree 910H.
Bobby Gates made two changes to his bag. First, he replaced a 15-degree Titleist fairway wood with a 13.5 version. He also added a 3-iron to the Titleist CBs in his bag this week -- ditching the 52-degree wedge he normally carries to make room. So Gates is playing this week with a 48-degree pitching wedge, a 56-degree sand wedge and a 60-degree lob wedge, all Vokey Design.
Michael Sim also returned his Titleist 503i 3-iron to the lineup, replacing his 19-degree Titleist 909H hybrid.
Standing on the 18th tee Sunday at the Transitions Championship with a first TOUR win possible if he could make par, Gary Woodland had to find the fairway.
A driver wasn’t the smart play for the big hitter. His caddie talked him out of a 3-wood.
Woodland instead hit the fairway – and eventually won – with a Titleist 503i driving iron.
Some may call it a 2-iron or utility iron or an iron-type hybrid, but the club is essentially a driving iron -- and those two words aren’t heard much anymore in an era of hybrids and higher-lofted fairway woods, for both pros and amateurs.
Titleist no longer makes the 503i (Woodland’s is 18 degrees) and never sold it to the public.
“The trend on TOUR, and certainly in the market, is towards more playable, higher-launching hybrids like the new (Titleist) 910,” said Joe Gomes, director of communications for Acushnet Company. “It is used by only a very small number of players and they are typically either high ball speed (like Woodland) or high spin.”
Only five TOUR pros carry the muscle-back forged 503i – David Duval, Bobby Gates, Michael Sim, Kyle Stanley and Woodland – and you’d be hard-pressed to find too many more driving irons from other manufacturers in TOUR bags.
But for a guy like Woodland who doesn’t lack for driving distance (299.5 yards, eighth on TOUR) and can use some help in accuracy (56.58 percent, 144 th), there’s still room for a driving iron. He doesn’t carry a hybrid or any fairway metal other than a 3-wood.
At Innisbrook last week, he rarely pulled driver.
“Four to five (per round), just depending on the wind,” Woodland said. “The wind switched a little bit (Sunday), so I think I hit maybe five, but it’s mostly about four a day.”
● Justin Rose faded on Sunday at the Transitions after starting the day in the lead, but the twin 65s he shot on Friday and Saturday were the low 36 holes on TOUR this year and a first for the Copperhead course. The TaylorMade staff player gave some credit to a Scotty Cameron putter fished out of the garage.
“I used it at the ’08 Masters, I putted nicely at the time. It’s just a different look,” Rose said Friday after the first 65, where he was T12 in putts. “I think that’s what I needed. I had the (TaylorMade) Ghost, which had a lot of lines on it and I just thought I was getting a little bit too technical.
“I feel like I’m threatening the hole from 20, 25 feet more than I have been all year.”
● According to E. Michael Johnson of Golf World, Sergio Garcia was swinging some serious lumber at Transitions, his first TOUR event of the year. His TaylorMade R11 and Burner SuperFast 2.0 fairway woods had Mitsubishi Diamana shafts weighing 103 grams, the heaviest in the field. That’s twice as heavy as some players’ shafts, and for a guy standing 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds.
● Forget having just one’s initials on the back of clubs, Alex Cejka stamps his yardages (in meters) on the back of his wedges. He explains here. –John Schwarb
Count Bubba Watson among the most recent PGA TOUR players pledging their support to the relief effort for the victims of the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Watson just finished his final round of 68 at the Transitions Championship. And before he left the Copperhead Course, Watson found a PGA TOUR official and gave him a check for $50,000 made out to the American Red Cross.
Ryuji Imada, who was born in Hiroshima, got the ball rolling this week when he left a handwritten note in every locker saying he was planning on donating $1,000 per birdie at the Transitions Championship to the relief effort. He said he would appreciate his fellow TOUR members joining him in support.
A day later, K.J. Choi, who once played the Japan Tour, pledged $100,000 to the American Red Cross.
Several other players joined Imada in pledging per birdie – including Brandt Snedeker, who has birdied his first two holes Sunday and stands one shot off the lead. He pledged $500 for each one (he currently has made 14) and his sponsor Bridgestone Golf will also make a donation.
Bobby Gates also pledged $250 per birdie and just finished the Transitions Championship with 12.
TO MAKE A DONATION TO THE RELIEF EFFORT, CLICK HERE.