By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
One of the year’s better stories on the PGA TOUR was authored last week by Ben Curtis, ending a six-year winless drought on TOUR with a win at the Valero Texas Open.
Curtis was the Cinderella champion won the 2003 British Open (Valero T2 finisher John Huh was 13 years old then) and two events in 2006, then a few years later dropped off the radar. This year he as many starts on the European Tour than the PGA TOUR (three each) before winning in Texas.
In winning by two shots at TPC San Antonio, Curtis had another first of sorts – the first win for Titleist’s AP1 712 irons. Most Titleist players on TOUR play the AP2 irons, which have more of a traditional blade feel and less offset. The AP1 irons have a high-density tungsten sole weight positioned toward the toe, increasing ball speed on off-center hits and reducing twist at impact.
Curtis had a 4-iron through pitching wedge in his AP1 set – which we’ll see a lot more of in the U.S. now that Curtis has winner’s status again on TOUR.
GOLDEN: Ping has enjoyed a great season so far, with wins on TOUR by Mark Wilson (Humana Challenge), John Huh (Mayakoba Golf Classic), Hunter Mahan (World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship, Shell Houston Open).
All of its players have a gold-plated replica of their winning putters put in Ping’s vault in Scottsdale, Ariz., and sometimes even more special additions are put in the vault. A double eagle at the Masters would qualify, so a gold S56 4-iron was added to the vault recently in honor of Louis Oosthuizen’s feat. He also received one for his collection.
WEEKENDER: David Duval tested a Callaway Razr Fit driver against a Titleist 910D3 and TaylorMade RBZ last week, with the Callaway going into his bag at Valero at 9.1 degrees loft. He ended up making his first cut of the season after seven misses, and shot his best round on Sunday (71) to finish in a tie for 60th.
BY A HAIR: Amazing how just the slightest adjustments make all the difference for TOUR players. At TPC San Antonio, Derek Lamely thought a flatter lie angle would help to stop losing shots to the left with his 15-degree Callaway Diablo Octane Tour fairway wood . Callaway techs adjusted the angle by one degree – from 59 to 58 – allowing him to hit a baby fade. No more lefts. He finished T35 at Valero, his second-best finish of the season.
WINNER’S BAG: Curtis at the Valero Texas
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (Aldila RIP NV 65X shaft, 8.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: Titleist 910Fd, (Aldila RIP 80X shaft, 13.5 degrees)
Hybrids: Titleist 910H (Aldila hybrid NV 85X shafts; 18, 20 degrees)
Irons: Titleist AP1 712 (Dynamic Gold shafts; 4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Spin Milled C-C 200 (52 degrees), C-C TVD (58 degrees)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
As anyone who has ever read a golf magazine or shopped at a golf store can attest to, equipment manufacturers are quick to tout their products alongside a champion.
Imagine seeing Luke Donald’s name tied to four different companies. That’s how many can stake a claim to the bag of the man who topped the 2011 PGA TOUR money list by virtue of his win at the Fall Series finale, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.
Donald is most closely associated with Mizuno, wearing the company name on his visor and playing their MP-62 irons, plus MP T-11 wedges and a Hi Fli CLK 17-degree hybrid.
But off the tee, he uses a TaylorMade R11 driver, the familiar white model that took the TOUR by storm at the start of the year. He also swings a TaylorMade R9 13-degree 3-wood.
Donald finished No. 1 in Strokes Gained-Putting this year, beating Steve Stricker by a wide margin (.844 to .769). He did that with an Odyssey White Hot XG No. 7, one of the company’s more unusual looking models with its weighted alignment wings extending off the rear of the clubhead. Odyssey is under the Callaway Golf umbrella.
And to top it all off, Donald plays the Titleist ProV1x ball, which puts him in the majority of TOUR pros.
BIG CHANGE: Bob Estes, who finished the season 135th on the money list, made a swing plane change and, as Golf World Monday reported, had to make a wholesale change to his TaylorMade clubs. Technicians reviewed Estes’ divot patterns and found he needed clubs that were two degrees more upright.
That’s a significant change, but it was the right one. Estes finished T28 at Disney, his second-best finish in 12 starts this season.
TWEAKS: Scott Gutschewski and Derek Lamely came to the season finale tied for 35th in driving distance. They both finished in the top 20 at Disney after making adjustments to their Callaway RAZR-Fit drivers, with Gutschewski getting the edge (293.5) over Lamely (290.4) and breaking the tie.
Gutschewski also changed the shafts in his driver and fairway woods to the Nventix Nunchuk GH 2660. As the company explains, the shaft actually resembles the martial arts device of the same name by having two rigid ends and a softer midsection.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Derek Lamely has only made six cuts in 25 appearances on the PGA TOUR this year.
Half of those have come in his last six starts, though. Lamely is well on his way to another this week -- and he's putting himself in position to win for the second time, as well.
Lamely fired a 66 in the first round at the Children's Miracle Network Classic and he's moved to 8 under for the tournament with two holes remaining on Friday. He's tied for third, three strokes off the pace being set by Justin Leonard.
The 32-year-old, who went to Florida Gulf Coast University, isn't in danger of losing his card after winning in Puerto Rico as a rookie last year. But he's battled wrist, back and ankle problems this year and has just started feeling healthy again in the last two months or so.
On Monday at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Lamely met with his long-time swing coach. They made some adjustments, and the work appears to be paying off.
"My body feels good again, so it's easy to make the changes and stuff again," he said. "SO it's still not perfect, but it's significantly better -- obviously."
Small wonder then that Lamely said Thursday "(I) kind of wish it wasn't the last event of the year. But I still have next year and (it gives me a couple months to get things back to where I would really like them too be."
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – With a few exceptions, scoring appears to have become more difficult this windswept Thursday afternoon.
Derek Lamely, who won last year’s Puerto Rico Open, has moved into the logjam at 6 under after getting up-and-down for birdie at the par-4 fourth hole. Lamely, who entered the week ranked 188th on the money list but with a year remaining on his exemption from the win, is playing the more difficult Magnolia Course.
So is Kris Blanks and he’s prospering, too. Blanks, who is playing one group behind Lamely and has completed 16 holes, also birdied the fourth and stands 5 under for the tournament.
Over at the Palm Course, Paul Stankowski is 5 under through 15 holes. He started the week ranked No. 137 on the money list.
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Derek Lamely is fighting to make the cut at the Wyndham Championship. But regardless of what happens over his last 10 holes, Friday will be a day to remember.
Not only did Lamely ace the 16th hole with a 9-iron during the second round, he’s won Wyndham Worldwide’s “Vacations for Life.” He’ll receive a vacation ownership interest in CLUB WYNDHAM Access, which includes membership in Wyndham’s points-based exchange program and access to resorts around the world.
More than one player can win the promotion, so the excitement will continue over the weekend. Lamely’s caddy will get a week’s stay at a CLUB WYNDHAM resort, as well.
With just one top-25 this season -- not to mention 15 missed cuts in 19 starts -- Derek Lamely came into this week as a long shot to make the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. But sometimes one good week is all it takes to turn things around.
In Lamely’s case, it could be a very good week. He is 2 under through his first five holes in the second round and 7 under for the week. That has him tied for the lead for now -- and should he go on to win, Lamely would move from 195th to 59th in the FedExCup standings ( click here for live projections ).
Lamely isn’t the only one who could make a big move, of course. Trevor Immelman, who led overnight after a 64, is projected to climb 36 spots to No. 72, while Steve Bowditch is projected to move up 26 spots to 102nd.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Derek Lamely will be the first to tell you his 2011 season "hasn't been pretty."
He's played 19 events and missed the cut in all but four of them. He's battled a lower back problem and had to take four weeks off after discovering a small tear in the cartilage in his wrist that forced him to withdraw from The Memorial Tournament.
But Lamely and his caddy have been working hard with his instructor, Jim Suttie. And if the first round of The Greenbrier Classic is any indication, he may be headed in the right direction.
Lamely, who won the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular last year as a rookie, made five birdies in his last six holes on Thursday. The resulting 65 left him in a five-way tie for second, one stroke off the lead held by his playing partner, Trevor Immelman.
"Everything's been getting really pretty good in the last month," Lamely said. "... I am definitely progressing in the right direction and I've finally stopped chopping it (around)."
Lamely was steady early as he started on the back nine and reeled off 12 straight pars. He made his first birdie when he rolled in a 7-footer at No. 4, then added another from the same distance at the next and a 14-footer for a third straight birdie at No. 6. Lamely then made a 5-footer at the eighth hole and finished with a flourish by chipping in from 26 feet on No. 9.
In retrospect, Lamely said the injury-induced layoff after the Memorial may have been a good thing. He said the time on the sidelines helped motivate him again, adding that “I kicked myself in the (butt), I guess."
"It's hard to play bad," Lamely explained. "... You want to play good. You want to be in front of the crowds, at least I do. Today was a blast, granted a lot of people were there for (Phil) Mickelson and Tom (Watson, in the next group) which is great. But it's so much fun when people are there and cheering.”
Lamely feels like he has regained his focus. He's well aware that he's on the outside looking in at No. 195 in the FedExCup. But Sean O'Hair moved from No. 147 to 43rd when he won last week and the 500 points available for a win on Sunday could work similarly for Lamely.
He's hardly going to get ahead of himself, though.
"I'm on the right path for what I need to do," Lamely said. "Most of all, mentally I am thinking about the thing I need to think about again."
Three years removed from his Masters victory, and the wrist surgery that followed, Trevor Immelman finally finds himself atop a leaderboard again. The South African made seven birdies and one bogey Thursday en route to shooting a 6-under 64 at The Old White TPC, where he has the early lead.
Immelman missed just one green in regulation and took 28 putts in the opening round.'
Meanwhile, three others -- Billy Mayfair, Derek Lamely and Webb Simpson -- all shot 65 to sit just a stroke back.
Simpson has played extremely well of late with five straight finishes in the top 16 dating back to the Memorial tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. During that stretch, he also did most of his damage early with his last three opening rounds all in the 60s -- a 66 at the British Open, a 69 at AT&T National and a 66 at the Travelers Championship.