By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
All it took was a little green to bring the hottest pink club to the public.
Bubba Watson’s all-pink Ping G20 debuted in January as a part of a fundraising initiative in which Ping donates $300 for every 300-yard drive Watson unlaunches – and considering he’s the PGA TOUR’s longest driver at 313.1 yards on average, the donations are adding up quick.
As the pink club got more face time during the season, Ping heard from plenty of fans who wanted to buy their own pink G20 (Watson’s driver last year had a pink shaft but a standard black clubhead). But the word was no, special for Bubba only.
Then he won a Green Jacket.
Tuesday, Ping announced the sale of 5,000 limited-edition pink G20s similar to Watson’s, at $430 each (available June 1). The company will donate 5 percent of proceeds to Watson’s chosen charities.
The drivers will be offered in 9.5-, 10.5-, and 12-degree lofts for righthanded players; 10.5 degrees for lefthanded – alas, no 7.5-degree lefties like Bubba’s gameday model. A women’s model will be 12 degrees with a ladies flex shaft. All come with a matching pink headcover and “Bubba Long in Pink. Driven by PING. Limited Edition 2012” script on the shaft.
BIG THREE: Think there’s still competition between Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus? The living legends – owners of a combined 13 Green Jackets -- kicked off the Masters on Thursday with the ceremonial first tee shots, and Player used a tuned Callaway Razr Fit to hit the long drive in the trio.
Player and a Callaway rep switched to a higher loft and adjusted the weights to dial in a draw, and the result was a 236-yard drive to outpace Palmer (another Razr Fit player) and Nicklaus, who used a driver from his self-named line.
MORE COLORS: Callaway is upping the ante in the increasingly popular customizing trend at udesign.callawaygolf.com, where players can build a Razr Fit driver in eight different colors (there’s red, but no pink), with dozens of grip options and more than 100 custom shaft options. Callaway says more than 70,000 combinations are possible. At the very least, it’s a fun site to click through.
NUMBERS GAME: Titleist is offering its industry-leading Pro V1 and Pro V1x in special double-digit numbers. Players may choose numbers 00 or anything from 10 to 99 (six dozen minimum) through custom orders at Titleist-authorized dealers.
WINNER’S BAG: Watson at the Masters:
Driver: Ping G20, 7.5 degrees with a Grafalloy Bi-Matrix shaft
Fairway Wood: Ping G20, 16.5 degrees with a Project X 8A1 shaft
Irons: Ping S59 (3-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts
Wedges: Ping Tour-W (52, 56 degrees) Ping Tour-S Rustique (64 degrees)
Putter: Ping Redwood Anser
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Between them, they’ve played in 147 Masters and won a combined 13 Green Jackets.
Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player got things started at Augusta National when the three honorary starters teed off early Thursday morning. They did so to a large gallery that included three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who was dressed in his own Green Jacket.
“I've been wanting to do that every year and this worked out great because I had the last tee time,” Mickelson said after his round. “I think that it's an experience that I really enjoyed watching those guys hit it, what they have meant to the game of golf. They are what this game is all about.”
Said Player: “I thought it was remarkable.”
The three tee shots were just as remarkable. All three found the fairway on the first hole -- not that any of them could tell who drove it the farthest.
“I don't think any of us can see that far,” Nicklaus cracked. “We can hear them all land, though.”
Palmer led off, hitting his tee shot down the middle before grinning and saying "How'd I do that" to the delight of an army of fans surrounding the tee box.
Just two weeks ago, the 82-year-old was hospitalized because of a blood pressure scare.
“They switched some medicine on me,” Palmer said. “I got a little reaction with the pressure going up, and they just wanted to be cautious. That's normal when you have that kind of a situation.”
Player teed off next, followed by Nicklaus.
"Now let's get out of the way," Nicklaus said, smiling.
There was a time when the honorary starters here played nine holes. That was a long time ago, though, and Nicklaus is fine with keeping it that way.
“We all would love to still be able to play,” Nicklaus said. “ But if you go out and look at where our tee shots were, I think you would understand why we aren't.”
AUGUSTA, Ga. – During his pre-tournament news conference on Tuesday, Tiger Woods told the story of playing Augusta National’s Par 3 course with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus in 1995, when Tiger – still an amateur – made his first start in the Masters. Here’s Tiger’s account:
“I said, ‘Well, I don't have any cash.’ He says, ‘Don't worry about it. Just play hard.’
‘I said, all right, here we go.
“We go and play. We have a great time. I'm pretty chatty out there. I'm trying to gain as much intel as I possibly can, and I'm asking them on every hole, what do you do here, what do you do here, what do you do here, and I'm pretty sure they got sick and tired of me.
“We get to 18, and Arnold makes a nice putt for birdie on 18 for all the skins, basically. And I could see Jack is over there, a little ticked about it. He says, ‘Enough of this. Why don't we go get him on the par 3 course?’
“I said, ‘Well, Jack, I don't have ‑‑ my tee time is much later.
"Just come with me.
"Yes, sir. How are we going to get on there?
“He says, ‘Don't worry about it." We walk over there, we are on deck, just out of the blue. OK, this is nice. We get around and play the par 3 course, and probably the most nervous I think I had ever been was the last hole on the par 3 course.
“You think it's just a simple 9-iron shot, no big deal. Arnold almost holed it, Jack almost holed it, and now it's my turn. I was just trying to go for dry land, and somehow I was able to hit on dry land and I was pretty stoked about it.”
Editor's Note: Duke Butler, who now serves as president of The Frys.com Open, shares a memory from this week’s tournament in Houston. He can still shoot 76 on occasion, if he's not too nervous.
Nobody loves PGA TOUR tournaments more than me. This is my 38th year of involvement, having competed in 28 events during the 1970s, directed the Houston Open from 1978 through 1991 and mentored many other events while serving as senior vice president of tournament relations from 1992 to 2007. My most cherished memory of a TOUR event dates 50 years ago when I attended my first pro tournament at what was then called the Houston Classic.
It was April 23, 1962 and my junior high golf team from College Station, Texas, played in an early morning shotgun start. I posted 79 and finished second. Afterwards, our coach, B.B. Holland, drove us to Memorial Park Golf Course to watch the 18-hole playoff between Bobby Nichols, Dan Sikes and a heralded rookie seeking his first title.
Nichols and Sikes shot 71, while the rookie staggered home in 76. On the 91st hole, Nichols, a Texas A&M alum and idol of mine, eagled to win. A teammate of mine rushed onto the green, grabbed Sikes' ball and snatched the cap off the champion's head. I thought we were going to jail. At that point, it was the greatest day of my life.
Experiencing that playoff in Houston might have been a break for the rookie. Seven weeks later, he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in a playoff over Arnold Palmer. His name is Jack W. Nicklaus, and great things were in store for him.
Inspired, I played for Texas A&M, worked on my game, became a PGA member, and was paired with Jack for the third round of the 1977 Atlanta Classic. You wouldn't know it, but I was nervous. We shot the same numbers, Jack scoring 67 to my 76.
Fast forward to 2000 at THE TOUR Championship in Atlanta. Nicklaus was in attendance. All these years later, I told Jack that I had watched him nearly win his first pro title. Next thing I knew, he was telling me his sad story of why he didn't win that day in Houston.
"You know that par three on the front nine, No. 7, which plays about 230 yards?" Nicklaus asked.
As if only yesterday, he recounted how he poked a long iron to the front right of the green in Saturday's third round. With his ball about 35 feet from the hole, he asked his caddie to tend the flagstick.
"The putt rolled straight for the cup but my caddie panicked," Nicklaus said. "He couldn't get the flagstick out of the hole, and jerked it upwards, pulling the cup liner above ground."
His ball struck the liner, bouncing 18 inches away. Tournament director Joe Black ruled a two-stroke penalty. Instead of a birdie 2, Nicklaus tapped in for 5.
Knowing his misfortune pre-dated Angelo Argea, I asked if he remembered the name of his caddie. "The hell I can't," Nicklaus said. "It was Robert Ford."
Some things one never forgets.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Twice this season Keegan Bradley has been in contention on a Sunday, which is to say that he hasn’t exactly suffered a sophomore slump following a whirlwind season that culminated in his playoff victory at the PGA Championship.
In other words, Bradley is proving to be a fast learner.
The 25-year-old spent part of Monday playing in a pro-am at his home club, the nearby Bear’s Club, where he got to see Jack Nicklaus hit a few shots. It wasn’t long before Bradley was trying to pick his brain.
“He’s a really approachable guy,” Bradley said Tuesday from The Honda Classic. “I’m hopefully going to go to dinner with him this week and talk to him about Augusta.”
It certainly worked for Charl Schwartzel. Last year, the South African talked to the six-time Masters champion and got a cheat sheet of sorts for Augusta National prior to the tournament. Schwartzel went on to birdie is final four holes to win his first career Green Jacket.
Bradley says he’ll do the same, and that he’ll bring a notepad. “I’ll listen to anything he’s got to say for sure,” Bradley said.
He won’t stop there, however. Bradley also has a few rounds planned with Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion.
“He’ll want to beat me and we’ll play a little match,” Bradley said. “But he’ll tell me to aim at this branch or this little thing over here.”
The biggest lesson Bradley has learned since winning the PGA, however, is patience. That’s the same thing that helped Schwartzel at Augusta National in last year’s wild final round, and it’s what has helped Bradley avoid a letdown this season.
“Sometimes in the final round you can make a bogey and freak out a little bit and try to make it back and maybe compound the problem,” Bradley said. “The PGA I was 4 down with three to play and I was very patient. Same with the Byron Nelson. Weird stuff happens on Sunday, so I’ve tried to really stay level and calm.”
All interviews will be streamed live on PGATOUR.COM. You can also check Twitter @PGATOUR.
Tuesday, Feb. 28
Rory Sabbatini: 8:30 a.m.
Davis Love III: 1:30 p.m.
Lee Westwood: 5:00 p.m.
Jack Nicklaus: 5:30 p.m.
Keegan Bradley: TBD
Wednesday, Feb. 29
Hank Kuehne: 9:30 a.m.
Tiger Woods: Following 6:45 a.m. Pro-Am
Mark Wilson: Following 8:35 a.m. Pro-Am
Rory McIlroy: Following 8:45 a.m. Pro-Am
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Sam Snead often practiced full shots while barefoot, to better feel his connection with the ground and maintain balance.
Golf shoe manufacturers aren’t going to endorse that anytime soon, but they’re fighting each other to create the closest things to barefoot. Like the hot drivers and clothing fabrics on the floor at the PGA Merchandise Show, lighter is better.
Adidas Golf showed off its new Crossflex, weighing in at a scant 10.6 ounces. Most golf shoes come in closer to a pound or more.
“It’s a supernova-rising category,” said adidas Golf product manager Grant Knudson of the light-shoe segment.
Several startup companies are trying to, um, get a foothold in that segment with shoes that look closer to Crocs with spikes or surf shoes. Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. (standing for better energy recovery balance stability, of course) showed off their product at Wednesday’s Demo Day and invited customers to try on a pair and smash drivers.
But all is not lost for golfers still looking for anchors. FootJoy’s XPS1 has a sole that flares out at points around the bottom of the shoe, adding stability. Gary Woodland, the kind of player who would need maximum stability with his fierce swing speed, wears the XPS1 on the PGA TOUR.
SIGHTINGS: Jack Nicklaus spoke at a Golf 2.0 program for the PGA of America. … Davis Love III signed autographs at Bridgestone’s booth … Brad Faxon drew a crowd while giving putting tips for a synthetic green company … CBS Sports’ Jim Nantz, the longtime voice of Titleist on commercials, emceed a Thursday morning gathering for the company’s PGA professionals. … Dave Stockton and his sons were on hand to offer putting tips and sign Stockton’s new book, “Unconscious Putting.”
PUTTING PROWESS: Ping reps stayed busy on a putting green running a contest using the company’s iPhone putting app. Attendees were fit for a Ping putter with the company’s new “Fit for Stroke” system, which measures golfers onto one of three swing paths – strong arc, slight arc or straight. Golfers then hit five putts with a correctly fit putter, and those putts’ data were measure with the iPhone clipped to the putter.
The 32 players with the most consistency from their set are invited back Friday for a competition, and the four left standing after that will compete Saturday morning in a $5,000 skins game.
The Ping putting app has had more than 100,000 downloads since its release last summer, and when the company pushed its iPhone cradle (the device attaching the iPhone to the putter) as a stocking stuffer, that proved to be a hit too. More than 3,000 downloads were recorded on Christmas morning.
AROUND THE FLOOR: TaylorMade’s area (along with sister companies adidas and Ashworth) filled the east end of the convention hall, and Thursday night featured a concert with George Thorogood. His song, “Who Do You Love?” is used in the company’s commercials for the new R11s driver. … Cobra Puma Golf’s two-story booth featured a slide into a pit of plastic orange balls. The weight limit to ride it? Under 195 pounds. … An indoor testing range is expected to have some 250,000 balls hit over the three days of the Show. … For more pictures from the show, click here .
SMART STUFF: Golf Buddy has a new GPS device called “The Voice” which is beeper-sized and tells you the distance to the hole with a push of a button. … A new company called iWanamaker is offering free scoring software for smartphones that allows golfers in outings to keep tabs on each others’ scores, creating a live leaderboard. … There’s no shortage of companies offering golf simulators, either for recreation or instruction, but Guru Training Systems offers a twist – a 3D trainer that is a “markerless motion capture system” according to the company. It works with a depth-sensing camera mounted atop a TV, meaning it could be used in one’s living room without moving the furniture.
MELBOURNE, Australia -- The last time The Presidents Cup was played at Royal Melbourne, an ill-prepared United States team suffered its only defeat.
The matches were in December in 1998 and many of the Americans hadn't stayed competitively fresh in the months since the season-ending TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. It showed, too, in the lopsided 20 1/2-11 1/2 score.
Jack Nicklaus was the U.S. Captain that year, but despite the disappointment, the Golden Bear came back to serve three more stints at the helm. He's remained a staunch supporter of the Presidents Cup, and Nicklaus took the time to send a note of encouragement delivered to the current American team on Monday.
"That was nice," Matt Kuchar said. "Any time you hear any sort of comment from Jack Nicklaus, you're pretty excited, so that was a nice gesture. ... He sad, you guys have a great team. We weren't very prepared last year, or last time it was here, and got it handed to us but if you do a good job of preparing I'm sure it will be a great competition."