By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Following the smashing debut of its RocketBallz metalwoods last year, it was only a matter of time before TaylorMade put some of the same technology – and part of that name – into irons.
On Tuesday the company introduced "RocketBladez” irons, featuring a slot cut in the sole of the iron similar to the slot on the RBZ fairway woods and hybrids. The slot flexes and rebounds at impact, increasing the speed of the face and creating faster ball speed, higher launch angles and higher ball flight, according to TaylorMade.
TaylorMade calls the slot the “speed pocket,” and it is found on the 3- through 7-irons. The two-millimeter slot is protected from the elements by a polyurethane strip. The irons also have a large cavity behind the stainless-steel face to lower the center of gravity and pull it farther away from the face to promote forgiveness and higher launch.
Two editions of the irons are coming to market, the Rocketbladez (arriving at retail on Dec. 3; $799/steel, $899/graphite) and RocketBladez Tour (arriving Feb. 1; $899/steel). The Tour irons have smaller heads, less offset and a less-pronounced cavity.
“We created RocketBladez irons for amateurs, but when our TOUR Staff pros tried it, they wanted it,” said TaylorMade president and CEO Mark King. “We created a Tour version, and they love it. It’s the first distance-oriented iron to be played on TOUR. The genius of the Speed Pocket is that not only does it deliver more speed for more distance, it delivers consistent speed, so shots fly a consistent distance. That combination of speed and consistent distance is what made the eyes of our tour pros light up.”
Sean O’Hair put a set of prototype RocketBladez in play earlier this month at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, the first of probably many sets on TOUR if the RocketBladez prove as popular as the RocketBallz metalwoods.
STROKES-GAINEY PUTTING: Until last week, the book on Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey was that he was a serviceable putter, not the best on TOUR but not the worst. In 2011 he was 78th in strokes-gained putting, and coming into last week was 86th.
And then the fourth round at The McGladrey Classic got under way.
Gainey, of course, shot the low round of the year on TOUR, a 10-under 60 that vaulted him to the top of the leaderboard. Nearly three hours later, he was a first-time champion. He was plus-5.119 in strokes-gained putting for the round, an amazing figure for an amazing round. (He’s now 66th in strokes-gained.)
He did it with an Odyssey Backstryke Blade, one of the more unusual putters on TOUR from a mainstream manufacturer. The putter has a T-shaped head with a shaft that connects to the rear of the putterhead.
Gainey put the putter in play in 2010 on the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am and finished second, and since then has stuck with it. His model is 34 inches in length with four degrees of loft and an XG insert.
BITS: Davis Love III finished T4 at his hometown McGladrey, using a belly putter for the first time. He did not anchor it. … Odyssey presented Brandt Snedeker with a gold putter as congratulations for his FedExCup title. Odyssey has only made two gold putters for non-major titles; the other was for Stuart Appleby’s final-round 59 in winning the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.
WINNER’S BAG: Tommy Gainey at The McGladrey
Driver: Callaway Razr Fit (Aldila RIP shaft, 10.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: Callaway FT-I Tour (15 degrees)
Hybrid: Adams Idea Pro a12 (20 degrees)
Irons: Callaway Razr-X Forged (4-PW)
Wedges: Callaway Forged (50, 54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Backstryke Blade
Ball: Callaway Hex Tour Black
Sean O’Hair is the defending champion at this week’s RBC Canadian Open (he’ll tee off at 1:20 p.m. ET), but this year’s tournament isn’t at Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver. It’s a couple thousand miles east at Hamilton G&CC in Ancaster.
The good news for O’Hair? He played pretty well the last time it was played there, too, finishing third behind Bart Bryant and Jim Furyk in 2006.
That year, O’Hair led the field in par- scoring by outperforming the field by five strokes (3 under, compared to the field average of 2 over on the 6,966-yard par-70 layout. To put that in perspective, Hamilton had the third-most difficult par-3 scoring average on the PGA TOUR that season.
Last year, Shaughnessy was the third-most difficult course on TOUR. He was one of only 11 players to go all four rounds without making a double bogey. A big part of the reason why: O’Hair was third in total driving and eighth in ball-striking. He was also the only player for the week under par on the par 4s -- especially impressive when you consider the field average was 8 over on the par 4s.
This season, O’Hair is still looking for his first win. He was a runner-up at the Sony Open in Hawaii and has two top 10s and five top 25s. Since that victory in Honolulu, however, O’Hair has just one top 10 (The Greenbrier Classic, where he tied for seventh).
Will O’Hair repeat, or even contend, this week? Share your thoughts below.
Here's who is appearing in the media center at Hamilton Golf and C.C. this week. All interviews will be streamed live on PGATOUR.COM.
Wednesday, July 25
Ernie Els, 2 p.m. ET
Hunter Mahan, 3 p.m. ET
Jim Furyk, after pro-am
Sean O'Hair, after pro-am
Mike Weir, after pro-am
FORT WORTH, Texas – Sean O’Hair withdrew on Thursday morning prior to his 8:43 a.m. (ET) first-round tee time at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
He was replaced in the field by alternate Sung Kang of South Korea.
O’Hair cited an issue with his neck in deciding to withdraw.
Kang is playing in the threesome that also includes Ben Crane and Jim Furyk.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
There are only two weeks left for players outside the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking to qualify for the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship Feb 22-26 in Marana, Ariz. In other words, Vijay Singh and Padraig Harrington, among others, have some work to do.
Singh and Harrington are 69th and 90th, respectively, and in need of strong performances in one or more likely both of the next two weeks. Singh is in the field for this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open, while Harrington has the week off.
Last year, Singh also failed to qualify.
Other notables on the outside looking in include Sean O’Hair (68th), Sony Open in Hawaii winner Johnson Wagner (70th) and last year’s Wells Fargo Championship winner Lucas Glover, who is 77th in the world and has yet to play this year after withdrawing from the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a knee injury.
The player currently on the bubble at No. 64 is the Netherlands’ Joost Luiten. However with Phil Mickelson having already said that he plans to take that week off, the field would then extend to the 65th player in the world -- currently Rory Sabbatini.
Also among those outside the top 64: Kyle Stanley. The hard-luck loser of the Farmers Insurance Open is 87th in the world. Had he won at Torrey Pines, he would have moved up to 64th.
Others in more dire circumstances include Branden Grace, a two-time winner on the European Tour this year who has only climbed to 93rd; Camilo Villegas (99th); Anthony Kim (102nd); and Stewart Cink (138th).
Only once in Cink’s career has he failed to qualify for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Champisonhip, a tournament he’s been dominant in with six trips to at least the quarterfinals. On four of those occasions Cink reached at least the semifinals, including from 2008 to 2010 when he finished second, third and tied for fifth.
|Year||No. 125 points pre-Week 30||No. 125 points before Playoffs||Difference|
If this year’s change is similar, anyone inside the top 105 in the standings is in good position to secure a tee time at The Barclays for the start of the Playoffs. In 2009, 10 players ranked inside the top 125 prior to Week 30 fell out of the Playoffs with the highest being No. 110. Last year, only six players -- all ranked between Nos. 118 and 125 -- lost their spots in the Playoffs in the Regular Season’s final four weeks. AUSTIN’S CHANCE? Woody Austin, currently 99 points outside the top 125, picked up his first top-10 finish of the season last week with a T6 at the RBC Canadian Open. A top-6 finish this week at The Greenbrier Classic, an event he tied for fourth in last year, could put him inside the top 125 and in position to make his fifth consecutive Playoffs appearance. Check out our bubble watch for more on players close to the cut line. WHO’S UP, WHO’S DOWN: Sean O’Hair, Kris Blanks and Andres Romero each assured themselves of a spot in the Playoffs, and possibly the Deusche Bank Championship, as they moved from outside the top 100 and into the top 70 last week. Two players -- Michael Putnam and Tim Clark -- fell outside the top 125 as O’Hair and David Hearn moved in. MORE ON LAST WEEK’S WINNER: Another player who has made the Playoffs in each of the last four seasons, O’Hair locked up his fifth appearance by moving from 147th to 43rd after winning the RBC Canadian Open. O’Hair’s last top 10 in an official TOUR event came at last year’s World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. A 2011 season that had featured 10 missed cuts in 17 starts prior to last week, as well as splits with his caddie and swing coach, may finally be turning around for O’Hair.
By John Schwarb and Zak Kozuchowski, PGATOUR.COM
A T17 finish wouldn’t have been an especially notable effort in his heyday, but for Ernie Els right now, such a week at the RBC Canadian Open was positive news. His last top-20 on the PGA TOUR was a T15 in mid-March at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
The 41-year-old South African is seeing optimism in his game in part due to the addition of an Odyssey White Hot XG belly putter – perhaps an unusual sight in the Big Easy’s hands, but nothing out of the ordinary given the current trend on TOUR toward long putters.
“For most of my career I was really one of the better putters. But last year I started feeling my path of my stroke was screwed up, and I was cutting across the ball,” Els said. “I kind of got to that age, you know, playing under the gun for such a long time that you're going to feel uncomfortable on some of the shorter putts.
“I was kind of playing with the long putter in practice and then my putts were a lot better with it. I tried to go back to the shorter putter, and I found that I was again cutting the ball a bit. So I just figured, you know, I'll really try it in competition.
“So from the U.S. Open (on) I've been playing with this longer putter, and it's starting to feel really good.”
SEAN’S STUFF: TaylorMade staff player Sean O’Hair had the company’s woods and irons in the bag as usual at the RBC Canadian Open but used a Titleist Scotty Cameron California Fastback prototype putter. “The winner of the event,” as he was stealthily identified in Titleist’s blog, put the putter in play after working with Titleist folks at the British Open the week prior.
One other oddity in O’Hair’s bag at Shaughnessy – his two wedges were 52 and 60 degrees. An eight-degree gap between wedges is sizable, and rare for a TOUR pro.
GHOSTLY: TaylorMade’s new Ghost Spider’s large size and white paint make it stand out from most putters on TOUR. Andres Romero gave it an even more distinctive look at the RBC Canadian Open, where he finished one shot out of the Sean O’Hair-Kris Blanks playoff.
Romero was third in the field with 26.2 putts-per-round average using a UST Mamiya Frequency Filtered shaft in the Ghost Spider. The shaft employs interlinked carbon fiber in the butt section of the shaft to filter out unwanted vibrations. The bottom portion of Romero’s shaft was painted white, matching the color of his Spider Ghost.
FURYK FIX?: Jim Furyk, still searching for the form that won him last year’s FedExCup, auditioned new drivers at the RBC Canadian Open pro-am and chose a TaylorMade Burner SuperFast 2.0 with an Aldila RIP 65-gram shaft. The listed loft is 10.5 degrees but he had it bent to 9.
Furyk finished T34 at Shaughnessy, his best finish since a T31 in May at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
NICE DIGITS: How’s this for a major perk? Darren Clarke’s TaylorMade Penta TP now sports a 140, for his win at the 140th British Open. Check it out here.
Sean O’Hair shot a 2-under 68 on Sunday to come from three strokes back to force a playoff with Kris Blanks, who he beat on the first extra hole with a bogey. For O’Hair, the victory gives him 500 FedExCup points and his first win in two years.
O’Hair also …
… Won his first playoff on the PGA TOUR.
… Got his fourth career victory, which came 46 starts since his last, the 2009 Wells Fargo Championship.
… Moved from No. 147 to No. 43 in the FedExCup standings.
… Becomes the 11 th player in his 20s to win on TOUR this season.
Sean O’Hair got his first victory in two years with Sunday’s playoff win at the RBC Canadian Open. Share a note of congratulations with him here and we’ll pass it along.