By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods tinkered with some new clubs prior to this week’s Australian Open.
Woods, a longtime loyalist to Nike’s Victory Red blades, tried out a VR-S Forged long iron in Sydney. It’s a perimeter cavity-back weighted iron that allows for higher trajectories, which in turn helps shots stop quicker on fast greens.
The VR-S Forged irons are not available to the public yet.
FOREVER THE KING: Arnold Palmer made his 20th career hole-in-one at Bay Hill earlier this week at his Bay Hill Club and Lodge, using a new Callaway Razr XF 5-iron for the first time. He holed out from 163 yards in a fivesome of friends that had 50 aces collectively.
CALC’S CHANGE: At the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship last week, Mark Calcavecchia had a pair of new Ping G20 drivers overnighted from the company in Arizona after an errant first-round drive where he thought he felt the clubhead come loose.
“I thought the head was loose, but it was probably my head that’s loose,” Calcavecchia joked.
The always-quotable Calc later riffed about driver specs when pressed for more details about the replacement G20.
“They gave me one I think with a little less torque. It's got some numbers on the side of it. I get this question all the time from amateurs. What torque do you use? How many grams? I say, I don't know. I grab a driver, if it feels good, I'll go with it. I'm really not technically up on specifications.
“The other one said 60, which I know is the grams. It says 3.4, then stiff. This one says 2.9. I'm guesstimating that's the torque. It feels a little bit stiffer, so maybe the torque is less or more. I don't know.”
FROM THE BOSS: Loren Roberts of the Champions Tour, long one of the best putters in the game, was asked last week at TPC Harding Park about whether he had ever picked up a long putter.
“I was in my hometown of St. Louis, one of the members there had one. I messed around with it a little bit,” said Roberts, the 1994 PGA TOUR leader in putting average. “If it was outside 20 feet, I couldn’t get it near the hole. And I’m a speed putter. I don’t think it would work for me.”
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – A little more than two months ago, Jay Don Blake was a Champions Tour journeyman.
Now he’s a multiple-event winner.
Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday, the first to win the Tour’s season finale in his first appearance since Mark McNulty in 2004. He took a two-shot lead into the final round and never relinquished it, winning by two over Michael Allen, Mark Calcavecchia, Jay Haas and Loren Roberts.
Add that to his win five starts ago at the Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, where he won a four-man playoff, and Blake ends 2011 as one of four multiple winners on Tour, joining Schwab Cup winner Tom Lehman, John Cook and Fred Couples.
“How can you pass up having a chance to play on the Champions Tour?” said Blake, who rose to fourth in Schwab Cup points and will take $200,000 from that prize pool in addition to his $440,000 share of the winner’s purse from TPC Harding Park. “I wanted to be healthy and ready if I could play out here and perform like I was able to play.”
Blake, 53, won once on the PGA TOUR, in 1991 at Torrey Pines. He cut his PGA TOUR career short of age 50 due to back pain, and for three years worked on stretching and tweaking enough to give the Champions Tour a shot.
He pieced together schedules with his partial status, qualifying for some events and relying on sponsor’s exemptions at times. What he never lost was his drive and, just as importantly, a silky putting stroke.
“He’s always been a great putter his whole life,” Allen said. “When we played in college, he was a great putter, and that’s been his game.
“You go out to dinner with someone, you want to go out to dinner with a good putter, because they’re always happy.”
Blake isn’t the type for overt displays of emotion, happy or not, but the satisfaction was clear on his face late Sunday afternoon, especially with some 20 family members and friends around to share in his win. The next stop will be the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, a winners-only event.
An event for Jay Don Blake.
“I just kept knocking at the door and I felt like sometime down the road it was going to happen,” he said.
It’s now wide open.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Mark Calcavecchia turned the Schwab Cup race into an exciting battle Sunday afternoon, one that required watching several players other than him.
But in the end it was a result he’s all too familiar with – second.
At the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, Calcavecchia needed to win or finish no worse than two-way tie for second to steal the Cup from Tom Lehman, the points leader since the second tournament of the season.
He started the final round in a tie for sixth, but on a windy day at TPC Harding Park he made a late run with a 2-under 69.
When Calcavecchia birdied the 15th hole and Jay Haas bogeyed the 13th, there was a three-way tie for second. Minutes later, Loren Roberts made it a four-way tie at 6 under with a birdie at 15. (Jay Don Blake was well in front, so winning the event wasn’t a possibility.)
Haas and Roberts continued to pour in pars, Haas making a solid save off a bad drive at 15, Roberts saving par on the par-3 17th after missing the green.
Calcavecchia’s key moment was on 18, when he hit a great drive and only had 134 yards left to the par-4. He was in between a wedge and 9-iron in switching winds, and his 9-iron ended up pin high but well right of the hole.
“I had the right distance but I never swung at it. Wind just got it,” Calcavecchia said. “If I had to do it again I’d hit a hard wedge and take my chances. I would have hit a better shot, put it that way.”
He two-putted to post 6 under, and Roberts did the same from the next group. Calcavecchia couldn’t afford another finisher at that number, but local favorite Michael Allen hit a chip close at 18 that nearly went in for birdie. In or out, Calcavecchia’s fate was sealed.
He finished second in points, 74 behind Lehman.
“It’s kind of the story of my whole career, I’ve had a lot of seconds in my day and a lot of close calls,” said Calcavecchia, who had 13 wins on the PGA TOUR and 27 seconds. On the Champions Tour, he has one win and four seconds.
“It could have been a lot better but on the other hand I had a great year. Just rattled off more top-10s than anybody.”
True – Calcavecchia had 15 top-10s to Lehman’s 12, in one more tournament. But second place Sunday was just too crowded of a place for his Schwab Cup hopes.
SAN FRANCISCO – Tom Lehman survived a game effort from Mark Calcavecchia to win the Schwab Cup while Jay Don Blake won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Sunday.
Blake won for the second time in two months on the Champions Tour, shooting a final-round 71 at TPC Harding Park to win by two shots.
In the season-long points race, Lehman finished T18 in the finale to open the door for Calcavecchia. But Calc needed a win or a two-way tie for second, and there turned out to be a four-way tie for second with Calc, Loren Roberts, Michael Allen and Jay Haas.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
SAN FRANCISCO – Loren Roberts came to TPC Harding Park and the season finale more or less just to put a period on the season and move on. For the two-time Schwab Cup winner and 12-time event winner, there was just nothing cooking this year.
But after a 65 Saturday at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, putting him at 5 under for the tournament and three off the lead, he still has something to play for in 2011.
Roberts’ round was the lowest of the week, and his lowest round on the Champions Tour since June at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, where he shot 67-67-65 to finish tied for fifth. He hasn’t finished in the top 15 since. He’s 23rd in the points race.
His work at TPC Harding Park earlier in the week, however, starting to flick a switch. Instructor Jim Suttie made some observations about taking some of the hand action out of his swing, and in a practice round Mark Wiebe gave him a tip on his body turn.
“Today I was probably in the best rhythm I’ve been playing in several months. I feel like I’m finally going in the right direction,” Roberts said. “Obviously, that doesn’t guarantee you’re going to play well. But for me to play well, I made some putts.”
Roberts made a 20-footer on the first hole for birdie and credited a 10-foot par save on the par-4 12th as a putt that kept his momentum going.
Going into the final round, he’ll have a shot at winning the season finale for the first time. More importantly, he’s got bounce in his step for 2012.
“To be honest, I’m looking to finish the year and to get ready to start for next year,” Roberts said. “Right now, I’m fired up for next year. I’m 56 now, and I really want to see if I can make one more run.”