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
Michael Sim has just rolled in a putt of 65 feet, 3 inches for birdie at the fifth hole. The birdie, which was his second straight, has moved the young Aussie to 10 under for the tournament.
The putt is the longest made this week – by nearly 11 feet. The previous was the one Steve Marino made from 54 feet, 7 inches at the eighth hole in the first round.
Michael Sim posted a career-low 62 in the final round of the Wyndham Championship and has moved into a tie for third with John Mallinger at 18 under. Mallinger also for a 62.
The Aussie, who tied for third at the Turning Stone Resort Championship and was runner-up in San Diego, will likely make a big move in the FedExCup, as well. He was 102nd at the start of the week and had moved up 42 spots – which would make him safe for the first two events of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. – Helen Ross
Of the players currently projected to miss the cut, Michael Letzig and rookie Michael Sim are the only two who posted scores in the 60s in the first round.
Letzig shot 5-under 67 on Thursday and was just two shots off the lead. But he's 8 over on his round today through 17 holes. Starting his round on the 10th tee, he immediately double bogeyed and things continued to go south for the rest of his first nine with four bogeys.
He's now at 3 over for the tournament, one shot worse than the projected cutline
Sim, who shot 69 in the first round, is 7 over on his round through 13 holes. He also played his first nine holes Friday in 42 and is currently 4 over for the tournament.
Andres Romero, looking for his first TOUR win since breaking through in New Orleans two years ago, is the leader at 5 under through 12 holes.
Four players are tied at 4 under: Justin Rose (through 13 holes), Michael Letzig (through 13 holes, K.J. Choi (through 10 holes) and rookie Michael Sim (through 8 holes).
Among the notables on the course: Ernie Els (3 under), Phil Mickelson (2 under), Rory McIlroy (2 under), Vijay Singh (1 under) and Jim Furyk (1 under).
The cut line continues to sit at 1 over, which is a good thing for Kris Blanks, who has now made five straight birdies to sneak back inside the line (actually right on it) after an opening-round 77.
Blanks, who tied for fifth in Hilton Head and was second in Puerto Rico, had missed three of his last five cuts and was headed toward another weekend off before going on a birdie run here in the second round. Blanks has seven birdies in all today and has four holes left to try to hang on.
Others who aren’t so fortunate: Jason Gore, Todd Hamilton, Kevin Stadler, Michael Sim, Shaun Micheel, John Daly and Chris DiMarco. All of them are currently on the outside looking in. -- Brian Wacker