By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
When Rory McIlroy won The Honda Classic to take over the top spot in the World Golf Rankings, it gave Titleist bragging rights as the equipment manufacturer on the top bag in golf.
Those rights have switched hands as much as the top ranking has in the past year-plus.
McIlroy succeeded Luke Donald (a Mizuno guy), who supplanted Lee Westwood (Ping), who took the mantle from Martin Kaymer (TaylorMade). Westwood also had it for a period before Kaymer, then of course for years prior to that it was all Tiger Woods, and all those Nike swooshes.
Interestingly, bragging rights to the FedExCup have also been shared. Bill Haas won it last year as a Titleist guy, and before that it was Jim Furyk (Srixon hat, mixed bag), Woods (Nike) and Vijay Singh (Cleveland).
LOB-STER: McIlroy said his up-and-down on the 14th hole at PGA National’s Champions Course was his best of the week – and he had a lot of them while leading the field in scrambling at 83.3 percent.
McIlroy had a shot of some 65 yards from rough so deep he could barely see the ball, yet he slid a 60-degree wedge under it to within four feet, then made the putt.
That new wedge, a Titleist Vokey Design with four degrees of bounce, first went in the bag the week prior at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play, where McIlroy was runner-up.
“He’s got such great hands, he can play a little less bounce than your average player,” said Titleist Vokey Tour Rep Aaron Dill. “He’s just a magician -- he hits it high, low, he spins it.”
HATSPEAK: If you’re wondering why TaylorMade staff players such as Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Johnson Wagner (right) are wearing hats with “17” on it at TPC Blue Monster, it’s for the company’s continuing RocketBallz campaign. The 17 is for the company’s claim of 17 yards extra distance over other 3-woods (your mileage may vary).
It’s the company’s second hat drive this year; at the Northern Trust Open its PGA TOUR players wore white hats with a simple red heart on the front, part of a “#driverlove” social media campaign.
SHAFT SWAP: Sang-moon Bae, No. 2 in PGATOUR.COM’s rookie rankings, changed shafts in his Callaway Razr X Muscleback irons from a Dynamic Gold S-400s to KBS Tour stiff, allowing for higher shots and an easier time drawing the ball. He finished T47 at The Honda Classic
WINNER’S BAG: McIlroy at The Honda Classic:
Driver: Titleist 910D2 (8.5 degrees)
Fairways woods: Titleist 906F2 (13, 18 degrees)
Irons: MB (3-9)
Wedges: Vokey Design SM4 (46, 54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron GSS Newport prototype with deep milled face
Ball: Titleist ProV1x
Amanda Balionis interviews Johnson Wagner, 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii winner and PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis for January, and asks him a variety of questions supplied by PGA TOUR fans.
Got a question for Johnson Wagner? Send us your questions for Direct Connect — PGATOUR.COM’s video franchise that gets you closer to a PGA TOUR pro each week — and host Amanda Balionis might use it when she chats this week with the 2012 winner of the Sony Open.
Wagner has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season, and his red-hot January earned him PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis. It was the first time the monthly winner has been chosen by fans.
Wagner, who has six made cuts in six starts, including three top-10s (and the win), is teeing it up this week at The Honda Classic, one of the toughest events on the schedule. Got a question for Wagner? This week is your shot to ask it.
To send your question for Wagner, just fill out the form below and you might get an answer.
Direct Connect video will be posted each Wednesday afternoon on PGATOUR.COM.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Gary Woodland needs a few more yards like a Corvette needs more horsepower, but he got them last week at TPC Scottsdale with a move from the Titleist ProV1 to the ProV1x.
Woodland, who has been working through swing tweaks with acclaimed teacher Butch Harmon, noticed some increased spin off his irons and wanted to make sure he had the right ball for his updated swing. He had already adjusted some of his clubs, adding one degree of effective loft by moving his Titleist 910 adjustable driver from its C•1 setting (6.75º loft, 57.75º lie) to A•1 (standard; 7.5º loft, 58.5º lie) and making the same move with his Titleist 910Fd 13.5º fairway wood.
He sought out Titleist golf ball R&D specialist Fordie Pitts, who put Woodland through paces on a TrackMan launch monitor with the company’s slightly harder, less-spinning ProV1x. With his short- and mid-irons, the monitor showed a reduction of some 150-200 rpm in spin and an increase of 1-1.5 mph in ball speed. With his driver, Woodland’s ball speed increased some 4 mph with similar spin.
(As PGA TOUR ShotLink radar stats show, Woodland isn’t exactly slacking in ball speed as it is.)
Woodland took the ProV1x to the course for further testing, and found the iron performance he was looking for. With the driver, his carry yardage increased some 14 yards – no joke.
The end of the story? Woodland finished T26 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, closing with 66 on Sunday. He was T4 for the week in Greens in Regulation.
LONG AND SHORT: Tiger Woods held court Tuesday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and explained his disdain for long putters , also proposing a solution. He said he had told Peter Dawson of the R&A that the putter should be no longer than the shortest club in one’s bag – essentially 35 to 36 inches, the length of most players’ wedges.
One side note to that – with a such a rule you wouldn’t see players use a long putter for measuring clublengths for penalties (as someone with a full broomstick putter could conceivably do), nor moments like last week at TPC Scottsdale where Spencer Levin used his belly putter to slap-shot a ball out of a bush.
RUSH TO MARKET: Bridgestone Golf is moving its new B330 ball line into the marketplace ahead of its original March 1 release, citing buzz from the 2012 PGA Merchandise Show and Brandt Snedeker’s come-from-behind win at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Its four new models – the Tour B330, Tour B330-S, Tour B330-RX and Tour B330-RXS – are on sale now in sunbelt states and will be available nationwide soon.
Speaking of Snedeker, he added a Callaway RAZR X Black 3-wood in his bag at the WM Phoenix Open, replacing a TaylorMade Burner 2.0.
DUSTED OFF: Ryan Palmer shot 64 in the opening round at TPC Scottsdale, thanks in part to an old Odyssey Rossie II putter that’s been in and out of his bag since college.
“I've used the exact same putter the last two years, and of course had two of the best years of my career,” said Palmer, who won for the third time on the PGA TOUR at the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii. “But towards the end of the year last year, around the BMW, I just got frustrated with not making anything, so I thought I'd try something different, put a similar style head in play and actually had some success. Had a seventh-place finish at Malaysia with it, 20th place finish at Disney with it, so I knew it was a good putter.
“But my first two weeks out here I could tell I wasn't comfortable when I'd get over the short putts. When I got home from Bob Hope, I pulled it out of the garage and was putting in my living room, then went outside in the backyard on my putting green, and I knew it was time to bring it back out. So it showed today.”
Alas, that 64 would be his only round in the 60s as he faded to T55 on Sunday.
AMBUSHED: TaylorMade’s RocketBallz campaign continued at at PGA TOUR Superstore in Scottsdale, where Johnson Wagner and Pat Perez handed out cash for yards gained with the company’s new RBZ 3-wood. Check out the video to see happy golfers after they got stacks of $10 bills. We’d be happy too.
WINNER’S BAG: Kyle Stanley at the Waste
Management Phoenix Open:
Driver: Titleist 910D3 driver, 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Titleist 910Fd, 13.5 degrees
Irons: Titleist 503i 2-iron, MB irons 4-PW
Wedges: Vokey Design Spin Milled 52, 56, 60 degrees
Putter: Scotty Cameron Timeless GSS
Ball: Titleist ProV1x
Fueled by his win at the the Sony Open in Hawaii, Johnson Wagner has been named PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis based on PGATOUR.COM fan voting.
Johnson Wagner is the first player to be honored with the PGA TOUR Player of the Month presented by Avis. It's the first time the monthly winner has been chosen by fans.
Want to congratulate Wagner? Send a note below and we’ll pass it along.
Johnson Wagner and Pat Perez made some unsuspecting customers at a Scottsdale, Ariz., PGA TOUR Superstore very happy Friday evening.
After their second rounds at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the two TaylorMade staff players showed up at the golf store with a suitcase full of $10,000, ready to hand out to anyone who tested the new TaylorMade RocketBallz 3-wood.
Customers were paid $10 per yard, up to $100, for every yard gained with the RocketBallz compared to their current fairway wood. TaylorMade claims the RocketBallz 3-wood, which went on sale this week, can provide up to 17 extra yards.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Johnson Wagner is the only player on TOUR who has posted top-10 finishes in his first three starts of the 2012 season.
He's well on his way to another -- and maybe more -- after a 69 on Friday moved him to 5 under at the midway point of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Wagner leads the FedExCup standings after a win at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a tie for second in his last start at the Humana Challenge. He also tied for ninth at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
So what's it like to be in that kind of a zone?
"It's good," Wagner said. "I'm really hoping this is kind of the norm from now on. I'm making a lot of mistakes but when I'm putting as good as I am right now it makes a lot of things easier because I can rely on making a lot of 10-, 15-footers for birdie. I know I am never really out of the hole if I can chip it close.
"Putting has been huge key for the first month of the season."
Wagner played with two good friends in Mark Wilson and Brandt Snedeker, his junior golf foe, and called it "probably one of the best pairings I could ask for." Wilson, who won the Humana Challenge, is 3 under for the tournament while Snedeker, last week’s champ, is 1 under.
Wagner has already posted more rounds in the 60s this week than in four previous appearances here. He has three missed cuts and a tie for 60th in Phoenix two years ago. His lone sub-70 round at TPC Scottsdale, a 67, came that week in 2010.
"I always liked it and always thought I could play well here," said Wagner, who appears to be proving himself right. "I'm just making a lot of birdies and I've got to minimize the mistakes this weekend."