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March 28 2012

7:52 PM

Tiger’s old ball and Ping’s new putter

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Tiger Woods advertises Nike's 20XI ball on his hat, but doesn't play it.

By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM

Of all the corners of the golf world that exhaled with Tiger Woods winning an official PGA TOUR event for the first time in 30 months at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, perhaps the biggest exhale came from Nike headquarters.

Woods, of course, is the frontman for Nike Golf, having worn the swoosh on his clothes since joining the TOUR in 1996. He originally played Titleist golf balls in his early years as a pro, then picked up Nike’s new balls in 2000 and its clubs in 2002. Two years ago he shelved the last non-Nike product in his bag – his longtime trusty Scotty Cameron putter – for a Nike Method.

By winning at Bay Hill, Nike got a boost for its new VR Pro Blades, which feature a more precise forging process and Nike’s proprietary high-frequency grooves. What the company didn’t get as much of a boost for was its 20XI ball.

Though Woods’ hat has a 20XI logo on the side, his bag doesn’t have any of the company’s new resin-core balls. He’s still playing the ONE Tour D.

Whereas most TOUR players are quick to put the newest balls in play, Woods’ model is three years old. It’s the oldest item in his bag.

Nike ball design guru Rock Ishii told me at January’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando that he leans on Tiger every time he sees him to put a 20XI ball in play on TOUR, and that Tiger has had success with the ball in testing. But the ONE Tour D is still his choice.

Tough to argue after watching him win by five shots at the Arnold Palmer.

NEW NOME: Ping introduced the first USGA-approved adjustable-length belly putter shaft this week. Used on its Nome 405 putter, it allows a player to adjust the length within a 9-inch range (from 37.5 inches to 46.5 inches) to create his or her own custom fit.

“With the popularity of belly putters we saw a unique fitting opportunity because shaft length is so critical to performance,” Ping CEO John Solheim said. “Adjustability is key because the standard 42-inch belly putter fits a narrow range of people.”

To adjust the putter, Ping provides a tool that threads into a locking stainless-steel ring on the shaft, and when the ring is loosened, the shaft slides telescopically. Tightening the ring gets the putter ready for play again. (Like other adjustable clubs such as drivers, adjustable putters may not be changed during a round of golf, per USGA rules.) The shaft is available in Ping’s three different bends for a straight, slight arc and strong arc stroke types.

NEXT TO HEX: Callaway staff players Fredrik Jacobson and J.B. Holmes put Callaway’s new Hex Black Tour ball in play at Bay Hill for the first time, switching from the company’s older Tour i(z) model.

Jacobson also picked up fresh wedges for the upcoming Masters, moving away from the stock-soled wedges he prefers into grinds with bounces reduced and moved more toward the center of the sole. With the closely mown surfaces at Augusta National, less bounce is preferred by most players.

IMITATION: Reigning PLAYERS champion K.J. Choi visited Odyssey’s putter rep and asked for a duplicate of the White Hot XG #7H used by Luke Donald in winning the Transitions Championship. According to Callaway, he said there was something about the rails protruding off the back of the putterhead that made it far easier to swing on plane. The only modification Choi made to the putter was to add his usual Super Stroke Fatso grip.

WINNER’S BAG: Tiger Woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard:
Driver: Nike VR Tour (8.5 degree, Graphite Design DI 6X shaft)
Fairway wood: Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood (15 degrees); Nike SQ II 5-wood (19 degrees)
Irons: Nike VR Pro Blades (3-PW)
Wedges: Nike VR Pro (56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Nike Method 001
Ball: Nike ONE Tour D

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