By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
With the getup Sergio Garcia wore, he wouldn’t have looked out of place in a video game shoot or a Hollywood special effects studio.
Instead, he was in a clubfitting bay. But no ordinary one.
Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, TaylorMade Golf officially opened its “TaylorMade Performance Lab” on the west end of the range in a building shared with the TOUR Academy, one of just a handful of flagship fitting facilities nationwide, with dazzling capabilities.
In a two-and-half-hour full fitting session, players can go through a putter fitting in a special room equipped with six cameras, tracking every nuance of a stroke, and a full-swing session in a bay where the swing is turned into a 3D image.
That’s what the 2008 PLAYERS champion went through Tuesday, wearing 34 reflective pins all over his body that were picked up by the cameras to build his 3D doppelganger. The pins were fitted on shoe coverings, knee pads, around the waist on what looked like a weight belt, around the chest, on Garcia’s elbows and hat and – weirdest of all to him – on a wristwatch-like band.
Garcia doesn’t wear a watch when he plays.
With just a few swings of a generic wedge, 6-iron and driver, computers build a 3D image and measure all the usual clubfitting data – clubhead speed, launch angle, yardages – plus a few new ones like hand speed, which can help determine the right shaft.
In this type of fitting, there’s no sampling of club after club, tweaking lofts and shafts and other elements. The computer determines every facet of the stick you should be hitting – naturally, recommending TaylorMade clubs and balls (eventually it will even recommend shoes, based on footwork) – and a session outside on the grass is used to confirm the computer’s finding.
“The feel is important, but sometimes you can feel something you can’t see,” Garcia said. “This (system) tells you what’s going on.”
The computer had Garcia’s swing circa-2003 saved, and the move Garcia made Tuesday was laid directly over it for a comparison.
“I can totally see how the swing has the same signature move, but it’s gotten tighter, not as much movement,” Garcia said, satisfied.
Amateurs that go through the fitting can have their own swing put on top of Garcia, Dustin Johnson and several other TOUR pros from the Nationwide, Champions and PGA TOUR.
A full fitting costs $350, and TaylorMade officials say that amateurs that go through the fitting then buy an average of $900 worth of clubs, which are also built at the facility with all the same equipment used in traveling vans that follow the PGA TOUR.
As TaylorMade’s director of global business development Todd Fraser said, it’s “instant gratification.”
ARNIE’S ARSENAL: In a special exhibition at last week’s Insperity Championship on the Champions Tour, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player teamed up in an 18-hole scramble. Palmer put an exclamation point on the day with a 25-foot birdie putt at 18, using an original Odyssey White Hot 2-ball putter.
GoLo TIME: Rickie Fowler scored a long-awaited first win on TOUR at the Wells Fargo Championship with a rather mixed bag (see below), plus a putter that has only been in the bag for three months.
Fowler visited the Scotty Cameron Putter Studio in California before the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship in February and switched to a Cameron Select GoLo putter, believing it helped his aim on putts inside 15 feet and allowed him to just “aim and fire”, as he told Titleist reps.
At Quail Hollow, he tied for 21st in putts per green in regulation.
WINNER’S BAG: Fowler at the Wells Fargo
Driver: Cobra AMP (Mitsubishi Diamana Whiteboard shaft, 9.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: Ping i20 (15 degrees)
Hybrid: Adams 9031 Pro Black (20 degrees)
Irons: Cobra AMP Pro Prototype (4-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled (PW, 50, 55, 59 degrees)
Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron GoLo
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x