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The Tour Report

February 15 2012

2:14 PM

Phil’s new ball and Ernie’s putter angst

Live Report Image
Shaw/Getty Images
Phil Mickelson's 40th PGA TOUR win came with Callaway's new HEX Black Tour ball.

By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM

A new golf ball got into the winner’s circle when Phil Mickelson won for the 40th time in his career Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The Callaway HEX Black Tour is the company’s newest weapon in the battle for market share in the premium-ball category, long the domain of Titleist’s ProV1 line.

The ball has hexagon-shaped dimples, similar to previous Callaway balls, but with a new dual-core construction where the outer core has a higher compression and the inner core a much softer compression, allowing for lower spin off longer clubs and higher spin off scoring clubs like wedges and short irons.

A dual mantle and proprietary urethane cover complete the package, which will go on sale March 2.

"I had a big advantage this week, I felt, because when the winds started coming up, when the rain started coming up, I felt like I had an advantage by the way my ball was flying and being controlled through that wind,” Mickelson said after his win. “We've got a new ball this year, HEX Black (Tour), and it just flew so good and penetrated through the air so much better that in this thick, cold air I felt like I had a big advantage."

Mickelson also touted the company’s RAZR Fit driver, which was moved into sale a week earlier after the win.

”I don't know how the physics of this work, but usually when I hit ‑‑ I'm able to hit a high, long ball off the tee and I'm also able to hit a low, controlled cut shot off the tee to get to the fairway, usually it's one or the other. Usually a driver is not able to hit both. I don't know what they did with the physics of it, but it allows me to hit every shot I'm trying to hit off the tee.”

PUTTER ANGST: The long putter argument rages on, and among PGA TOUR players the spectrum of opinion keeps growing. There are players like Tiger Woods who are strictly against it and have even lobbied for a solution, and young stars like Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson who are users and huge supporters.

Then there’s Ernie Els, who uses a belly putter and is completely in favor of its disappearance.

“Although I've used it for, what, six months now, I feel the same as most of the traditionalists. I feel that no club should be anchored to your body,” Els said Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “I don't know how they're going to go around it, maybe use a putter as long as you want as long as it's not anchored to your body in any way, even up your arm.  You see a lot of the guys use it in their armpits now.

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“Nothing should be anchored to your body, and I still believe that. I was in such a state that I felt that I needed to change something, which I did. I went to the belly. It hasn't really helped me that much, but it has helped me. But I'm for it. Ban it. It's fine.”

OLD SCHOOL: Corey Pavin won the Champions Tour’s Allianz Championship last weekend, his first win in 35 starts on the 50-and-over circuit. As usual, he excelled with one of golf’s best short games, whether it was saving par from a ridiculously hard tree-root depression or making clutch putts.

For the latter, he uses a 28-year-old Bulls Eye putter (pictured). In an era of putters of all sizes, shapes and lengths, the Bulls Eye is as old school as it gets. And Pavin’s doesn’t have any fancy paintfills or initials, just his full name stamped on the back.

NEW SCHOOL: One antithesis of the Bulls Eye is Odyssey’s new Flip-Face putters, which have two faces containing different inserts (Odyssey’s Metal-X or White Ice). Depending on the kind of a feel a player is looking for on slower or faster greens, the face can be flipped with a special tool included with the club. Stuart Appleby put a No. 5 model (pictured) in play at AT&T.

CASH PLAY: Not every PGA TOUR player has a bag full of free clubs. Golf World Monday reported that Matt Bettencourt bought a TaylorMade RBZ driver at a golf store when it was released on Feb. 3, not waiting for the company to bring the drivers to TOUR pros at the AT&T.

WINNER’S BAG: Mickelson at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am:
Driver: Callaway RAZR Fit, 9.5 degrees
3-wood: Callaway Big Bertha Diablo 
Irons: Callaway X-Forged 4-iron, X-Prototype 5-iron, RAZR X muscle-back 6-PW 
Wedges: Callaway X-Series JAWS 52, 60, 64 degrees
Putter: Odyssey White Hot XG PT82 Blade
Ball: Callaway HEX Black Tour