A Soggy Day On The PGA Tour

It was wet, cold and not a lot of fun, that is if you are trying to hit a golf ball. Thankfully I left that to the PGA Tour players yesterday as I dropped in to the PGA Tour’s Turning Stone championship just east of Syracuse, New York.

At just over 2 1/2 hours drive from Eastern Ontario it will be the closest that the best players in the world get to our region this year so it made sense to me to try to get down and see the action. Cold rain and high winds made me think otherwise very quickly. Fortunately, with no spectator access yesterday the relaxed atmosphere allowed media people like me (and there was less than a handful of media people on-site from what I could tell) some extensive access to both the players, golf equipment manufacturer representatives, the tour equipment trailers, and even the clubhouse and locker room.

My main purpose of the trip was to gather information for a feature that will appear in 2010 in Flagstick Golf Magazine about life of golf equipment manufacturers on tour. Because of that I won’t get into that aspect of things too much and leave it for the future story but I did gather a few nuggets yesterday while mingling with players in the PGA Tour “circus”.

Trailing Gawain Robertson of ACCRA Golf and Shawn Mullin of TaylorMade Golf around as they did their jobs made for an insightful day. Of course plenty of it was off the record but I am happy to share what I can.

On the equipment front the day started with a little talk with Jason Bohn and his caddy, mostly about the new grooves on clubs over 25 degrees. (The USGA was on site giving players information so it was a popular subject)). Jason said that he and other players will have to visualize their short game shots differently now but he is impressed with the consistency that the new grooves provide around the green so in that aspect it is a good thing. Overall he and other players know it will change the game especially at events like the majors where the green conditions can be extreme.

There were just four equipment manufactured trailers on site this week, Cleveland Golf, Titleist, Callaway Golf, and PING.

PING had their new trailer, the replacement for the trailer that got totaled in an accident earlier this year. The new model is about 18 inches taller, has double pullout walls and gives the technicians more room to get their work done. Several of their staff players, such as Jeff Maggert and Chris DiMarco were doing a few tweaks with their gear yesterday. Maggert was specifically testing a new hybrid.

In the Callaway golf trailer the heaviest demand was for a new hybrid that they have been testing on tour. The new look club has been popular among even non-staff players and looks like it might be a hit for the company. They were also putting together a lot of irons and wedges yesterday propelled by the new groove rules and increased player testing.

Easily the busiest trailer was the Cleveland/Srixon workshop where their team of techs were hopping with reshafting fairway woods for Robert Allenby (he is close to changing out of his beloved Sabre shafts that he has had in play for 6 years) and while I was there Kevin Stadler was keeping warm and having some club work done.

Usually Tuesday is the big day for equipment changes and tweaks on tour but the weather did not allow for a lot of testing so it was actually quite quiet. How bad was it? When one player joked that he came in because he was tired of hitting 137 yard 6-iron’s the immediate response by another player was that he wished he was able to hit it that far.

In other equipment notes, the new TaylorMade Penta ball looks to be making some inroads on tour while Titleist is already sampling their staffers with new models that have been created to couple nicely with the new grooves. TaylorMade’s interchangeable face technology wedges are also getting the thumbs up from tour players who like the ability to get a fresh set of grooves while maintaining all other specs of their wedges, especially their particular sole grinds.

I’ll share a few more things in the coming days but one of the funniest things I heard yesterday was that soon the small TV screen that Michael Allen has embedded in the front panel of his golf bag to show rotating ads might have the capability of streaming television. The possibility is that it would allow the guys to watch NFL games on it on Sunday causing one caddy to point out to Allen that Phil Mickelson will want to play with them every Sunday from now on. Mickelson is a HUGE football fan.

I can’t really comment much on what I saw in the locker room but let’s just say that with such poor weather the guys were really happy to have multiple TV screens available in front of large couches and chairs. It was a popular congregation point.

Even though there is not a lot of top 10 names at the tournament I would encourage anyone within a decent driving distance to make the trip to Turning Stone. Appleby, Allenby, Adam Scott, Rory Sabbatini, Charles Howell III, Baddeley and Calcavecchia are just a few of the headliners so the cost of $25 for a daily ticket (any day) including parking is a pretty good deal to see some PGA Tour action.

Check out www.turningstonechampionship.com for more information.

Notes:

TaylorMade Tour Manager Paul “Lego” Loegering will be caddying for friend and TM Staffer Corey Pavin this week. He has had previous on-bag appearances with players like Robert Allenby. I’ll be rooting for them to play well.

Good Guy Award: Michael Allen, after winning the Senior PGA Championship earlier this year, made good on a long forgotten promise by gifting his caddy with a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle.