Reeling In The Pros

Graphite is the talk of the Tour, as are a putt-and-tell book and John Daly's return
February 01, 1993

There's somethingfishy about the latest equipment trend. Since September some 40 players on thePGA Tour, including Davis Love III, the Tour's second-leading money-winner lastyear, have switched from steel-shaft irons to irons with graphite shaftsmanufactured by G. Loomis—a company named for its founder, Gary Loomis, andknown heretofore for its high-priced line of fishing rods. "We found outthat 69 percent of the Tour players also fish," says Loomis marketingdirector Burl Outlaw. "So we've taken players on fishing trips to theFlorida Keys, fly-fishing trips to Montana, trout fishing in Utah. We have arule that when we go on fishing trips, absolutely no one talks aboutgolf."

Whatever theconversation, a good number of players have taken the bait and are now hookedon Loomis shafts. Previously, graphite appeared in Tour bags mostly on driversand fairway woods because players felt that they couldn't get a set ofgraphite-shaft irons with uniform balance—and without that, the trajectory oftheir shots would be adversely affected. Loomis shafts, which are slightlythicker and heavier than other graphite shafts, seem to have achieved greateruniformity.

The key technicalimprovement has to do with flexibility and vibration. Graphite iron shaftsother than Loomis's tend to be stiff, though not as stiff as the more widelyused steel shafts. The Loomis X-shafts, according to players who have installedthem on their clubs, are less stiff than other graphite shafts and create lessvibration on impact. Those two factors mean less shock to the hands and armsthan with steel and other graphite shafts.

This quality is ofparticular importance to tournament players, who beat hundreds of balls everyweek on the practice range. John Adams, one of the Tour's long hitters,switched to graphite irons in 1985 because of tendinitis in his left elbow.Until the Loomis shafts became available, though, he had to put up with shaftsthat were still too stiff. "Now I can go full bore with my irons," hesays, "and I don't feel the shock."

Another convert isLove, who put Loomis shafts on his irons last September. In nine outings withhis new rods, Love has won four times and landed $800,000 in winnings.

Third-year proJohn Daly is scheduled to rejoin the Tour on Thursday at the Phoenix Open abouta month after announcing that he was entering an alcohol rehabilitation center.Last week's news of his return caught many Tour officials by surprise. It camejust four weeks after Daly had been arrested following a destructive rampagethrough his Colorado home, during which he allegedly slammed his wife against awall. The episode prompted PGA commissioner Deane Beman to urge that Daly seektreatment. At the time, Daly vowed to return "only when I am comfortable mylife is in order." At this point the primary judge of whether Daly's lifeis in order is Daly.

"The realunknown killer of drinking is that it stunts your emotional growth," saysSenior tour pro Frank Beard, himself a recovering alcoholic. "When I quitdrinking, at age 42, I was a 20-year-old emotionally."

In that light,many people are hoping that Daly, at 26, is not merely a troubledadolescent.

Eighteen years asa touring pro should have revealed most of golf's secrets to Howard Twitty, buthis win at the Hawaiian Open left him looking for answers. "Why thatweek?" he asked last week in Tucson, following his pro-am round at theNorthern Telecom Open. "Why all of a sudden? Why was it at Hawaii? I mean,if you saw me play in Hawaii, you'd have thought that I'd won a couple oftournaments recently."

Twitty had won acouple of tournaments, but certainly not recently. Twelve and a half winlessyears had passed since his victory at the Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater HartfordOpen, the longest gap between victories in the history of the Tour. Theprevious record was held by Leonard Thompson, who went 12 years between hiswins at the 1977 Pensacola Open and the 1989 Buick Open.

"Someone whogoes that long between wins can't have much quit in him," said Twitty."Other than that, I just can't explain it. Probably most everyone therethought I wouldn't be able to hold the lead on Sunday against Paul Azinger andJoey Sindelar."

Twitty did morethan hold on in the final round against two of the game's top pros: He led wireto wire and birdied four of the last six holes for a four-shot final margin."When you don't win," he said, "you feel as if you don't have therespect of your peers. By winning, I feel as though I have everyone's respectagain."

Along with the$216,000 first prize, Twitty's Hawaiian win gives him all the usual extras: twoyears' exemption from Tour qualifying, an invitation to the Masters and a spotin next year's Tournament of Champions. But what made this victory even sweeterthan the previous two was the presence of his 12-year-old daughter, Jocelyn,who had yet to be born when he last triumphed. "She was thrilled,"Twitty said. "I could feel it by the way she held on to me on the 18thgreen. It was like a door was opened, and a light was shining on a lot ofthings she never understood."

Is there a statuteof limitations regarding Tour policy infractions? In his soon-to-be-releasedbook, Buried Lies, fun-loving Peter Jacobsen confesses to having committedseveral Tour crimes during his 16-year career. They're allsneak-under-the-ropes-type offenses: letting his caddie play a hole during apro-am; having NBA star Michael Jordan join him for a tournament practiceround, which is a no-no because practice rounds are restricted to golfersentered in the field; and allowing comedian Bill Murray on the practice rangeat the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock, where Murray proceeded to lob wedge shotsat a hospitality tent. "As a two-time member of the Tour Policy Board."Jacobsen writes, "I'll probably get fined just for telling the storyhere."

Jacobsen alsoreveals in his book that he pays his caddie, Mike Cowan, $800 a week, plus 8%to 10% of his winnings. "I hope that jibes with the figures Mike turned into the folks at the IRS," writes Jacobsen. "If not, I guess I'll seehim again the next time they hold the San Quentin Invitational."

PHOTOG. LOOMIS, INC.On land or sea, Love (left, with Loomis) is hooked on his new graphite shafts. PHOTOJOHN IACONOIn his forthcoming book Jacobsen even takes a few shots at himself.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)