Touring pros are drawn to the San Diego area this time of the
year, but not for the sun and the surf. They come to check their
swings on the sophisticated diagnostic equipment made available
to them by club manufacturers. At test centers, computers,
high-speed cameras and lasers--as well as the best-trained human
eyes in the business--help the players determine what, if any,
changes in technique and equipment might help them in the coming
Last January, for example, Karrie Webb changed to a crosshanded
putting grip after data gathered at the Titleist center in
Oceanside convinced her that she produced a truer roll by going
left hand low. The result? Webb jumped to 30th from 49th in
putting this season, won six tournaments and was the player of
Jim Colbert had a similar experience. He won more than $1
million on the Senior tour in 1994 but was dissatisfied with his
driving. A launch monitor at the Callaway test center in
Carlsbad showed that the reason his tee shots tended to be
short, ballooning fades with no roll was that they were starting
too low and had too much backspin. Colbert switched to a driver
with a softer shaft and moved the ball forward in his stance,
attaining a higher launch angle and lower spin rate. With an
extra 15 yards and better control in the wind, he became the
tour's player of the year in '95. The players' goal is
optimization, that is, identifying equipment that is best suited
to them. For tee shots a typical pro looks for a clubhead, shaft
and ball that, when combined with his or her swing, will produce
a launch angle of about 12 degrees and a spin rate of less than
3,000 rpm. (Tiger Woods has the most efficient driver numbers
Titleist has recorded: a launch angle of 12.5 degrees and spin
rate of 2,200 rpm, achieved with a clubhead speed of more than
December 6, 1999
"All these things used to be a guessing game," says Peter
Jacobsen. "Most of us used shafts that were too stiff and
launched our drives too low, just like amateurs. I doubt that
anyone on Tour guesses today."
DOUBLE-TALK ON GOLF'S RULES
The USGA, having limited the so-called springlike effect in golf
clubs, is looking at ways to counter technological advances in
golf balls, and the result could be one ball for pros and
another for amateurs. In San Francisco next month the USGA,
under new president Trey Holland, holds its annual meeting. At
that session approval is expected for a new method of measuring
the distance a ball travels, tightening the specifications for
approval. Some manufacturers are already threatening legal action.
At least one equipment maker, however, is pushing for a
compromise in which there would be two standards--a stricter one
for the pros and no change for everyone else. "Why change the
standards for everyone when new clubs and balls are making the
game more enjoyable?" says Ely Callaway, a proponent of a
One of the sacred tenets of golf is that everyone plays under
the same rules, and one of golf's conceits is that on occasion
an amateur can hit a shot as well as a pro. Nevertheless, former
PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman also advocates two tiers. "The
idea that one set of rules is the Holy Grail has blinded a lot
of people about what's best for the game," he says. In his
opinion amateurs and pros already play under different rules.
Beman cites the one-ball rule used by the Tour (and the USGA for
top amateur events), which requires a pro to play the same brand
and model of ball throughout a round. Weekend players aren't
subject to this rule.
The USGA is aware of these arguments as it tries to legislate
players like Tiger Woods into having to hit more club. "A
two-tiered system is the ultimate fallback position," says one
USGA insider. "Yes, it would bifurcate the game, but that might
have to happen to save the game."
Golf Plus will next appear in the Jan. 17, 2000, issue.
What do these players have in common?
They are the only Senior tour players 60 or older to finish
among the top 15 in driving distance this year. Dill was fifth
at 278.6 yards per drive, Weaver sixth (277.0) and Thompson 13th
Did the three World tour events exceed, meet or fail to meet your
--Based on 1,147 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Will Tiger Woods extend his winning streak on
Tour to five straight at next year's season-opening Mercedes
Championships? Vote at www.cnnsi.com/golf.
At this week's Senior tour Q school finals at Omni Tucson
National, 110 players will compete for 16 spots. Here are the Q
school grads who had the best rookie years.
PLAYER (YEAR) WINS MONEY
Bruce Fleisher ('99) 7 1st
Allen Doyle ('99) 4 3rd
Hugh Baiocchi ('97) 1 8th
Jay Sigel ('94) 1 12th
Bruce Summerhays ('95) 0 13th
Gary McCord ('99) 2 14th
Simon Hobday ('91) 0 16th
Tom Wargo ('93) 1 16th
Bud Allin ('95) 0 17th
Larry Gilbert ('93) 0 17th
Tyler MacPhie, Kennebunk Beach, Maine
Tyler, 15, became the youngest winner in the 30-year history of
the Webhannet Golf Club men's championship. He also won the
club's junior and parent-child titles, the latter with his
father, Duncan. A sophomore at Kennebunk High, Tyler was 12-0 in
medal-match play with a 36.7 scoring average for the Rams this
Alissa Kuczka, Phoenix
Alissa, a sophomore at Xavier College Prep, shot a three-over
147 to win the Class 5A individual championship and lead the
Gators to a 61-shot team victory, giving them 18 state titles in
20 years. Alissa was named the 1999 Junior Golf Association of
Arizona player of the year after winning six JGAA events.
Greg Davies, Walled Lake, Mich.
Davies, 32, a financial adviser, was named the Michigan Publinx
player of the year for the third time in a row after becoming
the first person to win the state's three public links
majors--the match play, the Syron Memorial and the Lee Gohs
championship. Davies also won the Michigan medal play.
Vote for '99 Face of the Year at golfplus.cnnsi.com/faces.