Does size matter? The debate raged at the PGA Show
Wandering about the 700,000-square-foot bazaar that was last
week's PGA Merchandise Show, Dick Rugge discovered the Jabba the
Hutt of golf clubs, the 600-cc Integra SoooLong. After fondling
the supersized driver for a bit, Rugge, the USGA's senior
technical director, was more convinced than ever that he and his
staff are fighting the good fight in attempting to limit
clubhead size. "I rest my case," Rugge says, recounting his
moment of clarity. "One look at something like that is worth a
thousand pages of research. It simply doesn't look like a golf
There were plenty of trends apparent at the 48th-annual
show--putters are getting wackier, irons more traditional--but
the buzz was about drivers that are looking increasingly like
Subarus on a stick. At the Orange County Convention Center in
Orlando, more than a dozen manufacturers trotted out models of
400 cc or more, including several of more than 500 cc. What's
more, there's now a Godzilla-sized driver in every price
category, from the $99 Pro Select 400 to the $500 Zevo
Compressor. At last year's show 300-cc drivers were considered
excessive; in one product cycle the space race has pushed
clubheads past an even more outlandish threshold. "We've been
criticized for acting too quickly," says Rugge, "but this has
happened in the blink of an eye."
The USGA has been lambasted for more than its haste. In
proposing a limit of 385 cc in late December, then rashly
revising the number to 470 three weeks later, the USGA cited an
obscure passage in the Rules of Golf that states, "clubs shall
not be substantially different from the traditional and
customary form and make." Rugge makes no bones that the debate
is one of aesthetics. "We've done no research on clubs of this
size, because it's not a performance issue," he says.
In Orlando this rigid thinking made manufacturers apoplectic.
Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf, called the USGA's handling
of the clubhead limits "capricious and arbitrary" and noted a
delicious irony in the rule makers' obsessing about size. "They
put the spotlight on big heads," he said, "so now more golfers
want them even bigger, and we have to make them. This is only
going to lead to more conflict."
This theme was also being employed by the makers of the SoooLong.
Greg Fariss, a club specialist for Trophy Sports, which sells the
Integra line, said his company played an integral part in the
USGA's reversal on its original clubhead limit. "I reminded the
USGA that they had already approved our 400- and 450-cc drivers
last year," Fariss said. "We're the reason they went to 470. They
had to unless they wanted to get sued." Left unsaid was that the
fate of the SoooLong could also lead to litigation. While the
great clubhead debate is far from over, last week's show was
clearly a milestone, and from its trenches the SoooLong emerged
as an unlikely icon, for both Rugge and his antagonists. "It
certainly made people stop and look," says Fariss. "It's a
by Sal Johnson
Chris DiMarco won his third Tour event in as many seasons by
dominating the TPC of Scottsdale's par-4s, playing them in 12
under, and navigating the dangerous final five holes in a
cumulative nine under, best in the field.... Kenny Perry played
in the final group on Sunday for the third time this year, but he
came up short again by three-putting two of the final six holes,
his only three-jacks of the week.... In Perth, Australia, Retief
Goosen won the Johnnie Walker Classic by eight strokes, the
ninth-largest margin of victory on the European tour since 1990.
Goosen has five victories worldwide since last June, more than
any other player.... With a $450,000 payday, Hale Irwin won his
third straight Senior Skins Game, at the Wailea (Hawaii) Golf
Resort.... Fuzzy Zoeller, making his Senior debut, was shut out.
How much does Pat Bates love his hair? The golden-maned Tour
journeyman is forgoing $15,000 a year by not wearing headgear
bearing the logo of his sponsor, Cleveland Golf. There may come a
day when Bates's celebrated mullet goes under cover, but it won't
be because he has money on the brain. "You might see me with a
visor somewhere down the line," he tells SI. "I guess it depends
on course conditions."
From Sweden, the land that bore Jesper Parnevik, comes the
zaniest item at last week's PGA Merchandise Show, a
revolutionary putter called The One (below). Retailing for $170,
The One presents an entirely new way to putt: one-handed
pendulum style, with a club that has a 23-inch shaft. Oh, the
USGA is going to love this.
Ping zing! Several leading manufacturers told SI they are likely
to follow the lead of Ping and abandon the PGA Show.
Ty Tryon may have missed the cut at the Phoenix Open, but he
didn't leave empty-handed. Part of his booty for teeing it up in
the Monday pro-am was a $500 gift certificate to Dillard's
department store. With a nod to his girlfriend, Lauren Bedford,
he said, "We won't have any trouble spending this."
Charles Howell had an old acquaintance on his bag last week,
Augusta townsman Bucky Moore. A longtime caddie at Augusta
National, Moore, 55, has 28 Masters on his resume as well as
cameos on Tour with K.J. Choi, Grant Waite and Fulton Allem.
Moore and Howell go way back--all the way to Augusta's
Westminister School, which CH3 attended with Moore's son Ricky,
who went on to be the starting point guard on Connecticut's 1999
national-champion basketball team. Bucky and Howell became
friendly during the latter's frequent reconnaissance missions to
the National as a youngster, and Moore was offered his new gig
after Howell's first choice, Tony Navarro, decided to carry
Howell's bag only part-time while remaining true to longtime
boss Greg Norman. The plan is for Moore to work about a dozen
tournaments for Howell this year, including a little
invitational this spring in their hometown. "I'm really looking
forward to the Masters," Moore says. "Charles will have a real
good shot there."
The party will never be quelled at the Phoenix Open, no matter
how many yahoos uncork Caddyshack tributes. If players want
peace, they'll simply have to avoid the half-million fans who
whoop it up with the tournament's tacit approval.
VOTE AT golfonline.com
A gimpy Jack Nicklaus, 62, is making noises about skipping the
Masters, while a discouraged Arnold Palmer, 72, says he has
probably played his last Hope. Which of these aging warriors will
be the first to retire from competitive golf?
LAST WEEK: During pro-am tournaments like the Hope and Pebble
Beach, does TV devote too much, too little or just enough airtime
to the celebrities?
Too much.....47% Too little.....28% Just enough.....25%
--Based on 4,079 responses to our informal survey