Julia Engstrom of Sweden during the first roun…

Julia Engstrom of Sweden during the first round – Ladies European Tour 2019. Investec South African Women’s Open, Westlake Golf Club, Cape Town, South Africa. 14-16 March 2019. Credit: Tristan Jones #golf #sports #travel

Carly Booth, Karolin Lampert, Julia Engstrom a…

Carly Booth, Karolin Lampert, Julia Engstrom and Olivia Cowan with a penguin at Boulders bay – Ladies European Tour 2019. Investec South African Women’s Open, Westlake Golf Club, Cape Town, South Africa. 14-16 March 2019. Credit: Tristan Jones #golf #sports #travel

Monday After the Players

Monday After the Players

By ED TRAVIS

This year as for the past several the media talked interminably about whether The Players should be designated the “fifth major.”  To some this is a pointless exercise since the players themselves consider it to be very important tournament with far and away the strongest field, even the de facto holder of the title “major.” Most fans could care less and file the discussion in the same folder as doing something about slow play.

And speaking of the bane of all golf, winner Rory McIlroy made the latest in his series of comments about his fellow toursters’ slow play, “Honestly, I think they should just be a little tougher and start penalizing shots earlier, and that would be an easy way to fix it.” However, it’s common knowledge the PGA Tour does not insist players adhere to a reasonable time standard so nothing will be done.

The Players is the first important/major event effected by the changing of the season schedule so the finish will be before the start of football season. This starts a run of one-a-month biggies continuing with the Masters in April, the PGA Championship in May, U.S. Open in June, the British Open in July and in August the Tour Championship.

The two-month earlier date showed the TPC Sawgrass course at its best giving the field all they could handle with Sunday temperatures in the 50s and winds up to 20 mph. Just what everyone was hoping for when the March dates were penciled in with added problems created by the over seeding of rye grass.

Europeans dominated the top of the leaderboard. McIlroy is from Northern Ireland (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) leading the list of 10 non-Americans in the top 15 finishers. The best we could do was a second place by 48-year-old Jim Furyk, last year’s Ryder Cup team captain. This doesn’t bode well for U.S. international teams, either for the Presidents Cup matches in the fall nor the 2020 Ryder Cup against most of these same Euros but with my record of predictions don’t take this warning too seriously.

We relearned the 17th island green is tough to hit even by the best players in the world dunked 45 balls for the four rounds. The question whether 17 would play harder in March than May you can decide for yourself. The previous five years of water balls on 17 when play was in May: 2018 (54), 2107 (69), 2016 (36), 2015 (45), 2014 (28).

Tiger Woods’ performance was uninspiring and not, to take Gary Koch’s famous call from 2001, “Better than most.” Woods ho-hum game could be illustrated with his quadruple bogey on the island green in round two and on Sunday coming down the par-5 16th at 3-under par for the round hitting at 15-handicappers iron shot 30 yards right of the green into the water. His response however was professional and classy with a very nice up and down for par.

Woods never looked like he could be a contender all week and with the Masters a month away he needs a lot more game to even be in the mix at Augusta much less have a realistic chance for a win. Fans were heartened though by no sign of any physical problems including the neck which caused his withdrawal at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The question remains. Should we looking at Woods as a 43-year old former great with some physical issues marking time for the PGA Tour Champions or the dynamic previously dominating player on his way to full recovery?

The Rules of Golf again leapt up and bit one of the players with Harold Varner III taking a two-stroke penalty for replacing a cracked driver head with a new one on the course rather than putting an entirely different driver in play. Not a new rule but still a shame it even had to be applied.

Finally, in case you missed it Friday, the reuniting of Paul Azinger now with NBC and Nick Faldo working for the Golf Channel the first two rounds with sportscaster Mike Tirico was a pleasant reminder of the trio last heard together over two years ago.

Stroke Lab from Odyssey – Control Distance

Stroke Lab from Odyssey – Control Distance

By ED TRAVIS

Distance control, not aim, is the key to becoming a good if not great putter and consistent distance can only come from a consistent repeatable stroke. Rather than concentrate on a new way to do alignment lines or making a new face insert to improve the ball’s roll why not figure out a design that will improve distance control?

That’s what Odyssey, Callaway Golf’s putter division, did with their solution coming to market as the Stroke Lab putter line.

According to Sean Toulon, Callaway’s senior vice president and general manager of Odyssey, “These new putters epitomize what Stroke Lab is all about. Questioning the norm for the purpose of developing putters that perform substantially better to help golfers make more putts.”

With the speed of putting surfaces increasing due to advance in agronomy it’s not unusual for even recreational players to face with a Stimpmeter reading of 10 or 11 during a weekend round. On the PGA Tour 11 and 12 are the norm and 13 or 14 are not uncommon.

In response makers have made putter heads heavier and heavier, often more than 350 or 360 grams, the thinking being that when greens are fast the stroke doesn’t have to be as big. Part of this trend is the popularity of relatively lightweight larger grips which means putter swing weights have gotten extremely high sometimes as high as F3–a typical driver has a D2 swing weight.

Steel putter shafts usually weigh in the range of 115 to 120 grams but with heavier heads the typical shaft is relatively weaker allowing both more flex and torque.

The critical factor in the Stroke Lab design was to make the shaft from graphite with a steel tip section which Odyssey says reduced shaft weight by 40 grams. To keep the overall weight constant, 10 of the 40 grams were moved to the head distributed in two sole weights. The remaining 30 grams went to the grip end with a 40-gram end weight (shaft plug) and a stock grip weighing 10-grams less. The shaft at 75 grams is lighter but with a much higher MOI (resistance to twisting) and the weight distributed to encourage a free and consistent stroke. Odyssey says testing of Stroke Lab putters showed a 25% improvement in backswing length consistency which makes the stored energy more reliable. The design helps to raise the consistency of the face angle at the end of the backswing by almost 20% so the amount of face rotation needed to be back at square at impact is more predictable.

“You feel the difference immediately,” said Luke Williams, senior director of putter marketing. “The putter head moves freely, smoothly and on a sound path, helping you roll the ball accurately while giving you greater speed-control.”

All the Stroke Lab models have Odyssey’s White Hot Microhinge face insert, a hit since its initial introduction in 2016.

On the course there no doubt the shaft of a Stroke Lab putter is different looking and different feeling. The balance of the head, grip and graphite/steel shaft are great. The Tuttle model was tested extensively on and off the course and it was one of very few putters in my experience didn’t required a “break-in.” There was no time wasted “getting used to it.”

From the first it was simply a case of picking the line and making the stroke.

Instant confidence.

Did every putt go in? Of course not, but three putts are almost a thing of the past because if the first putt missed the second is close enough to be makeable…even a tap in. Phil Mickelson fans will recognize the #9 Stroke Lab as being the putter he used to win “The Match” against Tiger Woods and Francisco Molinari putted lights out in with a Toulon Madison model winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational making a 43 foot birdie on the 72nd hole.

Brand & Model:

Odyssey Stroke Lab Putter

Key Features:

Graphite/steel combination shaft

Lower torque and flex

White Hot Microhinge race insert

Retail Price & Availability:

$250 in shops now

Need to know:

Controlling distance by redoing weight distribution including a graphite shaft with a steel tip improves stroke consistency. Most popular Odyssey mallet and blade shapes: #7, #7S, Marxman, Marxman S, 2-Ball Fang, 2-Ball Fang S, Red Ball, Red Ball S, Tuttle, Tuttle Flow, VLine, V-Line ang S, V-Line CS, #2, #3; #9, Double Wide and Double Wide Flow.

Inside Striker – @insidestriker – A portable g…

Inside Striker – @insidestriker – A portable golf training aid designed to reinforce proper swing plane, eliminate your slice and provide  instant feed-back as you practice.  Practice with every club in your golf bag.   Ideal for driving range, putting green or at home allowing you to practice with a purpose.  http://www.insidestriker.com

No fewer than 14 former Ryder Cup players will…

No fewer than 14 former Ryder Cup players will sprinkle their magic on the fairways of Doha Golf Club this year as a world-class field gets ready for action at the 22nd staging of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters which commences today.  

Last year’s Ryder Cup in Paris is still fresh in the minds of most European golf fans and the man who masterminded Europe’s 17.5 – 10.5 defeat of the United States, Captain Thomas Bjørn, returns to Qatar for the 15th time, having won the event in 2011.

Bjørn, who appeared in three Ryder Cups, played in the very first edition of the Qatar Masters back in 1998, and so, too, did fellow past champion and Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson. The tall Swede won the Mother of Pearl trophy in 2010, two years after he made his second Ryder Cup appearance at Valhalla.

Paul Lawrie is another two-time Ryder Cup star, with both his appearances in the biennial event coming in the same years he won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters – 1999 and 2012. The former Open Champion will be joined by his Scottish compatriot Stephen Gallacher who is no stranger to winning in the Middle East with two victories at the Dubai Desert Classic to his name. Gallacher played in the victorious 2014 Ryder Cup Team on home soil at Gleneagles.

Chris Wood, Andy Sullivan and Thomas Pieters all represented Team Europe three years ago at Hazeltine National while the likes of Victor Dubuisson (2014), Nicolas Colsaerts (2012), Peter Hanson (2010, 2012), Edoardo Molinari (2010), Ross Fisher (2010), Oliver Wilson (2008) and David Howell (2004, 2006) have all donned European colours in the past.

World Number 76 Pieters has made a solid start to the season, finishing inside the top 30 in his first five events, including a share of sixth place last week at the Oman Open, and he believes there’s more to come this week in Qatar.

“My game has been feeling really good for a long time now,” said the Belgian. “I’m playing tournaments again and getting my confidence back is the main thing. I haven’t had a bad tournament yet, but last week is the first time I’ve contended in a long time and it felt great. Winning the World Cup last year was different – in an individual tournament I hadn’t been in contention and it was frustrating. I hope I can keep this feeling going.”

One of the most popular stops on Tour, the field for this week’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters is also full of young stars hoping to add the iconic Trophy to their silverware collection. England’s Jordan Smith finished sixth in Doha on his debut two years ago and is looking to bounce back after missing the cut last year.

“I always enjoy coming to Doha Golf Club,” said Smith. “The first year I played here I had a really good performance but unfortunately I missed the cut last year so hopefully I can make that right this time around. I love the course; it’s tricky because of the windy conditions but I really enjoy the challenge.”

The Peter Harradine layout also holds fond memories for Challenge Tour graduate Erik Van Rooyen, who enjoyed a fine rookie campaign on the European Tour in 2018.

“I played really well over the first two rounds here last year but struggled at the weekend so I’d like to change that this year and continue to play well for all four rounds,” said the South African. “It’s a golf course where you’ve got to hit a lot of drivers, which suits my game, so I’m really looking forward to teeing off on Thursday. I love playing out here in the Middle East and Qatar is always a great destination on the European Tour calendar.”

With 144 players blending an intriguing mix of youth and experience, this year’s Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, taking place Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th March, is set to be another memorable addition to the tournament’s storied 22-year history.

This afternoon, Team TaylorMade’s Sung H…

This afternoon, Team TaylorMade’s Sung Hyun Park captured her 6th career LPGA victory at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in Singapore with a thrilling final round performance. #golf #sports #travel

lucky escape from the rough    @ Ballybunion C…

lucky escape from the rough

    @ Ballybunion Cashen Course, Ireland

Anne Van Dam of Holland celebrates her 4th win…

Anne Van Dam of Holland celebrates her 4th win on the Ladies European Tour – Ladies European Tour 2019. ACTEWAGL Canberra Classic, Royal Canberra Golf Club, ACT, Australia. 1-3 March 2019. Credit: Tristan Jones #golf #sports #travel

hit and hope    @ Royal Dornoch Golf Course, N…

hit and hope

    @ Royal Dornoch Golf Course, North Scotland