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New Drivers Too Square for the Pros; Kane Done?; Happy Valentines from PGA Tour

There’s an interesting story in the LA Times about the new trend towards square drivers. Turns out there’s a problem with this fad — pros don’t want to play the strange looking toasters on a stick.

“The penalty for being less skilled, and that includes most of us, is considerably less,” said Tom Stites, the lead club designer at Nike. “You’ll probably see more players on tour put them in play, but for the most part, tour-caliber players aren’t able to take advantage of this technology as much.”

So far KJ Choi is still the only tour player to hit Nike’s new driver. Given the need to validate new golf technology through tour players — regardless of whether that validation makes any sense — I’m wondering how likely it is that any of these new clubs will be a success. Of course this might change if Phil Mickelson agrees to use Callaway’s new FT-i driver.

The notion of players using what is popular on the PGA Tour is really part of the battle against bifurcation. I question whether a club or ball can really gain market attention these days if a PGA Tour player isn’t using them. TaylorMade struggled with their new ball last year because players weren’t using it — despite the obvious quality of the product. This year that’s changed — with a handful of high-profile players using the new ball — and it’ll be interesting to see whether the market follows this, especially with a new Titleist ProV1 hitting just hitting store shelves.

That said, the moment of inertia trend does seem to be gaining some traction with the pros, though the Times story was supported by someone hitting Taylor’s new driver, not the boxy models.

That’s fine with Robert Garrigus, who is using the Burner and is fourth on the tour in driving distance, averaging 304.7 yards.

“The square drivers are fun to look at, but they’re kind of weird to hit,” Garrigus said. “They sound really loud and hollow. When I switched to [the Burner], it was pretty much a no-brainer. Everything instantly improved.”

The Times story is here.

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Lorne Rubenstein has a column in the Globe and Mail today on the respective comebacks of Lori Kane and Mike Weir. I think Weir will be successful, even if the new swing changes he’s making take time. Kane, on the other hand, doesn’t sound as dedicated. Rubenstein notes she had to move next to a driving range in Orlando just so she’d get out and hit balls more frequently.

Kane, whose popularity in her native Charlottetown is as high as ever, recently moved from her home in Titusville, Fla., to the Lake Nona Golf & Country Club in Orlando. She lives beside the practice area. “I needed a place to practise,” Kane said before she left for this week’s tournament. “I had to drive from my house to practise in Titusville, and I wasn’t motivated to do it.”

If you have to live next to a driving range in order to motivate yourself to practise — considering that playing golf is what Kane does full-time — I think the chances are that her career is now decidedly on the downturn. Gosh, I’ll drive 20 minutes to a range regularly on the summer and my job is to write about the game, not win money in pro tournaments (thank God.) In Canada, I think most golf writers are too fond of Kane to admit she at 43 she’s likely finished being a significant force on the LPGA Tour. The problem is there isn’t anyone in Canada who appears prepared to take her place.

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Oh, and happy Valentine’s Day from the PGA Tour:

The PGA TOUR celebrates Valentines Day this week with the launch of First Kiss, a new commercial in its year-long campaign to promote the inaugural season-long FedExCup points competition. It debuts during this week’s telecast of the Nissan Open on GOLF CHANNEL and CBS.

First Kiss features players Adam Scott, Camilo Villegas, Sean OHair, Zach Johnson, Dean Wilson, J.J. Henry, Lucas Glover and Aaron Baddeley courting the coveted, new FedExCup trophy with lines delivered in the spirit of Shakespeare. About the new prize, OHair exclaims, Other men have seen angels, but I have seen thee. Thou art enough, while Scott pledges, I will be the first to kiss her.

Like a bad car crash this one seems too awful to turn away from. See it here. Oh, and yes it is truly awful. Reciting the lines from Shakespeare, well, the players come across as, um, golfers. Let’s hope this one doesn’t last long. And does anyone believe any of the guys in the commercial will actually win the damned FedEx Cup?

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • The First Kiss is the most embarassing thing I’ve seen the PGA Tour do to date. the players must hate themselves for getting involved.

  • I hope Weirsy gets his game back fast because he is sinking like a stone in the rankings. He is now out of the top 50 – when is the last time that was the case? Ames isn’t doing that much better and his aura (and points) from winning the TPC last year is fading and Rutledge hasn’t even come close to smelling a cut line, never mind making a cut.

    Chances of a Canadian being the field at Royal Montreal in the fall don’t look good.

  • Let’s just say P-Cup host country get a sponsor pick – who would Gary Players pick? Weir or Ames?

    If none is picked, it will be a embarassment for the Canada golf.

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