It looked like it was going to rain, but in the end it turned out to be a nice, though exceptionally busy day in Los Angeles. After a demo of TaylorMade’s latest clothing (including a sneak peak at the fall line up), it was off to Riviera, which is hosting the Northern Trust Open this week.
The first impression is that Riviera is one of the most stunning courses I have ever encountered. But more on that later.
Almost immediately we walked down the hill off the first tee and towards the tour trailers. Sitting in the midst of all of these vehicles was something that looked akin to a military transport. In fact that’s TaylorMade’s new $1 million tour trailer. For those of you who don’t hang around PGA Tour driving ranges (and you know who you are), the trailer is for staff players who want to add clubs, tweak clubs, regrip clubs, bend clubs … you get the picture.
The trailer has only been out on tour for the opening events of the year, but it now does upwards of 50 clubs a day. The big deal at the moment is TaylorMade’s R9 driver, which will hit shelves in coming weeks. Fully adjustable in terms of face angle, with some tweaks to the loft/lie, Wade Liles, who builds all of TaylorMade’s woods for its tour players, can build an R9 from start to finish in less than five minutes. To demonstrate that, he built one to my specs, including altering the grip and swing weighting it, within a few minutes. We’ll see how the club performs when I hit it tomorrow.
While at the trailer, we ran into Mike Weir. Well, that was always part of the plan. Weir was genuinely disappointed not to get to play the final round at Pebble Beach, though he admitted this was probably his best start to year since 2003. Weir’s take on the tour trailer: “I thought it was an assault vehicle.”
Weir has had a longstanding relationship with TM, though his wedges and putter is still Titleist. He’s not big on
changing his gear either. He still hits R7 irons and is just now switching from the R7 Ltd. to an R9, though the old driver will still be in his bag this week. That led to a conversation about how far he hits his clubs. For the record, here’s the specs:
3-iron: 210 yards
4-iron: 200 yards
5-iron: 190 yards
6-iron: 175 (“180 if I step on it,” he said.)
53 degree wedge: 105
59 degree wedge: “around the greens”
“There are probably a lot of average players who hit it as far as I do,” he said. Yep, I agreed — just not as straight.
After finishing with Weir the group of writers hung around until bumping into Stephen Ames. Ames was his usual caustic self, calling the events in California the “wet coast” tournaments, and talking about rising property taxes in Calgary. He also seemed genuinely surprised by the comments relayed from Greg Norman about his chances of making the Presidents Cup team. Ames will play his usual tournaments upcoming through to the Masters. No real surprises, by the sounds of it.
That left time for a tour of Riviera. It is a stunner, with majestic trees looming large over fairways punctuated by ravines that intersect them. Surely one of the best I’ve ever seen, I’ll do a longer write up in coming weeks. Perhaps most intriguingly I listened in as David Duval told Oliver Wilson how he likes to play the 18th. The 18th at Riviera plays up over a large ridge to a fairway that bends to the right. It is a difficult hole, especially given the blind tee shot, and Duval was trying to get Wilson to hit it quite a bit to the left, noting the ball would kick down to the middle of the fairway. Then Duval proceeded to blast a high draw to that exact spot. Hard to imagine how far he’s fallen when you see him rip one — but he was followed on all of the holes by his coach, who says Duval plans to play upwards of 20 events this year.