Latest Green Reading Book Silliness: NCAA Championship Official Book Deemed Non-Conforming On Event Eve

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Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols details the latest fiasco with non-banned-but-should-be green reading materials”: official yardage books from the NCAA Division I women’s championships are non-conforming. By 1/16th of an inch. On ten of the holes.

“We’re just going to go to Office Depot and get some sticker labels and cover up all 18 of them,” said Purdue coach Devon Brouse.

Officials didn’t specify which of the 10 holes were in violation.

The new interpretation for Rule 4.3a, which went into effect Jan. 1, stipulates that players may use a putting-green map during play, but it must be “limited to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480).”

The original green reading book ban discussions would have been more restrictive, but the USGA and R&A watered things down a bit, and now we have the same information, only smaller. Most of the time.

Just ban them and get it over with!

Videos: Smarter Every Day Guys Testing The Mechanical Limits Of A Golf Ball; Mark Rober's Rocket Powered Driver

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Thanks to reader Jeff for this most entertaining 16 minutes of SmarterEveryDay content focusing on what they could do to make a golf ball…squirm.

Seriously geeky fun stuff here with some epic camera work…

Mark Rober, best known as the glitter package guy to 62 million viewers and counting, created the rocket-powered driver seen in the above video and posted this a few weeks ago. Al Czervik, eat your heart out:

Jason Day's Ball Speed Drops 13 MPH Using The Original Taylor Made Metal Wood

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Nice bit of data posted here by Golf.com’s Luke Kerr-Dineen of Jason Day on the Quail Hollow range after the Aussie hit the original Taylor Made driver.

Day’s current 2019 PGA Tour ball speed average is 177.2. His clubhead speed average is 118 mph, but in a follow up Tweet posted a screen shot showing a 111 clubhead speed with the much smaller head (275cc?).

No word on how Athleticism and Agronomy are feeling right now after a simple change in driver head size ate into the huge advantages they’ve given today’s players.

Tiger: "Look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards."

Just my read from his comments yesterday, which were similar to remarks made at The Players. But it sounds like he’s inching closer to thinking a de-skilling has occurred at the top level with 460 cc drivers.

From hjs pre-WGC Dell Match Play press session outside the Austin CC clubhouse:

Q. How would you describe the level of competition now in 2019?
TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that equipment has made it smaller. The margin is much smaller than it used to be. Now look at these heads, 460 cc's, you hit the ball anywhere on the face and have it go 300 yards. Before it put a premium on good ball-strikers to hit the ball in the middle of the face each and every time. And there was a distinction between the guys who could do that and the guys who couldn't. And that's no longer the case.

It promotes people swinging harder. Teeing the ball higher, swinging harder and hitting the ball further. And the old shot of hitting just a squeezier, low, heelie cut in play, that's no longer the case. Guys are trying to maximize distance off the tee, to try and carry that number 300, 320, 330 in the air. And it's become a game that's played more up in the air than it ever used to be.

Any day now we’re going to have teh 360 cc Driver Open…

Tiger On Technology, Training, Distance

Before we go deep on the 2019 Players, I just wanted to highlight these comments from Tiger Woods earlier this week.

Nice to see him explaining for those not necessarily able to understand how much the weight of clubs and size of clubheads changes how people swing. Not that we would go back to heavier clubs, but the driver head size?

Q. And everyone was sort of talking about the longevity you can get that now that modern technology, training, etcetera. But do you have concerns for guys like Jason Day and others that have had injuries sort of popping up a bit more because of this force you talked of?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I would think that the younger kids now that are involved in the game that are coming into the game are -- put it this way, that are coming on to the TOUR now, by far hit it harder than what we did when we came on TOUR. And that's due to technology and that's also due to the training and also due to the fact that I -- in my opinion, the drivers have gotten so much bigger and you have so much more surface area to miss it and hit the ball well. When I beat Davis in that playoff in '96, he had a persimmon driver. You laugh, but that was -- they were still around. So you had to hit the ball absolutely dead flush, and the guys didn't really hit it that hard. But now you can.

These kids have been training. They're stronger, they're more physical. You look what the college programs are doing, how many times they're lifting, five, six times a week. They're so much stronger now and they're able to handle the force, but also they're generating a lot of force, so there's going to be a give and take.

It will be interesting to see. These kids are hitting it so much further now and it's cool to see. We thought that Dustin was long and Bubba was long, and then we have Cameron Champ out here. It just keeps propping up. I thought I was pretty long, and then John Daly would hit it by me.

Q. So I guess we'll know when they're 40, right, how that works over time?

TIGER WOODS: It's going to -- we're going to see how it goes over the next 15, 20 years, see how the sport evolves. When you're swinging clubs that are 15 ounces and things, what we used to, to where now it's like as light as a feather. I remember, I mean, geez, my driver shaft was 121, 122 grams. Now they're 60 and 50, 60, 70 grams. So, yeah, they're lighter, and hence you're hitting it further.

But these kids are swinging so much harder, but they're so much stronger, and we'll see how that evolves. There's no reason why you can't play longer with the way the training is. You also have to be lucky, too, not to have injuries. Some bodies just get more dinged up than others.

Cejka DQ'd For Using Old Green Reading Materials On New Greens

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The new rules reducing the scale of green reading book specs has done little to diminish their use except to increase eye strain and add to the growing sense of regulatory ineptitude.

Which made Alex Cejka’s DQ from the Honda for using 2018’s book slightly ridiculous at first blush. From Dan Kilbridge’s Golfweek story on the explanation for what was an easy call for PGA Tour referees.

Cejka finished the 14th hole and was on his way to the 15th when he was approached by rules official Robby Ware.

“It was brought to the committee’s attention that Alex might possibly be using some old greens reading materials, and so we were obligated to check that out,” Ware said. “Alex was basically using an old yardage book and old greens reading materials that did not fit the size to scale limit.”

Here’s where this episode moves to another comedic level: besides being an illegal book, the greens have been resurfaced at PGA National, likely making last year’s edition less accurate.

Golf World’s Brian Wacker also has more on how officials learned of the first green reading book violation: Cejka’s playing partner Cameron Tringale saw that Cejka was using the larger 2018-sized materials to read greens.

“I was perplexed,” Tringale said of noticing the book. “That doesn't look right. Did I really see that?

“When we finished the 14th hole, I went to use the bathroom and when I came out I saw [Cejka] riding off in a cart.”

Just One Player Laid Up At Riviera's 10th Hole Sunday, Zero Yesterday

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Longtime readers know I’ve tracked the gradual shift of the ShotLink scatter chart at Riviera’s 10th toward the greensite.

The great risk-reward short par-4 is now officially a one-shot hole given that only one player appeared to intentionally lay up Sunday and only 40 over four days of Genesis Open play at Riviera. The rest—400 attempts—”went for the green”.

That, my friends, is a par-4 in name only.

The round 4 scatter chart:

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When the hole played shorter Saturday, no one laid up.

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And over four days, almost no one is even bothering to try to use the lay-up options once so revered before, you know, kale, high-fiber diets and agronomy conspired to shorten the hole.

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Why Have Golf's Better Athletes Only Picked Up 1.3 M.P.H. In Clubhead Speed Over The Last Decade?

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The USGA and R&A have released their annual driving distance report and the pro tour’s saw a 1.7 yard increase on top of last year’s 3 yard increase.

Given how much we’re told the recent spikes are a product of increased athleticism—not equipment innovation or launch monitors or instruction—the gain of just 1.3 mph in swing speed since the players started traveling with foam rollers, eating raw cauliflower and taking their core work more seriously seems paltry.

From David Dusek’s Golfweek story on the report:

Compared to the earliest radar data available, which came in 2007, ball speed is up almost 4 mph, drives start 0.3 higher and with almost 200 rpm less spin. At the same time, the average clubhead speed on those drives has increased from 112.4 mph to 113.7 mph. This would indicate that while the pros on the PGA Tour are swinging faster as a group, their equipment and swings are becoming more optimized and efficient.

Athleticism nice, algorithms nicer.

Meanwhile in his Golf World assessment, Mike Stachura attempts to downplay yet another increase in driving distance across the board by ascribing a percentage decline to the increase.

According to the report, the average increase in driving distance across all professional tours in 2018 was 1.7 yards over 2017. While that number is significantly higher than the trend from 2006-2016, it is more than 40 percent less than the gain seen in average driving distance from 2016 to 2017.

More than 40%! Nothing to see here!

Finally, the most interesting thing I saw in the report—besides huge spikes in drives over 320 yards powered by that 1.3% clubhead speed increase—was a yellow color coded admission that “stability through regulation” ended in 2016. Translation: our rules stopped working the last two years. Interesting choice of words.

Honma's Mark King: Pro-Bifurcation And Lamenting Multiple Driver Launches

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Adam Schupak talks to ex-TaylorMade CEO Mark King about his role at Honma USA and more.

A couple of noteworthy quotes include his admission of abusing the annual driver release with multiple drivers unveiled in one year. But he stands by the approach of a new driver every year for the 20% who will pay.

MK: That we went so fast. My last 2-3 years at TaylorMade I don’t think the model was wrong. I think we abused the model a bit. Every time sales dipped a bit, we launched a new product. I wish we had shown more discipline. If you don’t have anything that makes the club different, you should probably wait. That said, I think one-year lifecycles when done properly is still the best way because I do think 20 percent of the golfers buy 80 percent of the equipment. Those 20 percent want to buy something unique and different ever year.

Mark him down for bifurcation, still!

AS: Where do you stand on the great distance debate going on in golf?

MK: You still have to think about the masses. I’m in the business of selling clubs to them and it’s the hardest game in the world. That’s why anything we can do to make it easier, I’m all for. That’s why I’ve always been OK with bifurcating the Rules of Golf.

PGA Tour Commish: "Hard to argue you should be changing anything right now because the sport is growing and thriving."

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It’s hard to get past the above quote from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan made in a 2019 Sentry TOC media session and reported here by Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge.

The Commissioner’s views on distance are no secret: he wants to hype younger and longer players because he believes that’s why people watch the game despite all of the grandstands being at greens and not tee boxes.

You can take your pick of reasons for a short-sighted stance that even his youth-obsessed predecessor never went so far overboard to make. But more alarming is the view that the sport is growing and thriving, so why change a thing?

“We’re gonna be a party to all these discussions,” Monahan said. “We’re going to understand everybody’s perspectives as the USGA and R&A move forward with their Distance Insights project, but it’s hard to argue you should be changing anything right now because the sport is growing and thriving.”

If it’s growing and thriving, why do we have all of these expensive grow the game initiatives to jumpstart participation?

Why is the golf course industry fearful of a recession and a new tax code eliminating entertainment deductions if the game is thriving?

There is also the PGA Tour as a product. He should be hoping for a variety of players and a variety of playing styles to make the game thrive, not a one-dimensional power game. No sport that’s gone all in on technology and power has come out better. As a fan of sports, Monahan should know this. And he should know better.

Titleist Distance Questionairre: Who Knew Filling Out A Survey Could Be So Fun(ny)?

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It appears our favorite ballmakers in Fairhaven are gearing up for a fight as the PGA Tour driving distances have jumped more in the last two years than in the previous dozen or so.

With the governing bodies surveying golfers on distance, the folks at Titleist are fearful of losing market share are asking their beloved fans, customers and others to fill out at wonderfully misleading survey on distance.

For starters, they suggest the governing bodies of golf have suggested a distance rollback percentage of 15-25%. They have not. This comically dishonest chart is inecessary to see just what lengths they’ll go to in order to scare golfers filling in answers to questions:

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Despite the sheer fictional nature of the chart, the apparently embarrassment of making stuff up did not stop Titleist from posting the hilariously misleading chart atop pages essentially reminding the survey-taker of the dastardly deeds looming from the USGA and R&A:

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So besides the sight of the fake rollback numbers, the notion of listing them above questions probably would not pass muster at most legitimate polling organizations. But as we know, this isn’t really about getting honest answers from core golfers.

Tiger On His 2018 And The Game Changing Dramatically

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Evan Priest scores a year-end Golf.com exclusive with Tiger and this answer got me wondering if any other all-time great player experienced more dramatic equipment advances during the course of his or her career? I don’t think so.

Well, it depends. In that era, 280 was a long drive. Now it’s, “Hey, can you carry it 320 in the air?” The game has evolved and, I was telling some [people in Melbourne], when I came down here to play the Presidents Cup in 1998, some of the guys were transitioning out of persimmon. The game has changed dramatically since then.

Banner Time For Fairway Mowers, Strengthened Cores! PGA Tour Distance Average Up 6.1 Yards Over Two Years

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GolfDigest.com’s Mike Johnson reports on the rather astounding jump in 2018’s PGA Tour Driving Distance average (4 yards) on top of 2017’s healthy jump (2.1) yards.

The governing bodies have relentlessly pointed to a flatlining since the old Statement of Principles days, but maybe the nation’s superintendents and physios worked behind the scenes to push distances forward the last two years. (Sarcasm emoji goes here.)

As you may recall the distance number was at an amazing 294.7 through June’s Travelers Championship, meaning the average spiked nicely in just the final two months or so of the season when things warmed up and the nation’s maintenance mechanics conspired to sharpen mower blades. Because, you know the game is played on the ground so much these days!

And as noted here on the eve of the Tour Championship, things were looking rather historic as far as increases go which Johnson affirms.

He reports last year’s 2.1 yard increase prompted the Distance Insights study and he included this curious description of the survey.

Though some who have participated feel the questions have been biased toward a negative impression of distance, there’s no denying at the elite level that the game’s best have gotten longer. Fourteen players averaged 310 yards or more this past PGA Tour season and 60 topped 300 yards compared to 7 and 40, respectively, the year before.

I haven’t heard of any negative bias from those who participated in the survey. Maybe there needed to be a few warm-up questions where people get to share their most intimate, fondest recollections of gaining distance off the tee? Or of the manufacturers? Or of their Trackman relationships?

The Aussies Care: Chalmers, Hughes Speak Out On Distance Issues

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As the Australian Open gets underway, the world of golf’s attention turns Down Under where we are reminded that some players still put the game ahead of their pocketbook.

Mark Hayes reports on Greg Chalmers, two time Aus Open champ, revealing that he’s been “begging and pleading with” the governing bodies to do something. Anything. Or, as some people would call it, their job. Good luck with that!

“They always seem to be behind and I would love for them at some point, and it's probably going to happen in about 10 years, they're going to go, ‘Hmmm, I think the ball goes too far, or the clubs help to hit the ball too far’.

“So that is something that I am frustrated about because we always seem to be unwinding the clock.

“We always have to – it started with the wedges, the change in grooves, then we went long putter.

“They keep unwinding things.  Why can't we get in front of things?  That's the only thing I wish would happen, they would do a better job sometimes.”

Had they done so at some point in the last twenty years, maybe former Australian Masters winners and Presidents Cup participant Bradley Hughes wouldn’t have to write a eulogy to the golf course he loves and which no longer plays as it was intended, with him channeling the defenselessness of the design against a modern golfer.

You are going to take the blue line route to the destination.

Go ahead- say it.... I know you are. You can't hurt me anymore

You are going to dismiss my contours.

You are going to avoid my white face bunker that used to laugh at you from the tee- now you don't even see it.

That bunker recently admitted his own lonely existance to me not so long ago also. He feels betrayed too that his prescence is no longer appreciated or acknowledged.

The beautiful pines on the corner of my dogleg are now an aiming point rather than an obstruction. And yes!!! They are pissed off too!!!!

Blackmar: "Is technology driving golf to a fork in the road?"

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Former PGA Tour player and broadcaster Phil Blackmar has been watching the assorted technology debates breaking out in response to Brandel Chamblee’s Tweetstorm over the distance explosion and how to address the situation.

Blackmar’s worries less about the pro game and instead wonders how much enjoyment technology has brought to the game, particularly in once-passionate markets now well into golf popularity recessions as we’ve never seen better technology and science applied to the game.

As you can see, handicaps have come down 2 strokes over the past 27 years. Take a minute to consider all the tech advancements I just mentioned plus: better understanding of biomechanics in the swing, launch monitors revealing misunderstood impact relationships and launch monitors providing invaluable feedback. Then, add better agronomy, workout specialists, mental gurus, short game experts and finally the countless articles, books and videos detailing all sorts of methods and philosophies. Add all that up and ask yourself: is a two stroke gain over 27 years significant? Is shooting 86 rather than 88 that much more fun? I don’t think so either.

Champ's Cracked Driver Prompted New Testing That Gained Him More Yardage

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Let’s be clear: most of Cameron Champ’s unprecedented driving distances that have led to a quick rise come from technique, strength and modern equipment.

Still, given that the USGA and R&A once loathed the idea of a player picking up an advantage through a simple equipment change, Champ and PING’s tour team offer another reminder at how sophisticated club fitting has gotten for even a player seemingly maxed out distance-wise.

From David Dusek’s Golfweek story after Champ cracked his driver on the eve of finishing off the Sanderson Farms:

On Monday before the Shiners Hospitals for Children Open, Pena built Champ a new gamer driver using the same components as in the driver that broke. However, Champ said he wanted to make the same swing but launch the ball slightly higher. To do that, Pena would need to add loft, which would also increase spin and reduce distance. Instead, Pena made some drivers with counterbalanced shafts that allowed him to make Champ a head with a heaver back weight. That increased the dynamic loft at impact.

Champ’s typical drive had been launching at 7 degrees with about 2,700 rpm of backspin, creating a carry distance of about 325 yards. Using the new shaft in his G400 Max, a prototype Accra TZT 265 M5, he started hitting the ball even farther.

“The first he hit launched at 9 degrees, carried 15 yards farther and the ball speed was almost 198 mph,” Pena said, laughing. “We looked at each other and said to ourselves, ‘What the heck did we just do?’”

Champ led the field with a 353.2 yard average on the measuring holes.

Yes, he got longer after losing his gamer and getting fit for a new one.

"The ruling bodies have put golf in a ridiculous position by utterly abdicating their role as stewards of the game."

Good to see Alan Shipnuck getting to the heart of the distance debate mess in golf.

From the always entertaining Golf.com mailbag:

Why haven’t the USGA and R&A controlled the distance the ball is traveling? Why do we keep having this discussion? Golf should not be only about how far you hit the ball. It’s sad some great golf courses are now obsolete. -@MikeyBateman1

I’ve kvetched about this extensively, but, yes, the ruling bodies have put golf in a ridiculous position by utterly abdicating their role as stewards of the game. Modern athletes, with highly specialized training regimens and diets, wielding cutting-edge equipment and swings optimized by Trackman and an army of specialists, are completely overwhelming the outdated playing fields. The only defenses are cartoonish — think the greens at Shinny and rough at Le Golf National — and they reduce the skill factor dramatically. The obvious solution (bifurcation) would harm the equipment industry while taking away a lot of the fun of spectating. (I don’t want to watch Cam Champ drive it 275…I can do that myself.) To test this new legion of bombers while allowing them to still hit driver demands courses be at least 9,000 yards, but that would require an obscene amount of water and land and make the game even slower than it already is. So it’s a quagmire with no easy solutions, and the problems become more obvious with every 350-yard drive, exciting as they may be.

And in 2019 look for all of the manufacturers to put more distance in the bags of pros, more long-bombing young players to replace merely long middle-aged pros, fewer drivers to be hit because the courses can’t adjust fast enough and more people to blame the agronomy!

Mothers, Don't Let Your Sons And Daughters Grow Up To Be Average Length Straight Hitters

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If there was any doubt that learning speed and launch is vital to future PGA Tour survival coming off a season when the driving distance average jumped from 292.5 to 296.1 yards, Golfweek’s David Dusek provides all of the analysis (and charts) you’ll need to know that the money is in distance. There was a day when this kind of imbalance bothered the USGA and R&A and maybe even the PGA Tour:

As a group, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged more than $3.5 million in prize money last season, which was 164 percent more than the Tour average.

As massive as that percentage may seem, it falls within a range that goes several years. In 2017, the 20 longest hitters on the PGA Tour averaged 123 percent more prize money than the PGA Tour average. In the three seasons before that, they earned about 150 percent more, which tells us that as distance off the tee has increased over the last few years, the longest hitters have maintained an edge in terms of earnings.

There should be an advantage to hitting the ball a long way, but one would hope the numbers also show some kind that the game also still rewards those who show other skills besides an ability to hit the ball supreme distances. Right?

Video: Distance Debate And Your Percentages

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Morning Drive was joined by Paul Stankowski and debated with the gang—Rymer, Diaz and Ginella—about driving distance gains. In particular, what percentages they would ascribe as asked by the governing bodies in their Distance Survey (which you too can vote on!).

Of course it was an honor to be called out by Rymer for being the only person howling about the ball going too far since his heroes Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have been a tad more visible in sharing a similar stance. But love to see him pinning most of the gains on the ball! Roll it back, baby!

 

Jason Day: Roll Back The Ball? Better Move The Tees Up!

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In a new Golf World interview with Brian Wacker, Jason Day is asked about the prospects of a limited-distance ball at the Masters and the possible effect on the game.

First off, people would still play the Masters. But if they did that, then they better shorten the tees again. If we have limited-flight balls, we're going to have 4-irons into No. 7 and things like that.

Oh no a long iron! We can’t have that!

You see, the idea is to actually make long par-4s long again and par-5s risky again and maybe even get back to getting the fairways at Augusta National running instead of grainy and slow fairways. But go on…

But do I want the ball to go shorter? No. Why? Isn't it fun watching Dustin Johnson crush a drive over a lake 300 yards away? No one wants to see someone plod it down the right and not take it on. That's boring.

If you push trying to rein it in too far, then people will stop watching golf. People want to see risk.

Actually, when everyone can carry it 300 yards, the thrill of such risk taking is gone because it’s no longer risk. The reward for being genuinely long off the tee has been muted either because so many can do it, or because the courses have no chance of keeping up. That’s boring to watch.

The problem is the architects—some of them, anyway—decided that because the ball is going forever, they need to make courses longer to make them harder. No, you don't. Just be a better architect.

Psssssssst…most architects of the courses you play are….dead. They can’t be better architects.

Even after hearing these rationales for so many years, I’m still surprised at the level of misunderstanding about what is genuinely fun and satisfying to watch.