PGA Championship Prognostication

So, that was some round turned in by Srixon Golf staffer Hideki Matsuyama today to win the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational. Matsuyama fired darts (Srixon Z-Star XV) into pins, striped his Srixon Golf Z 945 irons and Cleveland Golf RTX 2.0 wedges and rolled the daylights out of the ball with his TaylorMade Golf TP Collection Mullen putter. Impressive course record tying by the 25 year old. Is it just me or is there a serious youth movement going on in professional golf? Just to give some of the other guys a chance the PGA Tour needs to almost set up something for the 35-49 age group. Anyways, it’s time to shift our focus to the final Major Championship of the year. The PGA Championship.

hideki

Photo Credit: edition.cnn.com

This year the PGA Championship is being contested in Charlotte, North Carolina at the famed Quail Hollow Club. The course was founded in 1959 and has been home to the PGA Tour in the past (Wells Fargo Championship). The course originally designed by architect George Cobb has seen modifications by Mr. Arnold Palmer  and two redesigns  by Tom Fazio. Quail Hollow is also home to the “Green Mile”. Looking at the scorecard the 7,600 yard Par 71 golf course seems to favour some of the longer hitting guys on tour. With that said… who am I going to jinx by picking them to win? Honestly, anyone could win this week.

pga

Photo Credit: pga.com

I mentioned on Twitter (@UntilTheNextTee) that it was only a matter of time before Hideki Matsuyama has a Major breakthrough. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will be his week. He really “golfed” the ball around this weekend and I just don’t think he’ll have enough gas in the tank. Look for him to be finishing with a Top-10 regardless. Rory McIlroy has beat up Quail Hollow in the past. His power is obvious and his putting when on is good. But in my estimation he’s been inconsistent this year and he won’t be hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday. Dustin Johnson. Look for him to be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. Those at the top of the leaderboard will be glancing over their shoulders and at the scoreboards looking for the World #1. Yes we all know the swagger is there (I compare him to a Wild West cowboy) but I think his “six-shooter” is going to misfire on the draw. Of course I am referring to his putter. Jordan Spieth. I think he’s the sentimental favourite and personally speaking I would love to see him win the “Career Grand Slam”. He didn’t really exert himself this week and it’s almost like he and his caddie Michael Greller decided to dial it back a little. He is coming off a decent week and it was a short 3 or so weeks ago that he hoisted the Claret Jug. Other guys that are going to be lurking are Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. So who am I going to pick?

jordan

Photo Credit: jordanspiethgolf.com

So here it is… as much as I want to say that it’s going to be long-hitting featherweight Justin Thomas who could torch any golf course at any given time I don’t think it’s him either. I’m picking Charley Hoffman and here’s why. Hoffman always threatens in the Majors. He’s coming off very good finishes the last two weeks (2nd and 3rd place) and finds himself outside of the Top 10 in the FedEx Cup rankings. His 296 yard average off of the tee makes him long enough. Even though he is middle of the road or worse in a number of statistics I have no reason to pick him. But something happened Sunday. He vetoed his caddies decision and said that “I’m tired of finishing second”. He got aggressive and assertive and I feel that Charley has lit a fire under his own arse. This little ‘X Factor” could be the fuel that feeds the fire leading to victory.

hoff

Photo Credit: titleist.com

So there you have it. Charley Hoffman for the win.

Until The Next Tee!!

 

My… RBC Canadian Open

There was no way that I was going to let this week’s Tour stop pass by without writing about it. Sure I didn’t write about the Open Championship last week but what was there to really say? Two words? Jordan Spieth. That pretty much summed it up… his “hootspa” is borderline legendary or better yet special. I really felt bad for Matt Kuchar. But enough about last week and it’s time to write about this week.

DSC_0075

Welcome To “The Abbey”

Our National Championship is on a very tough place on the schedule and I really wish something could be changed. There is prestige and a rich history when it comes to Canada’s Open. However as it stands it’s right after The Open Championship and right before The WGC – Bridgestone Invitational so many notables tend to sit out. This year the RBC Canadian Open was held in nearby Oakville, Ontario which serves as a home to Golf Canada headquarters, the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame, and the Jack Nicklaus designed Glen Abbey Golf Course. The site of this year’s RBC Canadian Open. This year was the 28th time that “The Abbey” has hosted the illustrious event. #OurOpen is uniquely Canadian with goalie mask tee markers and chairs that say “Quiet Eh?!” on the back of them.

 

 

 

I was at the venue to get a feel for what the course was like this year after last year’s tough conditions. In 2016 our entire region was mired in a drought of epic proportions and even Glen Abbey fell victim. I arrived at the course shortly after 8 a.m. on Tuesday to take in some practice rounds. As I arrived at the site and walked through the main entrance I caught a glimpse of Hole#8 where Charley Hoffman was hitting a few shots. It was completely obvious that the weather had been much better than last year and as a result the grounds crew at “The Abbey” had a course well-prepped. After taking in some of the Opening Ceremonies which saw legends gather for the newest inductions into the Canadian Hall Of Fame I walked the golf course. By the way some of the names on hand included Lorie Kane, Mike Weir, Bob Vokey (whom until recently I never knew was a Canadian) and Mr. Jack Nicklaus.

DSC_0218.JPG

Greatness and a Legend. Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Vokey.

As I strolled across the 16th fairway I finally realized how lush and pristine Glen Abbey truly was. The course was immaculate!! A job well done to the superintendent and the crew. Upon looking at the course I knew that we were going to be seeing some low scoring rounds. Upon finishing my walk around “The Abbey” (I have never played it) I decided to watch the guys on the range. From the long hitting Bubba Watson, the young gun Smylie Kaufman to the wiley veteran (and former RBC Canadian Open Champion Vijay Singh) to last year’s champion Jhonnotan Vegas whom I casually said “Go get it again” to in passing. Little did I realize that my semi-prognostication would turn out. Honestly, I was disappointed to not see Ian Poulter, Matt Kuchar or Brandt Snedeker whom were apparently at another local course for a corporate outing. I managed to get a few failed selfies (tough with DSLR cameras) with Shane Lowry, Ollie Schniederjans, Nick Watney and Ben Crane to name a few. By the way… Ben is a pretty cool cat.

DSC_0110.JPG

The author and Ollie Schiederjans

So the tournament was played and as I figured we saw some real low scoring throughout the tournament. The weather was comfortable, the winds were pretty much benign all week and from I could ascertain the greens were receptive. Robert Garrigus tied a course record with a 62. Hudson Swafford fired a -7 (65). Martin Flores had back to back 66’s, Charley Hoffman was the 54 hole leader after a -7 on Saturday getting him to -17 overall. Then came Sunday.

rbc23.jpg

Bubba Watson unleashing on the range.

A leaderboard that was loaded with scores that would win nearly every tournament on Tour. With many big names not in the field (more on that later) there was still some star power on the front page of the leaderboard. Consistent low rounds were shot all week by the rain-softened Glen Abbey. On Sunday Gary Woodland, Ian Poulter, Tony Finau were all right there. Lurking not too far behind them was World #1 Dustin Johnson. But after carding four round totals of -21 a playoff consisting of Vegas and Charley Hoffman would determine the winner. After both players hit poor drives on the first playoff hole Charley Hoffman left the door open for Jhonny Vegas. Vegas took advantage of a clear shot while Hoffman had to lay up. Vegas would sink a birdie putt and become the first winner to win back to back titles since Jim Furyk. (Fun Fact: Furyk’s back to back wins were won on two different courses)

With the re-cap out of the way I just wanted to touch on a few other topics very briefly.

All of these crazy low scores. Are they good or bad for the game? What is the cause of these lower scores? Better player development… better technology… better equipment or does the ball need to be dialed back like Mr. Nicklaus has suggested? Are the superintendents doing too good of a job?

rbc1.jpg

The 18th at The Abbey.

To those not in the know Glen Abbey has been on life support for what seems an eternity. Before I get into that I want to say that it would be shame if the Jack Nicklaus course would fall victim to real estate. While this isn’t a Golf Canada issue it is a ClubLink Enterprises Limited owned golf course. The CEO K. Rai Sahi confirmed in 2015 that The Abbey was going to be developed into high-end housing. But how did the course get to here? Makes you wonder about the pricing (current peak Green Fee $236) and quite possibly a tee sheet that is more empty than full. That said… Glen Abbey WILL once again be the host of the RBC Canadian Open in 2018.

rbc16.jpg

#TheRink Oh what could be???? The Par 3 7th.

As far as Golf Canada this inquiry is for you. Glen Abbey sees the course get reconfigured from its everyday configuration to an altered configuration for the tournament (For example… Hole #1 is a Par 5 every day. For the Canadian Open it’s the Par 4 8th hole). This year #TheRink was a terrific idea. Potentially this hole could be as exciting as #16 at the Waste Management Open. We are a fanbase that consists of raucous hockey fans… wouldn’t it be fun to figure out a way to see #TheRink come into play late on Sunday? Somewhere in the last few holes? The drama and atmosphere would be spectacular! It would be a great way to get the fans (and their wallets) out there in full force. Think outside of the box. You can do it!

Until The Next Tee!!

 

 

Mastering Augusta – Day One

Hasn’t it been an interesting start to the season’s first Major of the year? I mean who could have possibly predicted that what has transpired so far was in fact going to happen?

If there was a Masters Tournament that had a serious plot twist before the action begun in 2017 than I have no idea what it was. Like every year the Par 3 Contest was played (sort of). Unfortunately, Mother Nature had found it within herself to interfere forcing a cancellation after 55 minutes of play due to an unstable weather system. Marking that for the first time in 56 years it was not contested. But there is a silver lining to that massive cloud. At least none of the player’s will be a victim of “the curse”. Nobody has ever gone on to win The Masters after winning the Par 3 Contest. Oh… speaking of massive clouds to darken an event.

par3

Par 3 Tournament… cancelled. (Photo Credit: Golf Channel)

I have never been to Augusta National but I have long wondered if it smelled like I imagine it to through the television screen. I remember watching the telecast from a hospital bed in 2004 in Hamilton, Ontario while recovering from an infection that led doctors to believe I had Meningitis. But while laying there in the bed there were all of the sprawling colors that is Augusta National in front of my eyes. I can’t imagine any weather or dark clouds ever making this event dreary. Unless of course you happen to be playing a Masters pool with a bunch of people and you just watched your favorite… the favorite to win fall down some stairs. As the reports of a fall involving World #1 Dustin Johnson surfaced on social media outlets The Masters took the biggest plot twist that I have seen. While at his rental home in Augusta, Johnson took a fall that injured his lower back. According to his agent the fall was significant and it’s reported that he landed hard on his elbow and side. Treatment was started right away with Dustin having hopes of still playing but after warming up prior to the first round Thursday Johnson was forced to withdraw. He was quoted as saying that the backswing was fine but coming down and through impact he felt his lower back “catch”. DJ has been playing the best golf he has played in his career and will have plenty of chances to win a “Green Jacket”. just that it won’t be this year. DJ… don’t rush it and give it time to heal you aren’t as young as you used to be (32).

hoffman

The Round 1 leader. Charley Hoffman (Photo Credit: PGA.com)

The beautiful part about life is that when one door closes another door opens. With DJ’s withdrawal a door the size of an airplane hangar opened for the field. High winds plagued the first round and some players like Adam Scott stated that it was “borderline unplayable”. I know for the rest of us golfing “Minions” there isn’t a huge paycheck and a Green Jacket waiting for us with a victory. But… can I please see a show of hands from everyone who would complain about playing Augusta National in 30 mph winds? Thanks. I know a 3 to 4 club wind is an inconvenience and it can suck when it comes to putting. But seriously, on the Great Lakes that in gentle zephyr. More so I imagine in Texas or the Mid-West (Prairies). My point being that it’s the same course for everyone in the morning wave and that’s on the course at the time. Just luck of the draw right? But as some like Scott struggled (I’ll leave Jordan Spieth’s 9 on 12 alone). Nice cards were turned in after Round 1 by Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, and William McGirt. But did Charley Hoffman ever have himself a round. A -7 for a 65?! Master class right there folks. It’s unknown how that first round will hold up come Sunday but what a start. Hoffman is currently on the course and E thru 1. The weather looks pretty nice today (less wind) and looks to be even better come the weekend. So will the field catch him or will he come back to the field? Time will tell.

2017 masters

An emotional tribute (Photo Credit: Golfweek)

In closing, I just wanted to state that it was tough watching the Honorary Starters kick off the tournament yesterday. Of course Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Player were there to strike the opening tee shots. But it was surreal to watch the Opening Ceremony as Chairman of Augusta National Billy Payne escorted Mrs. Arnold Palmer to the first tee while carrying one of Mr. Palmer’s Green Jackets then folded it ever so delicately and placed it on the chair there. Mr. Payne’s address to the patrons was emotional and heartfelt and accurate. If I may quote Mr. Payne “The almost unbearable sadness we all feel at the passing of Arnold Palmer is surpassed only by the love and affection for him, which will forever reside in our hearts.”

Until The Next Tee!

Review – Titleist 917 D2 and D3

One of the many things that I like about Titleist is the fact that they have a product cycle that last two years.  A cycle that they are adamant about observing. Golf consumers know that when Titleist releases a product it is definitely worth a look.

If you were to go back and look at the previous generations of Titleist drivers a few things come to mind. One constant of Titleist products is that they’ve always been had a feel that can be best described as “solid”. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the classic 983K or the venerable 905R the older generations exuded that quality. More recently the 915 followed suit with a couple of “bells and whistles” thrown in for good measure. The other quality that Titleist has been committed to is their retention of maintaining a classic pear shape (907 series notwithstanding). These are aesthetics that  have always appealed to players. Having brought up the 915 series I was at their National Fitting Centre (Canada) during a Team Titleist outing for the launch of the 915 range of metalwoods. I left Eagle’s Nest Golf Club (Toronto)  that cold October day very impressed and to be honest I thought that the 915 D3 would end up in my bag… it didn’t. As the 917 series was launched this past fall I couldn’t help but wonder what they would be like in comparison. How would the 917 compare to the 915 or even 910 (which still remains my favorite driver from Titleist)?

917a

I had the opportunity to attend a launch event similar to what I did for the previous two generations however I couldn’t attend. Prior to attending the 2017 PGA Merchandise Show (Demo Day) I had never visited the Titleist demonstration area. Mostly because I had already manged to swing their new products well in advance of the show. 2017 would be much different. After swinging various manufacturers throughout the morning I made my way over to Titleist. Much to my surprise, I had no issue getting in some swings right away with product and quickly directed my attention towards the 917 D2 and D3 drivers.

For 2017, Titleist re-introduced new and improved versions of their most recent technological advances. First seen in the 915 metalwoods,their Active Recoil Channel and Radial Speed Face (Version 2.0) were front and center. In case you’ve forgotten the Active Recoil Channel is what Titleist R&D engineers did to address spin reduction while increasing ball speeds through more trampoline effect. However this time (Active Recoil Channel 2.0) the channel has been more refined. Radial Speed Face 2.0 is what Titleist did in an effort to construct thinner face walls along the perimeter of the face. This also aids in increasing ball speeds in particular to when strikes haven’t been struck off of the center of the face. New to the 917 is the SureFit CG which “allows the CG to be moved from a back, heel position to a forward, toe position through interchangeable weights, optimizing spin and launch conditions for every player”. The SureFit Hosel returns and offers 16 independent loft and lie settings to enable golfers the luxury of finding their optimum setup. Make no mistake about it the 917 D2 and D3 are the most adjustable drivers that Titleist has ever offered.

Titleist-917-driver-exploded_0

Photo Credit: titleist.com

The 917 D2 driver is a 460 CC pear-shaped head that offers distance and forgiveness. Meanwhile, the 917 D3 offers a classic pear-shaped profile but it’s a head that is “Tour inspired” as it’s slightly smaller coming with a head volume of 440 CC. The 917 D3 head offers distance with more workability than the 917 D2 while having lower spin rates and a slightly lower launch. Whether it’s the D2 or the D3 both models have a standard length of 45″and the stock shaft options are premium. Models of premium shafts available include the Aldila Rogue M*AX 65, Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74, Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. White 70 and the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana LTD. Blue. All four are terrific options.

917shaft

One of the shaft options. Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74. The only one I tried.

Dispensing with some of the technical information I thought that it would be time to talk about my observations. First, I have to point out that I never spoke to anyone at Demo Day as I was more or less ignored by representatives at the booth. Secondly, I will say that I never tried the SureFit CG technology because no representatives took the time to approach and/or assist me and I couldn’t find a wrench. Honestly, I was a little put off by the lack of their attentiveness. Something I found a little disheartening seeing that 12 out of 13 of my clubs are Titleist and I am proud to play Titleist. They are a brand that I have always felt confident holding in my hands and that confidence goes right to my head. In the past, Titleist has been looked at in golf circles as being “elitist” and maybe in this instance they figured that I didn’t have the appearance to be worth their time. I really don’t know why it happened but it did. Either way, this review isn’t about their “customer service” which I would score a perfectly rounded “0” out of 10. If there was a review that could truly live up to the moniker of “The Home Of Organic Golf Reviews” then this would be the one.

In the address position both drivers are so eye-pleasing that it’s almost not fair. I love the charcoal crown on the black face and when you look down at the crown you want to make a swing. I would end up swinging two drivers and the D2 and D3 were shafted with the same Fujikura Speeder Pro TS 74 in X-Stiff and had lofts of 9.5*. All of the settings were stock. Generally, I swing a Stiff flex but this was the shaft that I  just happened to grab. In the past, I have seriously considered going to X-Stiff based on my tempo and aggression and decided to not to bother to look for a softer flex. Recent launch monitor numbers indicated that making a switch to X-Stiff might be the right choice as I saw 105 mph 7 iron clubhead speeds. Working out has seen me get stronger so the time might be right for such a switch. Anyways, I made the first pass with the 917 D2 and my swing was rewarded with a ball flight that was long and straight. I chose a spot at their hitting area that was to their extreme right. This location afforded me the opportunity to make swings both downwind and with a slight change at address (aiming to my right) I could see what the ball would do with a knockdown crosswind. I loved the launch and ballflight that I witnessed. The ball showed no signs of ballooning and upon landing there was rollout adding to the already impressive carry distance. I teed up several more balls with the D2 and each was the same result. Every swing yielded shot patterns that were straight or a slight draw. The launch looked about as good if not better than I have seen with any driver. Something can be said for the Active Recoil  Channel 2.0 because the ball really jumped off of the face which reminded me of when I was at the product launch for the 915… but better. Switching over to the 917 D3 I looked down at that classic 440 CC Titleist charcoal head and immediately I grew extremely fond of it. I made several confident swings and to be totally honest… if the 917 D3 launched lower and had lower spin I couldn’t pick up on it with the naked eye. I would suggest that the carry and overall distance looked to be about the same. I’m all for making observations using my senses (prefer real-time flight over launch monitors) but when it comes to comparing two similar heads from the same manufacturer with one claiming lower spin and launch… I want to see hard evidence. I think that with all things being equal they were in fact… equal with the exception of my love affair with the smaller head of the D3.

917cr

Titleist doesn’t mention anything about forgiveness when talking about the 917 D3 but this isn’t to say that the 917 D3 isn’t forgiving. I firmly believe that to a degree there is in fact some forgiveness. After all ,the D3 also boasts the same Radial Speed Face technology to help with off-center hits that’s found in the 917 D2. Forgiveness was something that I did not test because I just wasn’t missing the sweet spot. Or perhaps, that fact speaks volumes about the forgiveness found in both models. Titleist says that the acoustics and sound are Tour validated “to inspire confidence and feel”. I don’t know what that means exactly but what I do know is that the sound and feel was “perfect”. The sound was typical of Titleist and the feel at impact was solid. It was everything that Titleist aficionados have come to expect from the brand. Bear in mind that my perfect may not be your perfect and the term is relative and intimate to each person.

In closing, If you’re in the market for a new driver you may want to give the Titleist 917 D2 and 917 D3 a look. Performance, great aesthetics and even better sound and feel with premium stock shafts. What’s not to like? The 917 D2 and D3 retails at $649.99 CAD or $499 USDVisit the Titleist website for more information.

Until The Next Tee!