If you haven’t heard and seen all the fuss and
commotion over the TaylorMade
R11 driver, with its distinctive white head and
adjustable settings, you’ve either been in a cave or on a six-month
bender.The R11 is quite the talk on the PGA Tour and, therefore, a seriously hot item with amateurs who buy
every advantage they can afford.
If you follow this space with any regularity,
you might also recall that last year, I plunked down some serious change for a
new, fitted driver, a Titleist 909D Comp.It had a head on it about the size of a small
pumpkin, plus all the bells and whistles of the golf technology at that
moment.I liked it; I l still like
it a lot, mainly because I could really hit it.We made beautiful music together.
Then the TaylorMade R11 caught my eye.
My pal at TaylorMade said he would send me
one, if I would play it and write what I thought about it.I said I would, but that I would write what
I really thought.He said he and the
boys in the lab at TaylorMade
were willing to take that risk.He advised
me to get myself fitted in Philadelphia and send him the specs.
I knew right away who I would call: Just a few
weeks earlier I had gotten a PR release noting that the Golf Galaxy in Devon had been picked by Golf Digest as one of the Top
100 fitting facilities in the country, thanks to their fitting guy, Leigh Taylor, a PGA Master Professional
and Life Member. As it
happens, I know Leigh.He fits and sells all makes and models of
drivers and irons, and he takes this stuff as seriously as a heart surgeon
takes a triple bypass.
A few mornings later, I was in Leigh’s fitting bay."I’ve never seen a driver sell like the R11," Leigh told me as I loosened up."Never seen anything like it."
has high praise for several manufacturers, he offered a particular nod to TaylorMade,
which invented the metal-headed wood and, later, what he called MWT, or "moveable
weight technology."For the weekend
chop who doesn’t have the time, money or inclination for a series of lessons,
he can fight a slice with MWT by shifting the weights in the toe and heel of
has gone one further -- two, really.Not only does it have 1-gram and 10-gram weights that can be moved from
heel to toe, as needed, it has an adjustable shaft, enabling you to increase or
decrease the loft of the clubface by as much as a full degree.Finally, it has a bumper plate on the
bottom of the club that gives you another tool in the battle against hooks and
slices: an adjustable clubface, with settings of open, neutral or closed.
After an hour of hitting balls with a series of
shafts with different flexes and kick points, Leigh printed out a long sheet that measured the results: club
speed, ball speed, launch angle, ball spin, carry, deviation, even something
called PTR, which stands for "power transfer ratio," tech-speak for was I
catching it on the "sweet spot?"
I have hit a low ball all my life, so the
biggest puzzle for Leigh was the
elusive combination of ball speed/launch angle/ball spin.Finally, he had it: A Fubuki (stiff)
shaft, 10.5 degrees of loft, set ½ degree up, to 11 degrees; the heavier
10-gram weight in the heel, to fight my inclination to hit it right; and the
bumper plate set to neutral.
A week or so later, my new R11 arrived.
I have now hit about a dozen buckets of balls
and played four rounds with it.My
assessment: I like it more each time out.
In our maiden round together, I wasn’t sold. I
couldn’t hit a fairway.Everything
was going right because...well, because I occasionally battle a case of driver
yips, and because sometimes golf hates me and mocks me and loves to see me
suffer.I could not lay the blame
for those terrible drives at the feet of the R11 or any other club.
With each round since, as my confidence in my swing
has returned, my driving has improved .I played on Friday and only missed one fairway.On the three or four tee shots
when I truly connected, I strutted off the tee box hugging my new driver.The R11
felt as good as any driver I’ve ever hit.
The adjustability is, of course, one of its biggest
selling points of the R11.Now that I have it set to my liking, it
is hard to know whether I will make further adjustments from time to time.I’m keeping my little TaylorMade
wrench in the back of my car, just in case.
I’m enough of a traditionalist that initially,
I wasn’t crazy about the R11’s white
head.But it is growing on me, and I’m
starting to find it oddly soothing, although I have no idea why.
And one benefit I had not considered: the face
of the R11 is a dull black that
tends to show where on the club face you connected.If it feels like you caught one on the
toe, the proof is in the mark on the face of the club.
Joe, good luck with the R11. Sounds like its sets up for you well. Iíve previously tried TaylorMadeís r7 and R9, but was never able to dial it in and make the technology work for me on a consistent basis.
Just when it looked like the
final round of the Masters was as
good as it could possibly get, it got better.
Could you believe that final
Thrills, spills, birdies
galore, careers being made and, sadly, the heartbreak that was Rory McIlroy’s
humiliating moment in the global spotlight.To his credit, when it was over, young Rory, who is still younger than half
the golf shirts in my closet, stood there and faced the media like a man.He had wilted under the suffocating pressure
and there was no denying it.He
didn’t try to.The good news is,
what doesn’t kill him will make him stronger.Rory will be back, and I am willing to bet, he will win the Masters within the next three years.
It was also good to see Tiger Woods hitting on all cylinders
for most of the final round.Only a
couple of weeks ago, he looked totally lost.Now, suddenly, we see glimmers of the Tiger of old.That bodes well for the U.S. Open.
CharlSchwartzel has a gorgeous golf swing and, obviously, and poise
under pressure.But his name looks
misspelled and before today I couldn’t pick him out in a police lineup. Personally,
I was rooting for, in this order: (1) Rory
McIlroy (2) Tiger
(3) Adam Scott (4) Luke Donald (5) Jason Day.
Still, it’s hard to be
disappointed when the Masters set
the tone for a great season of majors.
That obit was a good story Joe. Check out this piece by Buzz Bissinger, http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-04-14/tiger-woods-is-never-coming-back-despite-brief-masters-moment/#
[4/12/2011 10:23:51 AM]
Muni Golfer - Yes, a glimmer, albeit a faint glimmer. Check out the very good story I posted today by Cam Morfit today -- itís an obit for Tigerís aura.
[4/12/2011 10:21:44 AM]
Sports shrinks have won exactly the same number of majors as swing gurus.
Come to think of it, Iím not sure McIlroy even has a sports shrink. Heís not old enough to have become a head case yet, although if the Masters didnít turn him into one, I donít know what will.
[4/11/2011 5:46:48 PM]
McIlroy should fire his shrink. They all should fire their shrinks. How many majors have the shrinks won? The only reason they can take credit for anything is the fact that they have so many clients, somebody has to win. Do the golf writers ever think of that? It never made sense to me that the advice for a 54 hole leader is to hide from the pressure on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Wouldnít it be better to walk around in circles all night and get used to the pressure? Schwartzl, Day and Scott saved this yearís Masterís. Until the last couple of holes, it was really a quest for a winner by default.
The Muni Golfer
[4/11/2011 7:03:07 AM]
"Now, suddenly, we see glimmers of the Tiger of old." Hmmm, didnít we say the same thing after he finished 4th at The Masters last year? Only time will tell...
Woods shot 66 on Friday and moved to 7-under par and three shots off the
lead in the Masters, several people
have been kind enough to call or email to point out that I wrote in this space
a week ago that he is lost and has "no chance" to win a fifth green jacket this
Oh, how I hope me makes me eat my words.If golf needs anything right now, it is Tiger back on his game. Remember, I didn’t
say I wasn’t rooting for him; I just said I didn’t think his game looked sharp
enough to win.
It is looking more and more like we will ever
see him dominate the way he did at the peak of Tiger-mania.He’s 35
and not the same player anymore, and the guys he’s competing against these days
are young and fearless and crazy-long off the tee.If fact, if the sudden rejuvenation of Tiger is a major storyline this week,
so is what is increasingly looking like a changing of the guard at the top of
How can we not be impressed by the crop of
young players who are muscling their way onto the leaderboard and into the
Jason Day, Alvaro Quiros, Ricky Fowler, not to mention Dustin
Johnson, Gary Woodland and a
couple of others.These guys are
the next generation of stars. We should not be surprised at all
of young McIlroy
finds the poise to hold it together and win his first major.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s third round is crucial
for Tiger.So far this year in the reconstruction
of his game, weekends have not been overly kind to him.At the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey
Pines, he shot 74-75 in the third and fourth rounds and fell off the
leaderboard.At the Dubai Desert Classic, he shot 72-75.At the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he went 74-72.
Another Saturday 74 for Tiger. It seems like he puts one, maybe two good rounds together, but also has a couple of over-par ones as well. I think the biggest problem in his game is his putting. Is he too young to have the yips? Considering what he has been through, I wouldnít be surprised if his nerves are playing a part in his putting.
Despite Wiebe’s career earnings of $7.5 million, it’s fair to say
that most of us likely think of him as no superstar, rather as a moderately
successful journeyman pro.
And yet, I am here to tell you that besides
being a gracious and likeable guy, Mark Wiebe plays at a level well above even a hot-shot
Over 18 holes at Fallen Oak – one of Tom Fazio’s
better courses, by the way – Wiebe hit long, towering tee shots that almost always found
the center of the fairway.More
impressive, however, were his second shots.
When you and I stand over a 4-iron shot in the
fairway, we hope to get the ball up around the green, in up-and-down range, or
on the green with a long putt, if we are lucky.
Wiebe, on the other hand, would
stand over a 4-iron (from about 20 yards behind where I hit 4-iron) and proceed
to launch a rocket that would sail higher and higher until it dropped straight
down out of the sky to 10 feet from the pin, settling 5 maybe feet from the
On par threes, with a mid- to short-iron in his
hand, he was all over the hole, always giving himself a makeable birdie putt.
The format for the pro-am was a "shamble,"
meaning we four amateurs all tee shots, then we picked the best of the bunch
and we all played out our own balls from there.Wiebe played his own ball the entire round.
On the green, Wiebe would let all of us
amateurs take our best shot at making the birdie for the team.If none of us converted, he would
attempt his own birdie putt. At least twice, we appeared to have no chance at
birdie, as Wiebe
faced a tricky 10- or 15-foot downhill, sidehill
Both times, Wiebe and his caddie, Brett, read the greens with skills that
elude me, factoring in speed and degree of break caused by the grain, even
recalling how a similar putt from the same spot broke in last year’s
Both times, Wiebe sank the putt and kept our
birdie run alive.
Did I mention Wiebe’s back was killing
him?He’s a big guy, 6-foot-3, 250
pounds with a lot of aches and pains.On the first tee, he said he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play the entire
round.By the fourth tee, he was
lying on his back, doing leg cross-over stretches.
After nine, when we headed to the 10th
said he needed a "little work" and headed to the fitness trailer.A few minutes later, he showed up on the
"I’m fine now," he said."They popped my back into place."
On the 14th, as we all agreed that
the course, the scenery, the weather, the setting sun couldn’t make for a finer
place to be at the moment, Wiebe said, "Welcome to my office."Then he smiled and drove off after his
Joe, I was fortunate enough to caddy in a Champions Tour event when I worked at the TPC Jasna Polana for the Instinet Classic. I caddied for a guy by the name of Steve Veriato. while he wasnít a big name on the Champions Tour, he showed me how the tour players play. He made his way around the course splitting every fairway and not missing a green. He posted a 67 and 68 with a bad back. He showed me slopes and back stops on the greens that I didnít know existed. Just because these guys are supposely old doensít mean they canít play golf. Glad you enjoyed your round in the Pro-am.
The Muni Golfer
[4/6/2011 6:28:00 AM]
Sounds like an AWESOME experience Joe! I find it incredible to watch these guys play live at a tournament. Can only imagine what it must look like "insideí the ropes.
The more I watch Tiger Woods fumbling his way around
golf courses, the more inconceivable I find it that a player of his skill,
success and confidence can be so totally lost.
C’mon, the guy has been a
natural and preordained superstar since the moment he picked up a club while he
was still in diapers.Add to that the
support system that was his parents, a work ethic that is second to none, a
competitive drive to match, and the result was that run of greatness that we
all got used, even began to take or granted.
So to see him mired in such
frustration and ordinariness now pretty much defies the imagination.How can he have gotten so lost?How can he have become so uncertain of
the most natural motion he has made in his 35 years -- his golf swing?Outwardly, he still tries to project a
certain bravado, but it’s all a front.The man must be desperate by now.
Friends of Tiger’s have said
that his primary emotion of these past 18 months is unspeakable shame and
humiliation.That’s understandable.Aside from Richard Nixon, who was
forced to resign the presidency during the Watergate scandal, it is hard to
name another public figure who has fallen so far, so fast, as Tiger.For that matter, at least before his
troubles, Nixon was already a controversial political figure.No so for Tiger, who had enjoyed an
unblemished climb to the top as the ultimate athlete, success story, role model
and corporate pitchman.
That he hit rock bottom and
lost his image and his family, was unfortunate but to be expected.You do the crime, you do the time.
But given Tiger’s incredible
ability to focus on the task at hand and to overcome all odds, I must say I imagined,
even hoped, he would rise up out of the ashes better than he has so far.We all know how badly he wants to win
again, to regain his old superiority, to reestablish some semblance of his old
So to see him self-destruct
with a 74-75 on the weekend, as he did at the Farmers Insurance Open, or shoot
74, as he did on Saturday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, or watch him
finish bogey-double bogey on Sunday at Bay Hill...I don’t know; it just makes me
With the Masters a week
away, we are coming up on a year since Tiger’s return to competitive golf. I give
him virtually not shot to win.I
expect him to make the cut, maybe attract some attention with a 69 or Friday or
Saturday, then fade. I hate that I expect that.
Put me in the camp that
believes that if Tiger can resurrect his career, it will be the greatest story
of redemption and recovery in modern sports.I’m pulling for him.Not because I like what he did or have
any naive notions about who he is as a person.I’m only pulling for him because how can
you haven’t played your first round of the year yet, what are you waiting for?
hit my maiden tee shot at Talamore
CC last Saturday, when skies were clear and the thermometer was flirting
with 60.The fairways were
surprisingly full and green and the greens were slow but true, for this early
in the season. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to hit 58 and I’ve got 10:20 a.m. tee
the region, courses are awakening from their winter slumber, sprucing up as the
new season dawns.
off to a normal start," said Darin
Bevard, senior agronomist with the U.S. Golf Association’s Mid-Atlantic
office in Glen Mills."Most
courses are getting opened, if it would stop raining on them."
Whitemarsh Valley CC,
superintendent Tony Gustaitis
agreed."It’s a relatively normal
spring, except for the rain last night."
both Bevard and Gustaitis noted, yesterday’s day-long deluge, which ranged from
1½ to 3 inches, was a bit of a soggy setback.Some courses, including Whitemarsh, wereclosed today because of the deluge.
only need 2-3 days to dry out," said Bevard."But we need some warm weather. We
haven’t had any warm weather yet to speak of."
winters are harder than others on golf courses.Gustaitis
rated this winter as a 6 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the worst. Bevard described this winter as pretty
much average.We had snow
cover for about seven weeks, from right after Christmas to late February. Snow
cover is not necessarily bad; it can a protective blanket for turf grass.The good news is, we didn’t get much in
the way of damaging ice storms.
most damage to courses resulted the wet, heavy snow we got back in late January
or early February, said Bevard.That caused tree damage at many courses,
as did high winds that whipped the region on several occasions.
are...well, this is still the first week or so of March," said Bevard."Most courses are okay but guys haven’t
had much chance to do much grooming."
are not the same everywhere.In the
Poconos, there are still some courses with snow.The Jersey Shore, on the other hand, is
a week to 10 days ahead of Philadelphia, said Bevard.
Shore doesn’t get as much snow as we do, and their courses drain a little
better – at least some of them do."
any weather setbacks, Bevard
predicts Spring-like conditions will arrive right on time, around April 1.