Postcards from Orlando

I waded deep into the bowels of the 2007 PGA Merchandise Show, and I’ve emerged with some gems (and notes).

PGA Merchandise ShowLast week’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando gave me a chance to step out of my semi-retirement from The Sand Trap and check in to see what’s happening in the ever-interesting golf business. I played a couple rounds with the latest and greatest clubs and balls from most of the major equipment companies – at least the ones not named Titleist, Cobra, and Ping, since they are still AWOL from the Show.

What’d I learn? That driver designers really enjoyed geometry class in high school. That fans of forged irons have a couple new objects of lust. And that golf products are being marketed more and more to specific groups of players according to age and style of play.

Golf Talk [Episode 045]

Tiger has finally won on the PGA Tour in 2007, ending his winless streak! Oh, wait…

PodcastTiger Woods wins his seventh straight PGA Tour event (ho hum), Charley Hoffman and Hale Irwin get off to good starts, Butch Harmon bashes on Michelle Wie, Phil Mickelson switches to low-fat ice cream, and a whole lot more in this episode of Golf Talk.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed for our podcasts here or download Episode 045 as an MP4 file. For those who want to subscribe to us in iTunes, click here.

For this week’s Show Notes – links to articles we discuss in the show and additional information – just read on.

Nationwide Tour Graduates Taste Early Success

There are several 2006 Nationwide Tour graduates making an early splash during the new season.

Thrash TalkTiger Woods made his 2007 debut this past weekend at The Buick Invitational and won his seventh consecutive PGA Tour event. Wow, what a surprise! In all seriousness, it’s good to see Tiger again. There is no doubt the buzz around the PGA Tour is a lot higher when Mr. Woods tees it up.

Tiger’s win at Torrey Pines wasn’t as dominant as some in the past, but a win is a win. He intimidated and broke down a handful of youngsters along the way. The list of young golfers included the new FedEx Cup points leader, Charles Howell III. Chuckie may not ever win another tournament, but he has mastered the art of coming in second. It was actually refreshing to see CHIII have a solid final round compared to the usual choke job.

Callaway Shipping X-20 and X-20 Tour Irons

The fifth generation of Callaway X-Series irons is now showing up in stores and pro shops and bringing with it a new name and new look for the player’s version.

Bag DropEver since their introduction of the Big Bertha irons in 1994, Callaway has expanded their line with models aimed at the more accomplished player. This trend seemed to culminate in last year’s X-Tour forged irons and this year’s X-Forged models.

The X-Series began in 1997 with the Big Bertha X-12 regular and pro versions and was the company’s first attempt at reaching out to the player who needed less forgiveness than the Big Bertha irons. The next generation X-14 irons became the best selling irons in Callaway’s history.

With the new X-20 line, the “Pro” version becomes the “Tour” version. And with that change comes an entirely different club. Here’s the story…

Volume Eighty-Three

This week we have Tiger’s return, a Retief Goosen sighting, a cell phone ban, and the fight of a lifetime.

Tiger’s return to the Tour for 2007 yields yet another victory. Having to endure watching the rest of the leaderboard fold like a lawn chair is already boring. Would someone please step up and challenge?

This week we have a recap of the Buick Invitational, Retief Goosen’s win, cell phone bans, and women’s rights.

Nine Holes With Nancy Lopez

Only six LPGA golfers have more wins than Nancy Lopez. It didn’t take long for her to rack up an impressive number of wins on the LPGA Tour.

ProFilesI can’t think of another golfer, man or woman, who won 17 tournaments including one major in the first two years after joining professional competition. Nancy Lopez accomplished in her freshman and sophomore seasons what some never achieve their whole career.

Her quirky swing and dominating play made her one of the LPGA’s most celebrated and winning athletes. She is known as much for being a gracious competitor as she is her impressive record.

Strength of Field: Tiger vs. Phil, Part Two

In my last article comparing field strength between Tiger and Phil, I found that the Official World Golf Rankings archive only showed the top 200 players in the world. Because of this simple fact, as Erik pointed out, the numbers in the previous article are skewed.

The Numbers GameLast week’s Numbers Game on Tiger and Phil was titled “Part One,” so you knew more was coming. If you read the comments, you may have guessed what else was on its way. Erik suggested that averaging the entire field may show that Tiger plays the tougher fields, but that the numbers get a lot closer simply due to the fact that a PGA Tour field has 144 players, many of whom are ranked 300th or worse. Erik suggested that we look at the average rank of the top players in the field and the number of players ranked a certain rank or better.

I chose the number 30, so this week we’ll look at the average rank of the top 30 players and the number of players ranked 30th or higher in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Google Earth as a Golf Tool

In the northern reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the off-season and thus a perfect time to do some time-killing on a computer that might help your game.

I’m not the fastest to catch on to new technologies, but I do my best. That’s why this may not be news to some of you.

But the other day while doing some research for a course review, I stumbled onto some golf-specific uses for Google Earth that I thought were very, very cool. Unfortunately, the course you’re looking for has to be in an area they display in high resolution.

But if it is, from creating your own yardage book to understanding why your approach to that uphill par 3 always seems to come up short, this free net-based program can help you scope courses you play all the time and some you wish you could.

Feel Good Stories

There are a handful of golfers I’d like to see in the winner’s circle in 2007.

Thrash TalkI know this is a golf website, but congratulations are in order for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. They finally got past the New England Patriots in the postseason and are on their way to The Super Bowl. My wife wanted me to congratulate Peyton Manning, so I figured I better sneak that in first. Now it’s time to talk a little golf.

Charley Hoffman won The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in a playoff this past Sunday to pick up his first PGA Tour victory. The playing conditions in the final round were brutal, and the leaders heading into the final round (Justin Rose and Lucas Glover) crumbled big time down the stretch. Hoffman has contended a few times over the past year, and he deserved his win last week. Maybe he can afford a haircut now.