Drug Testing in the PGA Tour? Not Likely

As performance enhacing drugs garner attention on the diamond, is there a reason for concern on the links as well?

pga_tour_logo.jpgIf you’ve been anywhere within range of televisions, radios, newspapers, or the Internet over the last couple of weeks, you have undoubtedly heard something about the steroid controversy gripping baseball as it heads into spring training. For the first time in its history, baseball will have mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs following a precedent set by the NFL and the NBA years ago. And while the controversy has swirled on the diamond, there are those that might wonder, should testing for performance enhancing drugs be done on in professional golf as well?

Maxfli BlackMAX: The Newest Challenger?

Just how good is Maxfli’s BlackMAX ball? Is it good enough to knock-off the king of golf balls – Titleist’s Pro V1?

Black MAXIn 2001, Titliest Introduced the Pro V1 line of golf balls which quickly became the most played ball on the PGA Tour due to their low spin off the driver and high spin around the greens. Titleist is the number one ball of choice on every professional golf tour and perennially leads in number of wins. Even players like Mike Weir, Sergio Garcia, and Vijay Singh who have signed equipment contracts with other companies choose to play Titleist golf balls. However, the recent introduction of Bridgestone’s B330, and the new HX Tour from Callaway, which has been earning notoriety behind a hot Phil Mickelson, has proved that there is still room for competitors in the high-end golf ball market.

Earlier this week, we introduced you to Maxfli’s BlackMAX golf ball, the newest entry into the high-end golf ball market. Is the BlackMAX good enough to compete? As promised, we’ve played this ball on course and experimented on the launch monitor, here’s what we found.

Tom Fazio: Golf’s Hero or Heel?

Tom Fazio has gained notariety for his golf course designs, just how good are they?

Riviera Country Club 15th HoleThe golfing public seems quite divided over course architect Tom Fazio. Some adore his layouts while others despise his designs. There is no doubt Fazio has tremendous exposure from some high profile clients. Fazio “Tiger Proofed” Augusta National in 2002, he redesigned Riviera Country Club, and he has built several acclaimed courses throughout the country. So why the controversy over Fazio’s projects? Let’s look at Augusta National and Riviera’s redesigns to find out.

Staying Power: How Titleist Stays on Top

Titleist is like Wal-Mart… without the low low prices. Think another ball maker can ever challenge Titleist’s crown? Think again.

TitleistThe golf equipment business is competitive and cutthroat. Take a look at the leaders in woods and irons over the last few decades. The dominant brands of the 1950s and 60s were MacGregor and Wilson, who were usurped in the 70s and 80s by Ping and Tommy Armour. Then came the boom of Big Bertha in the early 1990s, which catapulted Callaway to the top for a decade. Now TaylorMade stands poised to take the title of top woods and irons brand from Callaway.

But through all those changes over the years, there’s essentially been one ball on top: Titleist. No other brand comes close at retail or on tour. How long can they keep it up?

Maxfli’s BlackMAX

The Maxfli BlackMAX is the newest challenger to Titleist’s dominating Pro V1/V1x. Sporting a unique dimple pattern, the ball should be available March 15, 2005.

Black MAXMaxfli‘s got a new ball, and they say it’s got the distance of the Pro V1x and the feel of the Pro V1. Scheduled for a March 15, 2005 release, the Maxfli BlackMAX should MSRP for about the same as the Pro V1, and players can expect a street price of $39.95.

The BlackMAX is currently being played on every major tour, though it may be some time before big-name players switch to the new ball. This includes TaylorMade/Adidas staff player Sergio Garcia, who continues to play Titleist’s Pro V1x (second source) last year despite Sergio’s 2002 deal with TaylorMade/Adidas (second source). Most professional golfers prefer to switch balls only at the beginning of the off-season, and the Black MAX missed that window by a month or two.

Demo Days: Wilson 2005

Although not often considered among the top golf brands, Wilson Staff has some very good products for 2005.

Wilson Px3Ahh demo days, they’re almost like a rite of spring. Along with warmer temperatures and snow melting, golf companies emerge like bears out of hibernation, eager to let consumers try out their products. Today I tried products from Wilson Staff a company eager to break out of the “weekend warrior” mold and into the ranks of mid to low-handicappers. Wilson has some interesting new products: a combo set of forged irons, composite metal woods, new golf balls, and putters to round out a complete golf bag. Along with new products, Wilson has also bolstered their tour presence by endorsing Padraig Harrington and Jesper Parnevik. So just how much has Wilson improved?

Things I Could Do Without: The Presidents Cup

It’s time to look at an event that should be wiped off the schedule: The Presidents Cup. Why? Because it is pointless at best, anti-American at worse and, most crucially, it drags down the excitement and intensity of the Ryder Cup Matches.

Presidents CupNow that the 2005 golf season is finally gathering steam (I’m pretty sure the LPGA Tour starts up sometime in the next couple months, right?), it’s time to look at an event that should be wiped off the schedule: The Presidents Cup. Why? Because it is pointless at best, anti-American at worse and, most crucially, it drags down the excitement and intensity of the Ryder Cup Matches. Let me explain.

Quick history lesson, which you probably don’t need. The Presidents Cup was born in the Revenue Creation Laboratory located deep beneath PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach. It is an artificial construct created after the Ryder Cup became a surprise cash cow for the PGAs of America and Europe. The Tour was on the outside looking in, and it saw an opening. “Heck, they only play the Ryder Cup every other year. Let’s cram another international team event into the off-years and sell a lot of corporate sponsorships!”

ESPN: “Screaming, Ignorant Drunks Good for Golf”

Are drunk, vicious, obnoxious galleries good for the game of golf? ESPN doesn’t think so. Instead, they think it’s “great!”

FBR Rowdy CrowdThe FBR Open, formerly the Phoenix Open, has a long history as the rowdiest stop on Tour. We mentioned it in our tournament preview, and ESPN has gone a bit too far in suggesting that “rowdy galleries, like the one at the FBR Open’s 16th hole, are good for the PGA Tour.”

Robert Thompson and Jay Flemma have comment on this already, but I feel strongly enough to add yet another vote in favor of maintaining respect, dignity, and intelligence in professional golf.

Brian Wacker, who should be relieved of his “assistant editor, GolfDigest.com” role goes so far as to suggest that the rowdy, beer-guzzling, insult-yelling crowd (that has thrown oranges at players and toted loaded guns) “…is not only good for the game, it’s great for the game.” He suggests that the energy at places like the FBR 16th creates an energy that “transcends the game and thrusts it into mainstream America.”

2005 Callaway Golf New Products

One hacker’s opinion on Callaway’s 2005 new products to hit the market.

CallawayMy annual trek to Orlando included a round of golf with the good folks from Callaway Golf, giving me a chance to try some of the company’s new clubs and balls. While the really new stuff — like either of the prototype Fusion drivers being tested on tour, or the softer prototype HX Tour ball that Phil Mickelson is playing — stayed under wraps, there was still a wide berth of Berthas to put through their paces. Here’s one hacker’s opinion on Callaway’s latest products to hit the market, based on a morning of scramble golf.