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.

Once is Enough for Langer

Victorious in 2004, European Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer has withdrawn his name from captaincy in 2006.

Bernhard LangerEarly in November of 2004, the United States chose Tom Lehman as its captain for the 2006 Ryder Cup. The European team has taken a bit longer to choose its leader for the 2006 campaign. Ryder Cup super-star Colin Montgomerie decided he’s not done trouncing American opponents and withdrew his name from consideration. This left three possible choices: Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, and Bernhard Langer. Better make that two. Now it appears Langer has decided he’s going to step aside and allow someone else to fill the position. Although Langer removed himself from the captain’s seat, he still has ambitions of being in Ireland saying, “I have every intention of being a playing member of the 2006 European team.” This comes as bittersweet news to American golf fans considering Langer’s 10 Ryder Cup appearances and 21-15-6 cumulative record.

How Good is too Good?

Is the new standard of well manicured golf courses in America killing American golf?

12th Hole Augusta NationalIt all began quite innocently in 1956 with the televising of The Masters tournament held at Augusta National. Just one look at the pristine fairways and perfectly manicured rough and Americans across the country demanded the same attention to detail from their local municipals. This day marked the end of American dominance in the sport of golf. Recent history proves how dead American golf is. Look at the World Golf Rankings, 13 of the top 25 come from countries other than the United States. The European teams have held The Ryder Cup six of the past nine years. College golf teams are recruiting players from all over the world because of their abilities. Why the shift in power? It’s not due to a lack of effort: go to any course and you’ll see tons of youngsters trying to emulate Tiger woods. If fingers should point, then blame should lie squarely on American golf courses.

Go Home, David, Please

Go home, David Duval. Get your game in shape or something, but until you do, please – just stay away.

David Duval NikeDavid Duval, at one point in the third round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, triple-bogeyed three straight holes. After three rounds of play on the relatively easy courses of the Bob Hope Chrylser Classic, Duval sits at +30. The leader, Joe Ogilvie, is “comfortably” fifty three strokes ahead. Lanny Wadkins, second-to-last, is 19 strokes clear of Duval. Davis Love III made more birdies on the back nine today than Duval has made in three full rounds of play, and we’re quite confident that were Sam Snead alive today, he too could beat David Duval.

Until last week, I was as big a Duval fan as you’re likely to find these days. I was happy that he finished T13 at last year’s Deutsche Bank Championship. As I said, until last week. Duval withdrew during one of the weather delays and returned to Colorado to get in some snowboarding. This week, he’s +30 after three rounds. This week, right now, I just wish the guy would stop embarrassing himself.