Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tracking Tiger and some new grooves

It’s time to sort through the clutter of an emerging golf season and look at a handful of things, such as:

- The announcement on Tuesday that the PGA Tour will return to the Washington, D.C., area on July Fourth weekend with the Tiger Woods Foundation as the centerpiece of a new event looks like a win-win for the tour.

It fills the sudden hole left on the tour schedule by the sudden disappearance of The International and it gets the soft-spiked circus back in the nation’s capital.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s another thread tying Tiger and the tour together. Some have speculated recently that Woods might choose to play his own global schedule rather than conform to the 15-event minimum required by the tour. That’s not going to happen. Woods is going to play the overwhelming majority of his golf on the PGA Tour with a likely July stop in D.C. on his future schedule.

- The USGA announced this week new guidelines on the shape of grooves on irons that will go into effect in 2010. It has the usual complicated and mind-numbing language about technical components, but the basic idea is to make it harder for players to spin the ball out of the rough with their wedges.

An extensive study revealed what we already knew - it’s less important than ever for good players to hit it in the fairway. There was a time when there was a direct correlation in winning PGA Tour events and hitting fairways in regulation. Not anymore.

Combined with urethane-covered balls (like the Titleist ProV1), good players can spin the ball exceptionally well from the rough. For average players who hit Surlyn-covered balls (which account for two-thirds of all golf ball sales), the change will have limited impact.

The new rule will be in effect for many competitions in 2009, but don’t worry if you just bought a new wedge or set of irons. They’ll be grandfathered in for several more years.

- The PGA Tour begins its Florida swing this week at the Honda Classic, a turn in the schedule that’s more than geographic. Coming to the East Coast begins the serious run-up to the Masters.

What did the West Coast swing tell us? That Tiger is still Tiger and Phil is still Phil. We learned that Jeff Quinney is one good Sunday away from winning, that Charles Howell III is back and match play is as quirky as ever.

The pick this week at the Honda is Nick O’Hern and not just because he beat Tiger last week. He’s going to win sometime and now is as good a time as any.

- If you have any golf questions or comments, send them my way through the link here or to my e-mail at