Welcome to Devil Ball's Proving Ground, where we put the latest golf gear through its paces. Today we look at the Ping G-30 driver.
Tester — Shane Bacon — Handicap: +0.5
Target Golf Audience — All golfers
It would be impossible to talk about a first look at the new Ping G-30 driver without talking about the turbulators. Those raised bumps you see on the top of the driver's crown? Those are the turbulators, something Ping invented to reduce the drag of the driver through the air (this wasn't some cockamamie idea either, with plenty of testing going on at ASU's Windtunnel Laboratory).
The G-30 has a similar finish to all the drivers from I-20 on, with the matte black continuing to look menacing and beautiful, but the first thing you see is the turbulators.
While science isn't our specialty, watching the YouTube video that Ping made showing off the turbulators makes everything a bit clearer. Just look at this screengrab below if you want to see how they perform in the simplest way possible, and then think about your golf club passing through the wind, and the air, and decreasing that amount of drag without having to do anything different with your golf swing.
I was just on a golf trip at a golf course where the wind routinely blows 20-30 MPH, and with that much wind out there, any help on drag can produce better tee shots that travel further than a clubhead without the turbulators on top (and it worked, as I didn't lose a single golf ball over 143 holes on my trip, which I can promise you had as much to do with the equipment as it did my golf swing).
I also loved the slight bit of color the Ping guys decided to go with on their G-30, with a hint of blue highlighting the bottom of the driver just enough to give it a little extra when you pull the headcover off.
I've had a few weeks to mess around with the G-30, and I can tell you that I'm consistently as long with this club as any I've hit before, but it isn't the good ones I'm impressed with.
I've been hitting my misses with a pretty good pop, the ones that you didn't totally connect with. That to me is just as important as what happens when you find the sweet spot, and the G-30 seems to be very effective on the misses which means that more bad swings are finding the fairway, and not losing a ton of yardage.
Ping added a new face material, T9S, that is both lightweight and ridiculously strong, so the ball is flying off the clubhead at a faster pace just by the driver switch, meaning more ball speed and more yardage with your tee shots (isn't that what we all want?!).
I've talked about how my misses have produced with this driver, but what about the ones that you actually do catch? I noticed a gain in yardage from the get-go, even taking a picture of one of the better ones I hit with the new G-30 the moment I got to swing it.
The thing can move, but it's the consistency that I've loved the most (I play a cut, and almost all of those balls ended up in an area that I would have called the "fairway" if this was a real golf course).
I also love how the turbulators almost point you down the line, an alignment aid even if it wasn't meant to be. We've seen dots on the top of drivers and arrows to help you get it right, but the fact that whole top of the face almost points you in the right direction can help just about anyone get the club set in the right spot before taking it back (a huge problem for amateur golfers).
For whatever reason, Ping drivers and I have got along great, and this G-30 is no different. I love the feel of the driver, how easy it is to work it, and how even the most normal of golf swings can produce power and distance.
People might think the turbulators are a bit odd on the top of a driver, but after a couple of swings you won't even notice they are there, and the added clubhead speed will make you forget about almost everything as you're gaining more and more yards off the tee.
I loved it, and can't wait to take it out again.
If there is a man in golf that isn't scared to say what he's thinking, it's Johnny Miller. The NBC commentator and two-time major champion wrote a piece for Golf.com about Tiger Woods current golf swing, but took a look back at the way Woods swung the golf club when he was winning his first of three straight U.S. Amateur titles.
That was 20 years ago, as Miller points out, and he says that the swing and the power that Woods produced back in his amateur days would lead the tour in driving distance.
"If today’s balls and clubs had been available when Tiger was in college, the 18-year-old Woods would have been 30 yards longer than Bubba is now," Miller said. "Tiger had a mega-wide, mega-long swing built more for a long-drive contest than a U.S. Open, but he tweaked it under Butch Harmon to create arguably the most effective motion in golf history."
It's an interesting theory, and one that you could pin on more than just Tiger Woods. Would Jack Nicklaus have hit the ball 310 yards per pop with today's equipment? What about Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson in their primes?
I do think that Woods produced an incredible amount of power when he was a teenager, and even into his early professional days. When he won the 1997 Masters, it had a lot to do with Woods simply overpowering Augusta National, so much that the course revamped the design to cut down on Tiger hitting 9-irons and wedges into the back nine par-5s.
But, I must say, 30 yards past Bubba is a bit of a stretch. The 2014 Masters champion leads the PGA Tour in driving distance at 313 yards per drive (Woods was 49th a season ago in driving distance, averaging 293 yards per drive), and while I'm sure Woods would be able to get the ball out there with today's equipment and his 1994 golf swing, I'm not sure we would be seeing a man averaging 340 yards per poke.
But Johnny is going to be Johnny, and his point on the power and the length of that early Tiger golf swing had everything to do with clubhead speed and pounding the golf ball as far as possible.
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One of my favorite trends after major championships is the work of Michael David Murphy.
After majors end, Murphy puts together a short video of all the golf shots hit by the champion on Sunday. We've seen it with Adam Scott after his Masters win, Phil Mickelson after his astonishing win at the Open a year ago, and now we have Rory McIlroy at Royal Liverpool.
You can check out the video below, that takes just 90 seconds to see all but one of the shots Rory hit on his way to a third major championship win. Very cool, and a fun way to relive the drama of this past Sunday at Hoylake.
You've obviously here because you read the headline and thought, "Wait, someone made a parody of a famous Queen song to golf?!"
Yes. The answer is yes, and it's amazing.
According to the description on YouTube, this was a video that, "is the culmination of 10 years parody song writing for our annual golf trip to the Murray river courses in Australia," and kudos to the guys that made this because it's well done, pretty wacky and a ton of fun.
Watch it, enjoy it, and maybe headbang on your way to lunch. Might I suggest a donut spot?!
Each week for the remainder of the golf season we will be rolling out a mailbag, with any and all questions invited from readers and fans around the world. Have a good question you want answered? Hit me up on Twitter at @shanebacon or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to get to it in the coming weeks. Here we go ...
Bacon: A great start to the post-Rory McIlroy win questions, and a great one considering both players.
For those that don't know, Rory, 25, has won three of the four legs of the Grand Slam, needing only the Masters to complete something only five modern players have ever done (Sarazen, Hogan, Player, Nicklaus, and Tiger).
Mickelson, who recently turned 44, has won five majors including three of the legs of the Grand Slam, needing the U.S. Open, a tournament he has finished in second place a record six times, to join that same list above.
Instead of comparing them at first, why don't we look at the stats. Rory has only finished in the top-10 once at Augusta National, a self-proclaimed "back-door top-10" this year at the Masters. While that is surprising, he did take a four-shot lead into the final day at the 2011 Masters, only to fall flat on his face with a final round 80 to finish T-15.
A lot of people say they think the Masters is Rory's best major chance for years to come, because he can hit the ball a country kilometer and loves to work the ball right to left (something that is a common theme amongst Masters winners ... see Watson, Bubba).
So, if Rory can curb the distractions off the golf course for the next decade, I think he will win the Masters at least once before he turns 35.
As for Phil, this is a man that won the British Open in dramatic fashion a year ago to snag the third leg of his Grand Slam chances, but hasn't been in form since basically that Sunday. No top-10s on the PGA Tour, no top-25s in a major this season, and the older he gets, the less he is going to care about winning and playing, much like what we've seen with Steve Stricker (this isn't a knock on Phil, it's more of a compliment to his family-first mentality).
I had to take some time to think about this one, because it's easy to say Rory after the way he played at Royal Liverpool, but I think you have to go McIlroy. Since he's only 25, and has two decades until he's Mickelson's age right now, I think he will have at least two green jackets, meaning the Grand Slam is complete, and while I'd love to say I think Phil will finally win the U.S. Open, I see another Masters and possibly one more PGA before I see him winning the U.S. Open.
So, my answer is Rory, but I genuinely hope both get there, because I think Mickelson deserves to be on that list considering how he has played in the majors the last 10 years.
Bacon: Honestly, I think I'll go Tiger.
People have overreacted tremendously about "what is wrong with Woods" with his recent play at Congressional at Hoylake, but the guy just came off 4 months of not playing competitive golf.
Somehow, every golf fan needs to pull out that Nintendo cartridge in their brain where they keep all the old Tiger memories and give it a good, hard blow, because we need a reset.
Everyone say this with me — "Tiger Woods is not the same guy as the Tiger Woods from 2001." Say it again! And again!
This isn't the same guy that is going to win three or four majors in a row, but Woods is still the type of player that can win multiple times on tour, and if you need an example of this, go all the way back to 2013 (he won five times, in case you forgot, and three times the year before that).
He hurt himself, had surgery, and is slowly coming back to form, much like any near-40-year-old would. He played loose golf at the Quicken Loans, had a good first round at Liverpool and then couldn't keep it going.
This isn't the obituary part of Woods' career, just another bump in the road caused by some health issues that he's recovering from.
Woods gets Valhalla next month, a place he has won at before, followed by Augusta National again and then St. Andrews for the Open next year. If he's in form for any of those, he will be in the hunt, and while I think what Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, and even Sergio Garcia are doing right now is great, I think Woods is eventually going to close out a major on a Sunday and I like his chances on those golf courses over anyone else on that list.
Bacon: It's an interesting question, because the person has changed so many times.
Early in his career, it was his buddy Mark O'Meara (if you doubt that, remember, he won two majors in 1998, at a time when Woods finished T-8 and third at both, so O'Meara was his closest "rival").
That turned into David Duval, then Sergio Garcia, then Ernie Els, and then Vijay Singh.
Since Singh, we've seen Tiger go up against Phil Mickelson (not enough for my liking during their primes, but they battled) a few times and now we've got Rory McIlroy.
But Tiger's biggest rival? I would say it's "PGA Flavor of the Week." Why? Because the flavor of the week was who pushed Woods the hardest at majors.
Woods had to beat Bob May in a playoff that saw May pull off gritty shot after gritty shot, face off against Chris DiMarco twice, and lose to Rich Beem and Y.E. Yang at random majors. Shaun Micheel was Tiger's closest competitor at the '06 PGA, and Woody Austin finished two shots behind Woods at the '07 PGA.
And his biggest challenger ever? That Rocco Mediate performance at Torrey Pines, where Rocco basically went shot for shot against Tiger for 90 holes with Tiger eventually beating him on the 91st.
So to me, there isn't a singular player that Tiger has had epic battles against. No one name comes to mind when you think about the legacy of Tiger, more the long list of guys that have had epic weeks only to fall to Woods (or beat him, in the Beem-Yang cases).
I guess the only way we can really cement an answer here is for someone to throw a rubber snake at Tiger the next time he gets in a playoff at a major.
Bacon: Tom Watson made the British Open what it is for American fans, and he should be able to play in that tournament until he can't walk anymore, so yes, extend him an invite for as long as he wants to play.
That's the least you can do for a man with 5.5 Claret Jugs.
Bacon: According to Tiger's website, he will be at the Bridgestone, a tournament he's won eight times including last season. The week after is the PGA Championship, so starting next week we will get two straight weeks of Woods.
How can he make the Ryder Cup team? I think he just needs to show signs of improvement. Say Woods finishing in the top-20 at Firestone, and follows it up with a top-10 at Valhalla. That's a step in the right direction, and something that Tom Watson can look at and justify with a pick (the American team needs Tiger Woods on that team, if for nothing else, some interest in a watered-down USA team that is going up against a superstar squad of Europeans).
Watson has two years of play to see who he wants to take with his captain's picks, but I think Woods will be the most important of his selections, and if Tiger can show that his game is on the up-and-up these next two weeks, he has a chance to wear red, white and blue once again.
On the flip side, if he plays Firestone like he did in 2010, and then has another disappointing week at the PGA, I don't see how Watson can pick him for the team.
So, a lot riding on the next few weeks for Tiger, Watson and the entire Ryder Cup team for the United States.
Bacon: A fun question considering both won over the weekend. Rory, as we've mentioned already, is 25 with three major wins. Ko is just 17 and already has four LPGA wins (two as a pro).
The issue, of course, is longevity, and I see McIlroy competing well into his 40s while a lot of the LPGA players don't tend to play as long professionally.
Also, Rory has three majors on Ko, and while she might be eight years younger, winning three by the time she is 25 would be quite the accomplishment.
For now, I'm going with McIlroy, but I think Ko is the type of special talent that can not only dominate the LPGA, but do it at a young age. The good news for golf fans is that we will have both in our lives for a long, long time.
Bacon: Some of my best rounds ever have came when I made sure to distract myself between shots. Golf takes 4-5 hours, and staying in the zone for that long is nearly impossible, especially for someone that doesn't do it professionally.
I make sure to go through my routine during the shots, and I try to stay as focused as possible about the golf shot, but I also take time between shots to look around, chat with buddies, joke around and just take my mind off the game.
I also make sure to eat a lot during the round. I always take a bag of almonds, some beef jerky or even a turkey sandwich with me on the course. Getting hungry, and losing energy, is a quick way to let a good round go bad, so staying on top of your energy level is important (there is energy in beer, right?).
Welcome to Teeing Off, where Devil Ball editor Shane Bacon and national columnist Jay Busbee take a day's topic and smack it all over the course. Suggest a future topic by hitting us on Twitter at @shanebacon and @jaybusbee. Today we look at Rory McIlroy's win on Sunday at the British Open.
Bacon: Considering we've had a couple of days to take in what Rory McIlroy did at Royal Liverpool, winning his third major championship and third leg of the career Grand Slam at the age of 25, it seems like a good time to talk about how impressive he was. Rory got off to a big lead after 36 holes, let the field back in on Saturday only to finish eagle-bogey-eagle to grab a six-shot lead and basically shut the door on his competitors. While it got tight on Sunday, the win was never really in question, so I ask, how impressive was this win by Rory and was it his best performance ever at a major?
Busbee: I'm going to play devil's advocate and start way sky-high--the "blue suburban skies" (Beatles reference, if you didn't get enough of those last week) that allowed McIlroy to play in Pebble Beach-like conditions. Yes, his win was relentless, and I'll get to that in a second. But first: do you believe there's any asterisk attached to the win because of the weather? Side question: should they have played Saturday?
Bacon: I've seen that idea a couple of places, that Rory's wins have all been in easy conditions, but I don't get that at all. Bad weather, good weather, wind or no wind, all the guys have to play the game golf course, and Rory has won three of the four majors doing that. If the point is that McIlroy isn't a mudder, that's fine, but he can't control what conditions are and he's dominated at three of the four major championships and deserves all the credit in the world for those wins (Weather wasn't much of a factor at plenty of Tiger wins, and I don't hear people questioning those).
As for Saturday, yes, I absolutely think they should have played, and I actually thought the two tee strategy made the most sense. Was it a first? Yes. Did it get those same people that scream about it being called "THE OPEN" instead of the British Open upset? Absolutely. But the R&A has a championship to run, and what happened to Tiger Woods and those late guys at the 2002 British is something they don't want to repeat (that wasn't as much golf as it was "hit and hope").
But back to Rory for a minute, even with two previous major wins both by eight shots, wasn't this his most impressive, and his most important? First time with new equipment, first time since he's hit the gym, first time since he became single, and first major win where he actually got pushed over the weekend.
Busbee: Agreed on all points. (That's boring, I know, but I can't bring myself to be contrary for the sake of controversy.) McIlroy actually had to sweat the tiniest bit on Sunday, and he faced it down with little difficulty. (Sergio's bunker misfire on 15 didn't hurt.) We'll see how Rory does when he's one-on-one, even against another player with three holes left, but for now, he's done everything he needed to in order to prove himself.
Now, I've said this a few times, and gotten a bit of static for it, so I'm interested in your view. It's my take that when Rory is on, he's as good as Tiger was -- but Rory is "on" much less than Tiger was. Bearing in mind Rory holds the records for best-ever US Open performances, and came within a few strokes of doing the same at the Open Championship: am I insane for saying that Rory is as good as vintage Tiger, albeit for much shorter, inconsistent stretches?
Bacon: It's easy for us to forget how good Tiger Woods was when he was really, really good. You can look at the '97 Masters if you want, but what he did at Pebble and St. Andrews was stuff we had never really seen before (sorry, Jack).
But, again, the talent pool back then was the shallow end compared to the deep end we see now. Tiger had to beat out Ernie Els and Vijay Singh at each major, with hopefuls popping up from time to time to give him a run. Rory has to battle Sergio, Adam Scott, Tiger, Phil, Jason Day, and many others that during that stretch of golf in the early 2000s, would have most likely won at least a major.
I think Tiger's A+ game is still better than Rory's, but I am surprised at how close it really is. When Rory's golf swing is clicking, it's in the top-five ever to play this game. But as you pointed out, it might not click like it did on Sunday at Hoylake for three years, or it might be right there for Valhalla. Tiger would go on stretches where a bad week was a T-5. When Rory has a bad week, he catches a flight on Friday night.
Busbee: Bingo. The gap between his best and his worst is far wider for Rory than it was for Tiger back in the good ol' days. With that in mind, I think he'll fall short, way short, at Valhalla, but will enter Augusta next year as the biggest story to hit golf since ... what, Tiger's return from scandal five years before? Your thoughts?
Bacon: I'd say Phil at Pinehurst was a bigger story at the start of '13, but the way he was playing heading to Pinehurst just didn't rev the engine like it should have (we talked about it, but most didn't expect a Mickelson victory).
While the new generation in golf might be great at pumping their own brands and wearing flashy outfits, it isn't translating in viewership, at least not this past weekend at Royal Liverpool.
The final round of the 2014 British Open was the lowest since ESPN took over broadcasting the championship in 2009 and was down 26 percent from last year's incredible finish by Phil Mickelson to claim his only Claret Jug.
Despite Rory McIlroy making history at Royal Liverpool and both Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia making charges in that final round, the numbers showed what has continued to be a trend this year in the major championships.
The Masters struggled because of a fireworks-free back nine, while the U.S. Open was an 18-hole coronation for Martin Kaymer, who was never really pushed as he entered Sunday at Pinehurst with a five-shot lead.
If the U.S. Open had the excuse of a blowout combined with other options including the World Cup, the British Open was practically alone on Sunday in terms of big sporting events yet couldn't even beat out Louis Oosthuizen blowing out the field at St. Andrews or Darren Clarke shocking the world with his win in 2011.
So what is the issue?
The Saturday finish by Rory McIlroy didn't help, making two eagles over his final three holes to extend his lead to six shots heading into the final round. It also didn't help that the return of Tiger Woods produced very little over the final 54 holes.
Woods might have started off hot with that opening round 69, but he played his final three rounds 9-over, beating just three players who made the cut at Hoylake.
The surprising dip in ratings compared to some of the other Opens is the names heading into the final round. McIlroy, Garcia, and Fowler finished at the top, but stars like Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott had chances to make a run before the last 18 holes kicked off.
If nothing else, all this tells us is that we really, really need a great PGA Championship to end this major championship season, because viewership has been abysmal this year considering the snoozers we've seen on Sunday, and if we get another blowout at Valhalla we have to wait a long time until we get to Augusta National in 2015, and who knows how healthy the big names will be, and who will be at the top of their game when casual sports fans turn away from golf for eight months.