The PGA Tour is right back at it, launching the 2017-2018 wrap-around season with the Safeway Open which was won for the second year in a row by Brendan Steele at the Silverado Resort & Spa (North Course) in Napa, Calif.
Steele used the same clubs this year as last including a return to his Scotty Cameron Futura X7 putter after a brief “flirtation” with one of Cameron’s T-5 models.
Though Steele endorses Wilson Staff and both the red and white Wilson staff bag and Wilson D300 headcovers were on prominent display all week, underneath the driver and fairway woods covers were TaylorMade M2 model clubs. It’s a well-known fact for many PGA Tour players, contracts to endorse a manufacturer’s product may not include the entire line and in Steele’s instance the only Wilson Staff products in his bag are the FG Tour 100 irons and one FG Tour wedge.
An agreement may cover only 12 clubs leaving the option open for a driver and putter from other makers or may include only the driver or just the irons, etc. Steele is an example of this and for years Mizuno’s star endorser Luke Donald though committed to their irons has teed up a TaylorMade driver.
It is perhaps most notable with world class professionals such as Henrik Stenson who plays all Callaway Golf products except for his ball which is not Callaway’s Chrome Soft but the Titleist Pro V1. Steele won this week with a Titleist Pro V1x. Other examples near the top of world rankings include Rickie Folwer (Cobra clubs and Titleist Pro V1), Hideki Matsuyama (Callaway driver, Srixon irons and ball), Brooks Koepka (TaylorMade woods, Titleist Pro V1x) and Paul Casey (TaylorMade woods, Mizuno irons and Titleist Pro V1x).
At the other end of the endorsement spectrum are world number one Dustin Johnson who plays all TaylorMade, number two Jordan Spieth all Titleist, number four Justin Thomas all Titleist, number five Jon Rahm all TaylorMade and Rory McIlroy also all TaylorMade.
Brendan Steele’s winning clubs:
Driver: TaylorMade M2 2017 model 9.5 degrees (Aldila Rogue Black 70TX shaft) Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M2 2017 model 16.5 degrees (Aldila 2KVX 80 Tour X shaft) Driving irons: 21-degree Callaway Apex UT (Steel Fiber 110 shaft) and Wilson Staff FG Tour V4 Utility 4-iron (Steel Fiber 110 shaft) Irons: 5-iron through pitching wedge Wilson Staff FG Tour 100 (True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts) Wedges: 50-degree Wilson FG Tour, 58- and 60-degree Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (all True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts) Putter: Scotty Cameron Futura X7 Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Safeway by the Numbers: The first tournament of the new season continued the prevalence of Titleist and TaylorMade Golf in balls and drivers respectively. Out of the 144 players in the field, 107 used Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x compared 15 teeing up the next brand. TaylorMade had 59 drivers in play while Titleist supplied 35, Callaway 23 and Ping 20. Titleist also was first in irons with 46 sets plus 203 of their Vokey wedges in players’ bags. Their Scotty Cameron putter brand was the choice for 57 of the contestants.
In Case Anyone Should Ask: Silverado, a Johnny Miller redesign, has been a stop on the professional tours since1968. Old timers have fond memories of the Kaiser Open played there for many years and the course also was the venue for the Transamerica PGA Senior Tour event.
If anyone thinks the Tour hasn’t become a young man’s game – the top-3 finishers in the 2016-2017 FedExCup all were in the high school class of 2011: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Xander Schauffele. If you add Daniel Berger, also a 2011 high school graduate, the four had 11 PGA Tour wins this past season.
In the Safeway field were three players from the Presidents Cup teams including Phil Mickelson, who with a 3-0-1 record, was an integral part of the US Team that routed the Internationals. Emiliano Grillo (0-3-0), from Argentina and Canadian Adam Hadwin (0-2-1) of Captain Nick Price’s squad also played at Silverado.
Phil Mickelson’s management company runs the Safeway Open and Lefty played again for the second year finishing with a strong finish to tie for third at minus 12. On the list of sponsor’s exemptions were John Daly and former long drive champion Jamie Sadlowski. Daly made the cut on the number, his first cut in almost three years and finished at T-71 five over par. Sadlowski missed the cut with a 36 holes total of four over par.
In the category of a hole not having to be long to be difficult the toughest hole at Silverado on Sunday for the pros was the third, a par-4 of just 424 yards. It plays up a gentle slope and has a slight dogleg but players found the green very difficult to hold especially if they happened to have a second shot out of the rough.
Speaking of endorsement contracts, TaylorMade Golf and current Masters Champion Sergio Garcia have split after 19 wins worldwide over the 15 years of their agreement. Some have speculated the Spaniard, who is ranked number 11 in the world, will sign go with Callaway.
New Ping Sigma G: The Sigma G putters from Ping gained instant acceptance when introduced in January and now the family has two new shapes, the Craz-E and the Tyne H. Both are high MOI mallets with an elastomer usually for soles of athletic shoes. The Craz-E comes with a platinum finish and the Tyne H is in black nickel. Both models weight 370 grams retail for $215. [insert SigmaGTyneH] WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?