The world’s No. 1 player just withdrew from a tournament citing wisdom tooth pain. Having been lucky enough to never have had wisdom tooth pain, I cannot verify how bad it is, but Rory is a really cool guy, so it must be hurting a great deal.
Unfortunately, that is not the question that most of us want to have answered right now. What enquiring minds want to know is “why has the best player in the world not looked good in 2013?”
While Rory’s talent and ability is unquestionable (refer to the Ryder Cup match in September when he hit the first tee like most of us mortals do, 10 minutes after exiting car in parking lot, before dusting poor Keegan Bradley, arguably the best American player of the week), he is undoubtedly struggling with the new equipment.
You or I would jump through hoops to sign a multimillion dollar contract to play a different set of clubs so I can’t blame him for heading for the land of the swoosh, but maybe he should have made a few provisos before filling his bag with all the new goodies. The clubs are probably almost identical to the Titleist blades he has used for the past few years, so that shouldn’t be a problem, and the driver is an ongoing work in progress (note that Tiger is still having some issues to this day) ... so what could be wrong?
In my humble opinion, it is the golf ball. Rory has played the Titleist ball all of his life and is used to how the ball flies, spins and stops. The new ball he is playing has a whole new flight pattern and is not doing what its predecessor did. Suffice to say that there are a whole lot of patents in the world of golf balls and core density, cover thickness, dimple size and depth are only a few of the variables. For most of us, we wouldn’t notice any difference whether we were playing a Titleist or a Top Flite, but at the level the tour players are competing, the ball does affect performance.
While it may not have pleased the powers in Oregon to have him still hit a Titleist ball with the new wrenches, it would have eased the transition to the new equipment and probably had less impact in the short term. Tiger plays a ball that was specifically made for him by the wonks at Nike, and it took many months of development before he put it into play. I am sure that they are working around the clock to do the same for Rory, but it still may be months before they get it right.
I just hope that I am wrong about this and Rory comes back strong in the upcoming months, but I wonder where the blame may end up if he has a poor year. The Golf Channel is doing its best to blame swing changes, but when it comes down to it, can they really criticize one of their biggest advertisers?
Just thinking out loud!
Ian Grant is a PGA teaching professional and a member of the teaching faculty of the PGA of America. He can be contacted at Oak Brook Golf Club 630-990-3032 in the summer and White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville 630-422-1060 in the winter. You can contact Ian directly at 708-917-8951, or at Iansgolf@aol.com.