NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
BROUGHT TO YOU BY GOLF PRIDE, THE #1 GRIP ON TOUR
You can argue, as we will here, that equipment matters more at the Ryder Cup than at most golf events of similar stature.
During major championships or other high-profile tournaments, equipment trucks are, for all intents and purposes, on site only in case of emergency. Players experiment in the weeks and months leading to the competition so every piece of their gear can be dialed to exact specifications by the time they arrive. Any week-of adjustments are rare and the event typically will not be affected by equipment performing differently than expected.
But the Ryder Cup has a twist that majors don’t have. Of the 28 points the two sides fought for this past weekend, eight of them came from foursomes matches in which players used their partner’s golf ball at times.
Before 2006, Ryder Cup teammates had to play one make and model of golf ball the entire match. That made golf ball preferences a near-the-top-of-the-checklist concern for captains when deciding how to pair players.
There were notable partnerships that failed in part because of tension around whose ball would be used. In 2004, U.S. captain Hal Sutton infamously went to Phil Mickelson before the competition and handed him two sleeves of Tiger Woods’ Nike One TW ball, implying to Mickelson that he not only would partner with his rival but also would have to use his ball.
It did not go well. With time winding down before the competition, Mickelson practiced for about five hours with Woods’ ball, which spun far more than Mickelson’s Callaway HX Tour ball. He couldn’t figure out how to control it and the partnership was a disaster.
The rule changed shortly after that. Now a team of two players gets to use two different golf balls during a match. They can’t switch during a hole but can switch between holes.
This has mitigated the impact golf balls have during foursomes. Conventional wisdom suggests that players tee off with their partner’s ball so they can use their own ball during approach shots. Distance control is much more of a fine art than smashing a golf ball with a driver, so nearly every approach is a player using his own ball.
Despite this, using another player’s golf ball remains uncomfortable for professionals. Players will practice with the golf ball of a potential partner months in advance to detect subtle differences. Not having to deal with the issue is an added bonus.
For example, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth both play a Titleist Pro V1x, a higher-spinning ball compared to most others on the U.S. squad, so they didn’t have to worry about accounting for differences. The same could be said for the partnership of Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick as both players use a Pro V1x. The team of Jon Rahm and Sergio García didn’t have teammates using the same ball, but Rahm’s Callaway Chrome Soft X is very similar to Garcia’s TaylorMade TP5x.
If partnering players use the same ball or even one of a similar style, it avoids some of the issues that Woods described during the 2018 Ryder Cup.
“We have so many damned different devices that can check golf balls and how they fly that you can figure out how the golf ball is flying, what are the distances and all these different things, and make those adjustments,” Woods said in Paris. “Some of the golf balls spin more than others. I play a very spinny golf ball, whereas others play a ball that doesn’t spin as much. There are some adjustments to be made.”
It’s not an end-all-be-all. Patrick Cantlay (Pro V1x) and Xander Schauffele (Chrome Soft X LS) partnered despite playing balls that spin differently. Game fit and personality fit still can take precedence.