When the U.S. Open was played at Shinnecock Hills GC in 1995, Corey Pavin not only became one of the few golfers to win a major using a set of cast irons (Cleveland's VAS model), but approximately half the field also used cast. "Players' clubs" (read: forged) no longer were the prohibitive choice of players.
A look into the bags of those competing in the 2004 U.S. Open nine years later, however, revealed that forged irons were used by 66 percent of the field two weeks ago at Shinnecock. The boost is interesting when you consider that we tend to think of years gone by as the "good ol' days of forged."
Why the shift? For starters, forged clubs now are not always the beautifully crafted muscleback blades of years past. Many forged irons used on tour, in fact, feature cavity-back designs (such as the Ben Hogan FTX, TaylorMade rac CB and the Titleist 704 CB models, to name a few). And ironically, some players also prefer forged because they feel it helps their games.
Bob Tway is one of those players. "You have to be more precise with a forged blade," said Tway, who won the 1986 PGA Championship using cast Ping irons but now uses Mizuno's forged MP-33 blades. "With a [more forgiving] cast club you can get sloppy with your swing. That creeps into other clubs, like the driver. I think my mechanics have gotten better since I went to forged. If you look at the top of the money list, they're all playing forged."
Not quite, but close. Cleveland staffers Vijay Singh, Steve Flesch and Chad Campbell are in the top 11 in earnings and Jonathan Kaye is No. 18, and they use cast irons. Also using cast among the top 20 is Ping staffer Chris DiMarco.
On the LPGA Tour, it's a different picture. With iron brands such as Callaway and Ping leading the way, cast irons routinely outnumber forged irons by a 2-to-1 margin. And the top four players on the LPGA money list -- Annika Sorenstam, Grace Park, Cristie Kerr and Lorena Ochoa -- all use cast.
But maybe in another nine years ...
The bag room
Equipment scoop from the tours:
A couple of players ranked near the bottom of the putts-per-round category apparently received some inspiration from changes at the TPC at Avenel. Tom Lehman (ranked 154th) tried an STX Sync 3 Long model and ranked T-34 in putts per round en route to a T-11 (his best showing in more than a year) while Alex Cejka (ranked 71st) went to a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Red X mallet and ranked 20th for the week in the same category. Cejka finished T-7.
Olin Browne made a slight driver change at the Booz Allen Classic, but it appeared to work. Browne went from an 8-degree Callaway Great Big Bertha II 415 to the company's Great Big Bertha II Pro Series model with 7.5 degrees of loft. For the week Browne ranked T-6 in accuracy and T-47 in distance, up from his season's rankings of 18th and 165th, respectively.
Not all pros are wed to big-name brands. Jeanne-Marie Busuttil, a third-year LPGA player, uses Honma, Feel Golf and Nickent wedges.
More off than on: The LPGA Tour's Sunny Lee plays with a set of unusually named irons called OnOff. Unfortunately for Lee, her game is more like the latter than the former -- she has failed to make a cut in any of her six starts on the LPGA Tour in 2004.
FootJoy Classic Tour
Winners of four PGA Tour titles this year have worn this shoe. Designed for better players who prefer to walk, the shoe (SRP: $300) features a lightweight, cushioned midsole and forefoot flex point as well as the premium calfskin upper found on FootJoy's original Classics.
The percentage of respondents to a Golf Datatech survey who, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being "strongly agree"), answered 8, 9 or 10 to the question "Are all brands of golf balls basically the same?" Those answering 1, 2 or 3 totaled 65 percent.