Voluntary driver testing starts on PGA Tour
Tiger Woods was the first player to openly question whether all drivers on the PGA Tour conformed to USGA standards.
It was only fitting that he was the first player to have his club inspected at the Mercedes Championships.
As promised, the PGA Tour rolled out a new device that measures the trampoline effect (coefficient of restitution) in drivers to make sure they don't exceed the limit.
The test is voluntary, and the Tour won't say which players have submitted their drivers for testing.
``I don't know if it's going to make a difference, but at least we have testing implemented,'' Woods said. ``In the future, it might change. But this is a nice, positive step in the right direction.''
Woods and Jim Furyk are among those who felt the test should have been mandatory. Woods said last summer he believed some players were using ``hot drivers,'' which exceeded the USGA limit for COR (0.83).
``I don't believe people are out there knowing that they're getting away with something -- or if you want to call it cheating,'' Furyk said. ``I don't think that's the case. But if there is a person or two out there, we're not going to catch them, anyway.''
The Tour explained the process in a one-page handout left in every player's locker at Kapalua.
-- Players are encouraged to have their drivers tested, and only players and their caddies can submit the club.
-- If anyone questions another player's driver, it must be tested.
-- The testing takes place in the rules office, out of public view, during tournament hours.
-- The ``pendulum tester'' only reveals whether a club passes or fails. It does not show how close to the limit a driver might be, to prevent players from bringing several clubs so they can choose the hottest one.
Vijay Singh had his driver tested by the company that made it -- ``They said it's normal, it's perfect'' he said -- and he believes that's where the responsibility should lie.
``We use their equipment,'' Singh said. ``If there's something wrong with the equipment, I think it's the manufacturer's fault, not the player's fault. They should make sure the clubs they give us are legal.''
No manufacturer wants to be caught supplying players with drivers that are illegal for competition. Tour officials believe players will want to be sure their clubs conform.
If a player uses a driver that is over the limit, he would be disqualified.
The ``pendulum tester'' was developed by Matt Pringle, senior research engineer for the USGA. It replaces the old COR test in which drivers had to be sent to USGA headquarters, where a ball was fired at the club.
The new device is black and about the size of a cowboy boot.
The driver is held in place by a vice, and Pringle uses a template to draw a small circle on the sweet spot. The pendulum strikes the clubface, causing a vibration. Test measures ``characteristic time,'' which translates to COR.
The test requires nine strikes by the pendulum -- three each from about 12 inches, 6 inches and 3 inches. It feeds to a laptop computer, then shows whether the club does or doesn't conform.
One thing seemed certain: There should be no surprises.
The USGA sold at cost ($4,000) six of the devices to the PGA Tour -- two for the PGA Tour, two for the Champions Tour, one for the Nationwide Tour and one at PGA Tour headquarters.
The USGA also licensed the technology to several manufacturers, so they could replicate the pendulum tester to make sure the clubs were legal.
While ``hot drivers'' were a big topic on Tour in July when Woods initially aired his complaints, there wasn't much buzz at Kapalua.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem believes it will become even less of an issue as the year goes on.
``This is a game of honor and integrity. It will continue to be that way,'' Finchem said late last year. ``There's no doubt in my mind that every player is going to get their driver tested. And it about four weeks after we start this procedure, it's going to be a non-issue. It will be yesterday's news.''
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