Fri, Jul 04, 2003 - Page 22 News List

PGA will be on the lookout for `hot' drivers

AP , LEMONT, ILLINOIS

Tiger Woods blasts out of a bunker on the 18th hole of the Western Open Pro-Am in Lemont, Illinois, on Wednesday.

PHOTO: AP

The PGA Tour's decision to start testing for illegal equipment is a good first step, Tiger Woods says. But he wishes more could be done.

"The PGA Tour has taken a step in the right direction and I'm happy about that," Woods said Wednesday after playing a pro-am at the Western Open. "It's just a matter of making sure that the game is preserved, it's policed.

"It's the greatest game in the world, and I want to see it stay that way."

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem announced Tuesday that beginning in January, a portable device will be available at all tour stops so players can measure the springlike effect of their drivers, letting them know for sure if they're "hot" or not.

Thanks to technological advances, golf has seen monstrous leaps in distance in recent years. But some golfers -- Woods included -- are worried that technology is crossing the legal line.

At issue is a physics term called the "coefficient of restitution" (COR), which measures how quickly a golf ball springs off the face of a club at impact. When the face is ultra thin, it allows for more of a trampoline effect.

Golf's ruling bodies last year set the limit at 0.83 for professional tours.

"You'll see a difference in how the ball flies," Woods said of non-conforming drivers. "And you'll see the difference in how the guy is able to shape the golf ball. You can tell in the first 100 yards how the ball is taking off and how it's flying."

Portable check

But right now, the only way to tell for certain if a driver is "hot" is to send the club to the USGA Research and Test Center, where it's taken apart and analyzed.

The new portable test uses a pendulum and a small weight, so players could conveniently check their drivers on the range if they wanted.

"I don't think any player would willingly use an illegal club, I honestly don't," US Open champion Jim Furyk said. "But if they are and that gets found out, their career is done, it's over, from a respect issue. I don't think players would do that. Maybe that's the case, I don't know."

Woods said he does know. The No. 1 player in the world has been the most vocal on the question of "hot" drivers, saying he thought there were illegal clubs on the tour. On Wednesday, he went a step further, saying he personally knows one player who uses an illegal club.

"Just watching his ball come off the face, you can just tell," Woods said.

Woods hasn't reported the player, but he has talked to him about it.

"[He said] he's just playing golf. He's playing the equipment that the manufacturer has given him," Woods said.

Therein lies part of the problem with voluntary testing.

"Say you hand me a driver and I hit it 20 yards further," Woods said. "Hey, I'm happy I hit it 20 yards further. I'm not going to ask you why I'm hitting it 20 yards further, because it worked for me.

"I know they're trying to protect the integrity of the game by not forcing us to have to do it, which I completely understand," he added. "But I wish they could do a little more."

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