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Posted: August 8, 2013
At 57 years old, Titleist Staff Professional Kirk Hanefeld thought he might be the oldest contestant participating in this week's PGA Championship at Oak Hill, that is, until he looked at the field list and saw fellow Titleist golf ball loyalist and 8-time major champion Tom Watson's name. Watson is seven years Hanefeld's elder, but still going strong on the Champions Tour and at major championships.
After nagging injuries for the better part of two years, Hanefeld jokingly said he only feels the oldest, pointing out his set composition that includes his new CB prototype iron set that starts at the 6 and goes through 9, with four Vokey Design wedges (48º, 52º, 56º, 60º). He also carries a 913D2 driver, a 15-degree fairway metal and three hybrids. He plays the Pro V1x golf ball.
"I am really looking forward to this week to get the competitive juices flowing again, because I really haven't had an opportunity to play a lot over the last couple of years," said Hanefeld, who has suffered through a combination of neck and back injuries to the point that "I didn't have any feeling in my shoulder last December."
He rebounded in June when he qualified for the PGA Championship by finishing in a ninth place tie at the 2013 PGA Professional National Championship. "That was probably the first time I felt comfortable in a long time and I played fairly well."
This year mark's the second PGA Championship start of Hanefeld's career - 23 years after his debut at Shoal Creek in 1990. That's not say he has been idle for more than two decades. In fact, he has won multiple Senior PGA Professional National titles, finished tied for 19th to claim Low PGA Club Professional honors at the 2006 Senior PGA Championship, and was the 2008 Senior PGA Professional of the Year. He has participated in 55 events on the Champions Tour since becoming eligible in 2006 when he finished runner-up at the National Qualifying Tournament.
Hanefeld has some familiarity with Oak Hill, having participated in the Senior PGA Championship when it was contested here in 2008. He does not expect it to play quite as difficult as it did five years ago, however, when fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Jay Haas won the event with a 7-over par 287 total. There were just 12 individual rounds under par for the week and the winning score was the highest in Senior PGA Tour history, and the second highest winning score in Champions Tour history. Hanefeld stood tied for 4th place after a first round 71 and was still in contention on the weekend before a Sunday 76 dropped him to a tie for 34th place.
"The conditions were extremely difficult, but it was a great experience," said Hanefeld. "Especially to be in contention with players like Jay Haas and Bernhard Langer (who finished second). I remember meeting Billy (Haas) that week, when he was here following his father."
When Hanefeld puts the tee in the ground for his first drive at approximately 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, he will be ready to give it a go against the world’s best golfers and plans to bring his veteran wisdom to his approach.
"I don't plan to try and keep up with these young guys off the tee, I know they are all long hitters and great ball strikers," said Hanefeld. "I am going to just go out and play my game, play smart, and try and hit fairways and greens. I can't wait to get started."
Thick rough and tree-lined fairways frame Oak Hill’s challenging East Course, and with its classic design, the course will demand precision from all players in this week’s PGA Championship field.
So what is one of the keys to getting around a layout like this? The ability to work the ball and shape your shots.
Team Titleist checked in with Dave Phillips, co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI), to get a few tips on how we can refine our shot making skills to help all of us add a couple of go-to shots to our bag.
So if you’re looking to dial in your draw, check out the video above. And if you want to add that controlled cut shot to your repertoire, hit play on the video below.
Don’t forget to check out the new MyTPI.com for even more great tips and advice for your game.
Each year on the PGA Tour there are only four opportunities to join the elite ranks of players who share the title of “Major Champion.”
For most players, if not all, the quest for a major championship is what drives them week in and week out. It’s the reason they put in the long hours on the course and on the practice range. A major title also cements your name in the history books.
And as fans, we know that winning a major requires a brilliant performance on a challenging golf course against the world’s best golfers.
So what would it mean to win a major? Well that’s what we asked Titleist Brand Ambassador John Merrick and Titleist golf ball loyalists Rickie Fowler (Pro V1), Billy Horschel (Pro V1x), Henrik Stenson (Pro V1x) and Michael Thompson (Pro V1x) in the video above.
We also got a little insight from three-time major champion and Pro V1x loyalist Padraig Harrington… check it out.
Posted: August 7, 2013
A key to success at any major championship is preparation. And while the formula may vary from player-to-player, the ultimate goal is the same: Win.
For some players, the best preparation is competition and playing the week before a major to stay tournament ready. Others may prefer quality time on the range grooving their swings followed by quiet practice rounds designed to steady their mental focus.
Whatever the preferred approach may be, when a player steps up to the first tee at Oak Hill he'll know that he's ready to compete for the Wannamaker trophy.
Check out the video above to hear how Titleist Brand Ambassadors John Merrick and Bill Haas along with Titleist golf ball loyalists Rickie Fowler (Pro V1), Padraig Harrington (Pro V1x), Henrik Stenson (Pro V1x), and Michael Thompson (Pro V1x) are preparing for this week's PGA Championship.
Rob Labritz is one of 10 Titleist Staff Professionals in this week's PGA Championship. It is one of the perks for finishing among the top 20 at the PGA Professional National Championship, which could be best described as THE major championship for club professionals.
But for Labritz, the director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., he feels it is destiny that he is here at Oak Hill.
And who could blame him?
The 42-year old holed a miraculous wedge shot from 95 yards to capture the final spot in a four-way sudden death playoff at the PNC in the cold and rain of the Sun River Resort in Oregon in June. The shot earned No. 1 "Top Play" honors on ESPN and went viral across the internet.
Team Titleist walked several holes with Labritz on Monday morning, to get his perspective on what has happened to him over the past two months. While Labritz, playing alone, was the first player to tee off on No. 1, Masters champion Adam Scott and fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas were teeing up it up at the same time on No. 10. On Thursday, when the first official round gets under way, it will be Labritz playing in the first threesome at 7:10 a.m.
"It's been and just continues to get crazier," said Labritz, who also qualified for the PGA Championship when it was contested at Oak Hill in 2003 and was the only club pro to make the cut at Whistling Straits in 2010.
Strangers still come up and ask Labritz about his now legendary shot. We were eager to hear the story, too, and this is how Rob described it...
"I was lying two after hitting my drive into a fairway bunker and not able to reach the green in two. I had 95 yards to the pin. One of my playing partners was already on the green and looked to have about 10 feet for birdie. I knew I had to get fairly close, just to make par and hope we could move on with the playoff. I don't like taking full swings in that situation, and being in Oregon, the ball was going to fly about eight percent further. I was playing the new Pro V1x golf ball and there wasn't any doubt regarding my club choice - a Vokey Design SM4 52.12, bent to 53 degrees. I wanted to hit it smooth, about a 65 percent swing. I hit it clean and I was watching it as my caddy walked ahead of me to pick up my divot. I saw the ball bounce once on the green and spin left into the hole. Our high five was a little awkward, but I probably have never been so excited about a single shot in my life."
He actually had to pause the celebration, briefly. Even though Labritz had holed out for birdie, one of his competitors still had the opportunity to match him and continue the playoff. Fortunately for Labritz, it turned out to be a par, and he is here this week, participating in his fourth PGA Championship.
"I'm glad that Bob (Vokey) is here this week," said Labritz, after using the same wedge that he used to hit the 'walk-off wedge shot' during his practice round. "He is the absolute best at what he does, and I got a tweet from him congratulating me after the playoff. I'm going to ask him if he could make me an identical wedge that I can put on display. I have no plans to take this one out of my bag anytime soon!"
On Tuesday, Labritz' wife Kerry was following her husband while he played a practice round with three of the top 23 players in the world, including fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Jason Dufner. As the crowd continued to grow under the warm sunshine at Oak Hill, Labritz was drinking in the atmosphere, signing autographs and thanking well wishers.
"Isn't this great?," he said. "What could be better than this?"
What's in Rob Labritz' Bag?: Pro V1x golf ball, 913D3 driver (8.5º), 913F.d Low Spin fairway metal (15º), 913H hybrid (19º), 712U 3-iron, AP2 prototype irons (4-7), CB prototype irons (8-9), Vokey Design SM4 pitching (46º) and sand (53º) wedges, Vokey Design TVD lob (58º) wedge, Scotty Cameron Newport 1.5 Select putter.
Follow Rob Labritz on Facebook, Twitter: @RLabritz and at www.RobLabritz.com