This week, twenty-four of world's best players will put the finishing touches on a memorable year of golf, as the United States squares off against a determined International squad at the Presidents Cup. Royal Melbourne will serve as the backdrop for the 13th staging of this biennial competition, testing players with its dry, firm fairways, daunting green complexes and lightning-fast putting surfaces.
The Americans are hoping to secure their 11th victory since the inaugural competition in 1994, but their twelve opponents from around the globe (excluding Europe) have history on their side. In 1998, the last time they won the Cup, the Internationals did it here at Royal Melbourne, dominating the U.S. side 20½-11½.
While the final outcome is still anyone's guess, one thing is for certain as the fourball and foursome matches get underway in Victoria – more players will trust a Pro V1 or Pro V1x than any other golf ball at the 2019 Presidents Cup.
With bragging rights and national pride on the line, 15 of the 24 Presidents Cup competitors will be teeing up a Titleist, including Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Byeong-Hun An, Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, C.T. Pan and Haotong Li.
And as we settle in for some match play fireworks, we wanted to share some of the reasons WHY. So we reached out to players and our golf ball expert on Tour, Fordie Pitts, for some exclusive insights into why the only choice is Pro V1 or Pro V1x.
Titleist Tour Reps J.J. Van Wezenbeeck (left) and Fordie Pitts (center) discuss spin numbers on a Titleist golf ball prototype with Titleist Brand Ambassador Webb Simpson (right).
Why Pro V1? Why Pro V1x?
Fordie's official title is Tour Consultant for Golf Ball R&D. He's is on the road more than 30 weeks out of the year, traveling to stops on numerous tours and working closely with players, acting as a conduit between them and Titleist product development teams back in Fairhaven, Mass.
"Players are always looking for that competitive edge," Fordie explained, "and in R&D, we're always working on things, trying different things based on their feedback. We've got so many players in the world, and everyone's a little bit unique. You need to have options for these guys. Some guys are low spin, some guys are high spin. Some guys are lower speed, lower flight, whatever the case may be, so we've got to make sure we can cover everyone. But regardless of whether a golf ball flies higher or lower or spins more or less, it has to perform the same way every time for a player. It has to be consistent."
There are a couple potential reasons why a ball may not be consistent, or perceived by a player to be inconsistent. It could come down to the manufacturing process and a company’s ability to make the same ball each time. At Titleist we take painstaking efforts (90+ quality checks for Pro V1 and 120+ for Pro V1x) to ensure we have the tightest controls and the best quality assurance of any golf ball manufacturer. We believe it is one of the things, and maybe the most important thing, that separates us from our competitors. We do everything we can to make sure each ball is made the same and performs the same as the last one.
But, as Fordie explained, inconsistencies in a player's game could also come from a golf ball that's a poor fit.
"If a player uses a ball that spins too much, or too little, and that player starts to see performance that is unexpected, then he'll likely change his swing or technique to get that ball to do what he wants. This is the exact opposite of what fitting is supposed to do. We want to adjust the golf ball model to optimize what the player does naturally, so he can swing the club without making any compensations.
It’s why we check in with players every week to make sure they aren’t getting any surprises. It needs to be consistent and predictable. Because we all know what one shot may mean in a round of golf for a tour player… earnings, championships won or lost, Team Cups won or lost and perhaps even a player’s job security!"
• • •
Justin Thomas (United States): Pro V1x
"I think a lot of it for me, which I learned through the fitting process was it needs to feel right around the greens. I need to be able to chip with it and I need to like the sound it makes, the feel it produces. And I need to like the feel when I putt, as well.
The Pro V1 was a great ball. I drove it probably the best I've driven it since I've been on tour. That little bit more spin was big for my driver. And kind of narrowing that window that I was hitting it in.
But the Pro V1 felt soft to me. And with a softer ball, I felt like maybe I need to putt it harder. It's weird but it's just kind of how the mind works. My speed wasn't very consistent with putting. And that was something I struggled with. And looking back at it, it was like, 'okay, this ball is great, but because of the sound around the greens and putting it's not right for me'. I like that click when I chip and putt, just the way you can hear it a little bit. So Pro V1x turned out to be the better all-around choice for my game."
Fordie: During our day of fitting down in Florida, the new Pro V1 was providing Justin with that little bit of extra spin he was looking for. It was helping him hit it higher and hold greens better with the longer irons and it was giving him a little better greenside control, too. But this is why you have to keep checking in with players. Justin played Pro V1 for a number of tournaments at the start of the year and then started to notice an issue with the softer feel. In the longer run, a Pro V1x construction was the better fit. I'm glad he gave Pro V1 a try, though. Now he knows exactly why Pro V1x is the right fit for his game. And now we also have some useful data and feedback that we can use to develop new protoypes down the road in R&D. Sometimes it just takes a while to get the whole picture.
Click here to learn more about Justin's golf ball testing process.
Adam Scott (Australia): Pro V1
"I'm looking for probably more spin than most people today, but it's what I'm used to. I turned professional with a balata golf ball and my golfing DNA roots are way back there really. I'm making myself sound old, but you can't change your golf DNA too much if you want to bring out your best assets.
The balata, that spun a lot, it was hard to get that drive under 3000 rpm and I taught myself how to produce very low spin, so I need a bit more high spin in the ball. When you have some speed and some power, which I'm fortunate to have, you have to balance that with control, and you get that through spin. And I think Pro V1 compliments that by launching it in the window I'm most comfortable with and my golf swing and the other variations you can make in equipment.
And I do believe that to perform consistently well at the biggest events, which are generally the toughest and more firm ground conditions at the majors, that control really plays a big factor in your performance. So I definitely gear some of my equipment set up to those events. Though I have only one major, my performance over the last decade in the majors is as consistent and as anybody else's on a tour across maybe about 40 events."
Fordie: For years Adam told us he prefers soft feel and spin in his golf ball. Then, a few years ago, like so many players, he chased distance. So he tried Pro V1x and while he played decent at times (top 10’s in 4 of 18 events) and did increase his driving distance the overall results were not as strong as Adam would have liked. When it was told to Adam that we had a Pro V1 that was more in line with his preferences we hit on a much better fit for Adam's game without sacrificing on distance. Now he has a lower flight, a much softer feel and a ball that suits his style. And the results show. He's had 9 top-10s in 2019, a runner-up at The Memorial and he was right in the mix on the final day at both the PGA Championship (T8) and the U.S. Open (T7).
Patrick Cantlay (United States): Pro V1x
"It's not about finding the longest golf ball, or the softest golf ball, or the golf ball that you can control your wedge distances with the best. It's about trying to find something that's like an eight and a half or better out of ten in all the areas, because you have to hit all those golf shots to perform. And I feel like the Titleist golf ball always is a top performer in every category. So I'm not necessarily looking for it to be the longest or the spinniest or the softest around the greens. But it definitely is the best combo of all of those.
So, I was practicing a little bit with JT (Justin Thomas) this year and I noticed that his golf ball – it was a Pro V1 prototype – went through the wind and held it's trajectory a little better than the 2015 Pro V1x that I was playing. It didn't balloon up in the wind. So I asked Fordie what he thought. So we tried it out and it seemed that I would lose a little distance with the V and I didn't necessarily like how much lower it was. But that's when we started talking about moving potentially into the 2019 Pro V1x and then I tested the 19X, it felt almost identical to the 15X and yet it brought my spin just a little bit down. Not a lot but still enough where I noticed a little bit of a difference.
It was basically a seamless transition. I hardly noticed any change in numbers, change in distance one way or the other. But it felt like my golf ball had a little better control, especially in windy conditions. I think controlling your golf ball in any element is the biggest thing for me. So if I hit a shot, and it feels like 152 and there's 10 miles an hour breeze into me and then I think that's going to affect it, I don't know, 6 yards or whatever, I want to know that it's going to go the 146 and not have it do anything weird. Especially if I have maybe just a slight mishit because I think a lot of golf balls do really well if you strike right out of the middle of the face and you get the right launch and everything. But the Titleist golf ball, even on a little mishit, your number doesn't get too much different. Especially when that's magnified in a breeze or a rain or a weird condition.
Fordie: At the WGC-Match Play, when Patrick tested the Pro V1 prototype that Justin Thomas was using, we noticed Patrick’s spin rates to be on the higher side and we agreed that a ball with slightly less spin would actually be better.
After hitting a few shots with the new 2019 Pro V1x with different clubs Patrick agreed that he needed to take it out on the golf course and give it a thorough test. We went to the course together and found that Patrick was able to hit all his shots with an improved, more efficient flight and he immediately put it in play that week. He didn’t make it to finals, but he went on a nice tear after that - played well at Augusta (T9), had a T-3 at RBC and the PGA Championship and then he won The Memorial. He also finished runner-up at the BMW and had 9 top-10 finishes for the season.
• • •
Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa): Pro V1
"I've always been a Pro V1x guy, but when I changes to a new set of irons, somehow in the wind, it just got very spinny, the X. I'm obviously used to the feel around the greens, the nice check and everything, but with my irons, especially in windy conditions, I lost a lot of ground into the wind, and couldn't control it as much. I said to my caddy, "I need to test the normal Pro V1.
So I played Pro V1 back at my home course, and liked the feel. The feel was really, really nice, a softer feel on the club. Saw some really good numbers with my irons that I really liked. So at Muirfield Village I just started playing with it, and it was really windy that week. It was just a day and night difference on ball flight. I could control the Pro V1 a lot better in the wind.
Distance control comes from ball flight. Can you hit the same ball flight all the time? When you can, it's so much easier to control your distance. So yeah, for us, consistency is everything. The last thing you want to see is standing there and all of a sudden you're hitting a 7-iron six, seven yards further than your last six, seven 7-irons. You want to see those numbers really close to each other the whole time.
The Pro V1 also helped in my wedge game. I've changed my wedges before to try and get less spin on a 90, 80-yard shot, and a 100-yard shot, because I sort of spun it way too much. I want to control it a little bit more, so I fight to take spin off. But when I switched to Pro V1 that problem immediately went away. Especially if the greens are a little softer than normal, where it just spins so much that you can't really control it. If it's a tucked away pin, and you've got a sand wedge, you need to be able to not spin it more than three, four yards. Yeah, that problem wasn't there anymore.
I got used to Pro V1 pretty quickly, and I felt it was really good move."
Fordie: When Louis won at The Old Course he used a Pro V1x, and he's played X for most of career. He's always preferred a soft feel, though, and after the PGA Championship he began testing with Pro V1 and made the switch. He had a real nice showing at the U.S. Open, tying for 3rd with Adam Scott. He had a top-10 at The Northern Trust and just finished 3rd at the WGC-HSBC, so the V is working well for him heading into the Presidents Cup.
• • •
Webb Simpson (United States): Pro V1
"The last thing you want to be doing on a tough hole, with water or trouble, is thinking about what is my golf ball going to do here? Is it going to spin, is it going to fall out of the air? But I've been playing this Pro V1 model now for a good two years, maybe longer, two and a half years. And that's never the feeling I have. I never have to guess or think about, what this ball is going to do. Which is a really good feeling.
For me, flighting the ball is really important. Some guys don't flight it at all, they just hit the same trajectory every shot. I definitely want the ability to hit it high and low. If can't flight it the way I want, low enough, I won't use that golf ball.
I would say I curve it as much as about anyone on Tour besides Bubba Watson. I love seeing the ball curve. I feel like hitting it right to left almost gives me a six and a half iron, a seven and a half iron, an eight and a half iron. If I really want to turn the ball over, I can add yardage. And then to be successful consistently on tour, I found that you have to be able to work it both ways. I'm not naturally a cutter, but I've learned that for most right pins, I need to hit a cut shot. And that's something that's developed the last couple of years and I can count on the Pro V1 when I want to work it. It certainly feels good in the fairway knowing whatever side the pin is on, I'm able to get at it starting at the fat side of the green."
Fordie: Just before the RSM Classic in November, Webb expressed an interest in getting more peak height and spin than he was seeing with his Pro V1. So at the beginning of the week, he tested the new 2019 Pro V1x. Conditions were very calm Monday and Tuesday and his early testing went very well. So he decided he'd give the X a try in the Wednesday pro-am.
Well, on Wednesday it started to blow. Webb teed off on the first hole with the Pro V1x and hit it right down the middle of the fairway. He had an 8-iron into the hole with the wind in his face. He played his standard shot, trying to keep it a little lower –and the ball got caught up in the wind and came up well short of the green. Given Webb's launch conditions, ball flight is really important and in windy conditions, he has better distance control with a lower flying ball. Because Webb was surprised by that result (and perhaps a little spooked with the tournament starting the next day) Webb decided that he should stick with his Pro V1 for now. He switched back to Pro V1 and finished runner-up at that event.
It just goes to show that you have to test in all conditions. It also illustrates maybe the biggest factor when it comes to ball fitting. The ball can't surprise you. You have to be able to predict its performance on every shot.
• • •
Cameron Smith (Australia): Pro V1x
"I didn't need to do a lot of testing with the new Pro V1x, really. I trusted the golf ball straight away, hit a few golf shots, obviously played around with it on the golf course a little bit. And it went straight in the bag. I did get a little bit more speed with driver, which I'm happy to take. Also with my longer irons, I managed to keep the spin rate down a little bit, which has always been a little bit of a problem of mine. So then my shots into the wind just become a lot more easy. I hit a few golf shots, obviously played around with it on the golf course a little bit, but I trusted the golf ball straight away. And it went straight in the bag."
Fordie: Cam is one of the easiest guys we work with. He's a mid-spin player, a good ball striker and he's kind of unflappable. He's just progressed into each new generation of Pro V1x very easily. It's a great fit for his speed and delivery so the best policy is 'don't fix it if it ain't broke'.
• • •
Gary Woodland (United States): Pro V1
"When I decided to switch back to Titleist, I had my game in a spot where I was pretty good, but I needed to find a golf ball that's perfect. My coach Pete Cowen was like, 'You got to find more spin.' The ball I was playing wasn't enough. I struggled in a gust. On golf courses that were firm, where you need to hit it high, I struggled because I didn't have enough spin. The Pro V1 was amazing to me because it spun, but also, I didn't lose any distance, and that was the biggest key for me. I switched right before the U.S. Open. And I won it.
Around the greens it's unbelievable, way better than the ball I was playing before. With my iron play, I'm able to hit more shots now because I have more spin to work the golf ball. That's been huge.
I grew up in Kansas, so I grew up playing in a lot of wind. No spin was great when I was a kid because it went through the wind. It went a long way, but I couldn't control it distance-wise. So out here when I like to hit three quarter shots and knock down shots, I couldn't get the ball high enough. When I hit long irons, when I'm trying to hit it hard. Under the gun when pressure gets going and I have a lot of speed, now the ball starts going too far. The inconsistency was the big deal.
With the Pro V1, every time I look up it comes out of the exact same window. That's the consistency that you get. There's no surprises. Out here when you're playing, you know, our careers are on the line. You need the golf ball to go where you want it to go and no surprises is a big deal. I think when I had low spin, I had some surprises. I don't have any surprises anymore."
Click here to learn more about Gary's switch to Pro V1.
Fordie: During a conversation with Gary during the week of Torrey Pines, he mentioned playing with Charley Hoffman in the QBE Shootout and that he liked the performance of the Pro V1 golf ball that Charley was playing at the time. He said he noticed a bit more spin but that it still had good flight and distance. We discussed the characteristics of the ball but it wasn’t until the week of the Masters that Gary came to us and asked for some product to actually test. We provided a couple of options for him (one of which was the Pro V1 ball from Charley and the QBE) and after testing it at home he put it in play straight away. After finishing 8th at the PGA Championship, Gary went on to win the U.S. Open with some incredible shotmaking thanks in part to this Pro V1 golf ball.
• • •
Ben An (Republic of Korea): Pro V1x
"The golf ball has to do everything. Everything. It has to go far. It has to be controllable and it has to be consistent. All those things have to be on the mark and I think the Pro V1x does it all. I think it's the best equipment in the game. I've been playing it for a decade now and it's brought some great success, I've got great memories.
I switched to the new Pro V1x as soon as it came out. It was spinning definitely less than the previous X, which I wanted to see. So, it's perfect. The product continues to improve and become more consistent."
Fordie: Ben is a lot like Cameron Smith. Pro V1x is just a good fit for him. With his speed, the higher flight of X really allows Ben to launch it. He was among the longest players on Tour in 2019. He finished 3rd at the Wyndham Championship and has already had three more top-10 finishes in the new season. This could be a big year for Ben.
• • •
Tony Finau (United States): Pro V1
"I want speed. I always wanna hit the ball further. That gives me even more of an advantage and the Pro V1 gave me more speed without sacrificing control. I hit a cut. That's my go-to shot. When I get a right-to-left wind, it's a green light for me. I like to slide that fade right up against the wind and I know just how it's going to neutralize the spin. I can take dead aim and my ball is going to curve just the right amont and land soft."
Fordie: Tony was one of a number of players who came to us having previously played a competing golf ball. Like many high-speed players, Tony has to keep a close eye on spin. In fact, earlier this year Tony had been testing a new prototype with a Pro V1x construction. It had a lower spin profile and though it looked great on the launch monitor and off the tee, when Tony took it to the course he'd get an occasional iron shot that would fly way too far, like a mini-flier. Those shots into the green are where tour pros make their living, so we quickly switched gears to Pro V1. His iron shots regained the proper amount of spin and he had a great season, especially in the big events. He was runner-up at the WGC-HSBC, T-5 at The Masters and 3rd at the Open Championship. He performed extremely well at the last Ryder Cup, too. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on at Royal Melbourne.
• • •
Sungjae Im (Republic of Korea): Pro V1x
Fordie: We're still trying to get a good feel for Sungjae on the golf ball side. It's clear that he's a very talented player. And he's only 21. He was the top graduate from the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018, and Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour this year. He led the Tour in Birdies and Eagles, plus a few putting categories. Pro V1x has been working well for him so again, we're not going to mess with success. But we're looking forward to getting to know him better in 2020.
• • •
Thanks, Fordie and good luck to all of #TeamTitleist at the Presidents Cup!
Click here to take a closer look at the Titleist clubs that Team Titleist will be relying on at Royal Melbourne.