FEELING THE SQUEEZE
Titleist’s Pro V1 is the most dominant golf ball on the world’s pro tours. But for the first time in years, its leadership position is under pressure. Richard Gillis looks at what this means for the brand and the club golfer.
Billy Andrade was in a rut. The journeyman pro started the 2000 season badly and the year had gone from bad to worse. By October, the American was 159th on the PGA Tour Money List and staring a trip to Q School in the face. Then, at the Invensys Open in Las Vegas, he won, shooting 68 in the last round to hold off Phil Mickelson, take the US$765,000 first prize and secure his card for the following year. “I’m speechless the way the whole week went,” Andrade said afterwards. ”I’m near tears after having such a bad year, to do this.”
Andrade’s win was more than a sporting comeback story, however. It has a broader significance, marking a key moment in the development of the golf ball. It was the first time a Tour Pro had played with Titleist’s new Pro V1. Andrade was one of 47 players who switched that week from their old liquid filled balata balls to the solid core Pro V1, described by Mark Mcclusky, author of Faster, Higher, Stronger as ‘what might be the single most influential product in the history of any sport’. This was the start of the Pro V1 revolution – the legacy of which has defined the golf market over the past two decades. And the speed of the take up was extraordinary.
From the end of 2000 and over the course of the 2001 season, the average driving distance on Tour increased by six yards, propelled by the Pro V1. Since that Sunday in Vegas, more than 2,600 professional and top amateur players have won playing the Pro V1 around the world. At the 2000 Masters, 59 of the 95 players used a wound golf ball. One year later, only four