TAKING THE TP5 TO THE WORLD’S BEST
Keith Sbarbaro, VP of Tour Operations at TaylorMade, manages the day-to-day equipment needs of the company’s team of elite tour pros.
There has been a real buzz around this golf ball. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because the players and the public are starting to realise that there is another golf ball option. People haven’t felt that way for a long time – they just defaulted to what they assumed was the best ball. Rory McIlroy admitted that’s what he did last November. When he reviewed his equipment options, he didn’t even test golf balls, he just defaulted to what he assumed was the best ball. And for him, it wasn’t the best ball. Once he got into his testing and he tested other products, he found a better option.
Has the success of the ball surpassed your expectations?
You know, so far it probably has. First off, though, we’ve always had a great ball. We had a lot of our staff players, including Jason Day, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia, playing our previous model balls. This new product is exciting, though, because it’s different. It’s going to give some players advantages, mostly in adverse conditions. It wasn’t until we got it out on Tour and started testing that we saw the results.
Jon Rahm had instant success with the TP5, right?
Jon Rahm put the ball in play at the start of this year and wins in his first week with it. On the PGA Tour, we have so much statistical data. His distance control significantly improved from 125 to 200 yards from where he was last year. That’s why he’s playing better this year to last year. It’s strictly ball-related. It’s exciting.
What has been the feedback from the players?
The biggest advantage is how good it is in the wind – in all conditions. It’s hard to judge the wind right every time because the wind affects the ball so much more than people realise. But this ball doesn’t get affected as much. It is longer because of the higher launch and lower spin. So they’re all picking up yardage without sacrificing anything around the greens. The 5th layer is a big part of the success. It has exceeded my expectations by far. It looked good on paper
and we’ve been working on it for a while, but I’m actually surprised at how big the success has been.
Is it really revolutionary in that it’s the first ball where you haven’t had to compromise?
Talking to the players who have used this ball, their feedback was that, previously, your ball was either soft so you liked it inside 100 yards but you gave up a few yards off the tee, or it was firm, where it was great with the long game but you felt you made sacrifices with your short game. Because of the five layers, we can hit both in one ball. I think it’s the only ball that you can say that about out here. With the Rory McIlroy deal, the golf ball was the foundation of it. The golf ball is the reason Rory is at TaylorMade.
Where did Rory start to notice the difference in the TP5 compared with his previous ball?
It really started at the 8-iron. There was a little advantage with the 9-iron, but with the 8-iron we started to see more noticeable and consistent improvement. He was hitting it five or six yards further. His ball flight was a little higher than what he was playing previously and it came down softer because of that. But he’s still getting used to that. He needs to learn and trust it. The few extra yards of distance is great, but he doesn’t really need four or five more yards. It’s the consistency of the ball – that’s the advantage.
You must be loving the success?
It’s really fun. We’ve got Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, we’ve got Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose and now we’ve got Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. I’d never have thought that we’d have five or six of the world’s top 12 players in our family. My big thing is that I don’t want any of our guys standing on the 1st tee looking at another player’s driver, irons, wedges or putter and feeling like they’re at a disadvantage through equipment. I don’t think any of our players feel like that.
John Rahm enjoyed immediate success with the new ball.