While Friday’s report confirming that Rory McIlroy had left Titleist for Nike had the golf world all awhirl, Phil Mickelson created some gear buzz of his own by pulling a TaylorMade RocketBallz 3-wood out of his bag at this week’s HSBC Champions event in China.
Callaway execs were unconcerned about Mickelson’s flirtation with their competitor’s club, which Lefty was hitting off the tee with great success. Indeed, Mickelson, who will head into the weekend at Mission Hills Golf Club tied for sixth, at 9-under -- seven shots off Louis Oosthuizen’s sizzling pace -- told reporters after Friday’s 3-under 69 that he was “driving the ball better than I ever have.”
Lefty’s comments did not faze Harry Arnett, Callaway’s senior VP of marketing, who explained Mickelson’s use of the TaylorMade club, which normally sports a white head but was reportedly painted black for the 40-time PGA Tour winner.
“About two weeks ago, Phil said that the HSBC at Mission Hills isn't a course where he can hit driver at all. He doubted he would hit driver on any of the holes,” Arnett told SBNation via email on Friday afternoon. “He wanted to play a high COR fairway wood there because he wanted a club that went farther than his current 3 wood but not as far as his driver.”
Callaway has just such a club in the pipeline but was not ready to launch it in time for Mickelson's China tilt.
“Our primary interest is supporting our players at all times so we told him to play whatever he wanted until he thinks we have the best possible product for him,” Arnett said, noting the Callaway model would be ready “imminently” under the company’s “standard operating procedure.”