DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Bubba Watson gazed toward the blue Pacific on the first tee at Kapalua and unleashed a big drive with his pink golf ball.
Next up likely will be a lime green ball.
The two-time Masters champion is even thinking of a two-tone ball.
“If we’re going to challenge ourselves, let’s challenge ourselves to make something that’s really off the wall, that’s still playable,” Watson said. “Companies I want to be with are ones that let me have an influence and let me in on the decision-making.”
That company is South Korea-based Volvik, with whom Watson signed a multiyear deal. The Volvik ball mainly has been used on the LPGA Tour in recent years, and Watson represents its first big player on the PGA Tour.
Watson said he initiated the interest after watching the World Long Drive Championship in which the finalists used colored Volvik balls. He previously heard about it from Craig Stadler during the Champions Dinner at the Masters.
“They used a pink one and they used an orange one,” Watson said. “I was watching this, and I’d never looked at the company. So I Googled the website, I looked at it, and read about. It’s a small company. You can’t just come out here and just start boasting and spending advertising dollars and things, because you’ll hurt your company real fast. … They’re doing things differently, and that’s how I noticed them.”
Watson said it wasn’t long after the Long Drive that he acquired some Volvik golf balls to give him a try. He also asked his caddie, Ted Scott, to experiment with them. He tried the S3 model — “it was pretty cool to watch it fly,” he said — and eventually settled on the S4.
Watson also will use a white ball, which Volvik calls the “Blue Pearl” because it has a hint of blue when slightly rotated. Early reports out of South Korea said that Watson wanted to play a green ball at the Masters, which is not entirely true.
“It’s not the same green,” he said.
Watson has always been about color, even the year he wore all white the first time he won the Masters. He had Ping make a hot pink shaft for his driver, and then the club head in pink, which he used to raise money for charity.
He thinks colored golf balls, which haven’t been in style on the PGA Tour in 30 years, could help in other ways.
“You talk about growing the game, why would you not want people to have more fun, make the game more fun, interesting and creative?” Watson said. “Same thing that Ping let me do with a pink driver.”
Watson said he wants to talk to the USGA about using a different colored ball on different holes, though that would be unlikely. The USGA has a “Conforming Golf Ball List” in which each ball is listed separately, sometimes based on the markings. Carter Rich, the USGA’s director of equipment rules and conformance, said each ball color would be a separate listing. As long as the PGA Tour adopts the “One Ball Condition,” Watson would have to stick with the same color for an entire round.
DAY TO THE SWOOSH: Jason Day made it official when he showed up at Kapalua with the swoosh.
Nike is getting out of the hard equipment business and focusing on its apparel, and it signed the No. 1 player in the world. Day also has a deal with TaylorMade for his clubs and golf ball.
“Joining Nike is a dream come true,” Day said in a news release announcing the deal. “The brand is synonymous with the world’s best athletes. I’m honored and can’t wait to be part of the team and working closely with Nike to take my game, and the sport of golf, to even higher levels.”
Tiger Woods, who has been with Nike since he turned pro 20 years ago, welcomed him to the Nike family with a tweet on Monday. Nike now has the Nos. 1 and 2 players in the world (Rory McIlroy) wearing its swoosh for the second time. Woods and McIlroy were Nos. 1 and 2 for part of 2013.
CHALMER’S APPRECIATION: A year ago, Greg Chalmers was making travel plans for Panama to play on the Web.com Tour. He only had partial status, but it was his only way back to the PGA Tour. He made it back by winning the Barracuda Championship, an opposite-event tournament the same week as the Bridgestone Invitational.
It came with a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and a start at the SBS Tournament of Champions for the 43-year-old Aussie.
So that view down the first fairway at Kapalua looked sweeter than ever.
“Twelve months ago, I was getting ready to go to Panama, for crying out loud, and struggling to get status out here,” Chalmers said.
Asked what he was looking forward to the most, Chalmers smiled and said, “Everything.”
“You don’t realize … especially if you’ve been out here a long time, like 13 years … how great it is until it’s not there anymore,” he said. “You see the flip side and you realize you like the other side better. I’m looking forward to every single week. They’re all fantastic weeks, and I love it.”
Chalmers is among 11 players at Kapalua for the first time, and the oldest of that bunch. His first full season on the PGA Tour was in 1999. He has won the Australian PGA twice and the Australian Open twice, including 2011 when the field was filled with Presidents Cup players.
He was frustrated to have to wait this long to win on biggest tour.
“What I keep saying is that not everybody wins,” he said. “There are 200 guys on this tour and only 30-odd winners every year. We’re spoiled with some top players who win multiple times. They make it look easy, but it’s not. When you get it done, it’s very exciting.”
PXG EXPANDS ROSTER: One year after Arizona-based PXG made a push on the PGA Tour by signing the likes of Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore and Billy Horschel, the company is expanding its roster to include women.
Among its new staff members are Lydia Ko, the No. 1 player in women’s golf, and U.S. Women’s Open champion Brittany Lang.
“This year PXG is looking at golf and the tour from a global perspective,” founder Bob Parsons said. “In 2016, we saw remarkable growth in international sales, but we recognize that we have only scratched the surface. Tour validation is important, and the ladies tour is wildly popular in many countries.”
PXG had five women on staff last year. Now it’s up to nine.
DIVOTS: Jason Day had a quiet offseason since he last played at the Tour Championship. Unlike last year, he wasn’t seen on the sidelines of an NFL game holding a camera, and his wife didn’t get run over by LeBron James going after a loose ball. Day still went to a few Cavs games and had his courtside seats. But he said his wife stayed home this year. … Daniel Chopra in 2008 is the only player to win the Tournament of Champions in January and not make it to the Tour Championship in September. … The Zurich Classic will be a team event this year, and a couple of players are taking that literally. Jason Dufner said he would play with Patton Kizzire (both went to Auburn), while Justin Thomas is playing with fellow Alabama alum Bud Cauley.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Eleven players from the 32-man field at Tournament of Champions made it back to Kapalua this year.
FINAL WORD: “Try and make it last as long as possible, because once you get off the islands, it’s back to reality.” — Jordan Spieth, on his two-week start to the season in Hawaii.
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