It’s a prestigious event, having take place under various guises in ‘Sin City’ every year since 1983 and counting the likes of Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk amongst its list of former champions.
Indeed, this particular week, much of the talk was focused around whether or not Furyk could win the title for a third straight year and a fourth time in total.
By the end of it, the narrative had shifted course dramatically. Suddenly, it wasn’t the players that were the centre of attention but the equipment they were using – and one piece of equipment in particular.
The Titleist Pro V1 had recently been added to the Fall 2000 Edition of the USGA’s Conforming Golf Ball List and Las Vegas was the first event in which tour players could use it in competition.
The ball was widely considered to be a dramatic departure for Titleist, which had traditionally used a wound-ball construction with a liquid filled core centre for its premium balls.
The Pro V1, effectively, swapped those two properties around, wrapping a solid core with a soft urethane elastomer cover – a simple but brilliant stroke of genius, which provided players with ‘a ball without compromise’.
No longer would they have to make sacrifices and prioritise either distance or scoring performance over one another. With the Pro V1, they had a ball which delivered huge distance gains as well the level of performance around the green that the best players in the world demand.
A total of 47 players (around half of all Titleist players in the field) switched to the much-anticipated new ball in Las Vegas – the single biggest shift in equipment usage ever seen at a PGA Tour event. Bill Morgan, the Senior Vice President for Titleist Golf Ball R&D, was there eek to introduce the new ball to players.
“While we expected early adoption, we weren’t certain what the ball count would be, because players only had a day or two of practice rounds,” he said. “We heard from players, that for the very first time, they didn’t sacrifice anything in a golf ball,” added Morgan.
“The Pro V1 provided total performance by delivering exceptional distance gains off the tee while providing incredibly soft feel and what we called ‘drop and stop’ short game control. It also had a durable cover that wouldn’t cut or shear the way the traditional balata-covered balls did.”
Mary Lou Bohn, the Vice President of Golf Ball Marketing and Titleist Communications, was also in Las Vegas that week. “We walked the fairways with players during their practice rounds, and it was amazing to hear so many great players effusive over Pro V1’s performance,” she said. “If you look at the early success of players who achieved record-setting performances, the results spoke for themselves.”
In the end, the tournament was won by one of the 47 Titleist Pro V1 adopters, Billy Andrade, above. It was the fourth PGA Tour win of the American’s career – a win he largely credits to the confidence he found from the new ball in his bag.
“I remember I was not having a very good year entering that event,” said Andrade. “I think I was around 160th on the money list and there were only a few events left. I was desperate. I vividly remember the first time I put it into play during a practice round. The ball was 20 yards longer than the Tour Prestige that I was playing at the time. I chalked some of it up to altitude but the distance, in addition to the overall performance of the ball, was like nothing I had ever played.”
By the following March, Titleist had become the best selling ball in the marketplace – a position it has held every month since.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Entering the 2015/16 season, the Titleist Pro V1 franchise accounted for 2,374 worldwide wins and over 304,000 players across the worldwide professional tours. It is also reckoned that two out of every three golfers across the major worldwide professional tours play either the Pro V1 or Pro V1x. That’s more than five times its nearest competitor.
In 2016, Titleist players recorded 189 wins around the world – again, comfortably eclipsing its nearest competitor – whilst 2017 got off to a fantastic start, courtesy of back-to-back victories for Justin Thomas, pictured above, in Hawaii.
Indeed, there can be no doubt that, as it releases the 2017 versions of its game-changing balls, Titleist remains at the forefront of golf ball innovation and technology – something that surely nobody could have known as the tour made its way to Vegas just over 16 years ago.