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The 2003 Hot List

Everyone talks about today's titanium bazookas, but there's an end in sight to driver-driven distance. Even with Titleist 983s, a new Humongous Bertha or the next driver from Nike or TaylorMade, pros will top out at 360 yards or so, while we amateurs occasionally catch one flush and knock it 280. But as Jack Nicklaus, that Carnac turned Cassandra, has said for years, the big difference between his heyday and Tiger's isn't the weapons, it's the ammo.

Three years ago the Titleist Pro V1 changed the game. Now comes the new Pro V1x, a dual-core ball that jumps off the clubface with less drag and more hang time. With 332 dimples, sixty fewer than the Pro V1, the new ball spins less—about forty revolutions per second off the driver versus forty-five for the Pro V1—which makes it go straighter and stay in the air a bit longer without "ballooning" too high. Some Tour players say the new ball goes ten yards farther.

The Pro V1x is designed for swing speeds of 100 m.p.h. and up, but that didn't keep it from becoming every hacker's fantasy. In the months before they reached pro shops at $56 a dozen, the balls were selling on eBay for $265 a dozen.

Nike makes tailored-trajectory, tailored-spin superballs for Woods and David Duval: the Nike Tour Accuracy TW and Tour Accuracy DD. Like the Pro V1x, they spin less than older balls—a boon for a player like Woods, whose approach shots used to suck back thirty feet or more. On wedge shots, his Nike ball drops like a sack of sand.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem calls the postmodern ball a threat to golf's integrity. Finchem told T&L Golf he wants to "draw a line in the sand" to keep balls from getting any more talented. Nick Faldo doubts the new balls are legal. Even Pro V1x belter Ernie Els has talked of imposing "a governor on the golf ball."


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