LOS ANGELES – Mike Weir recalls seeing the new TaylorMade tour truck for the first time a couple of weeks ago and wondering about the nature of its mission.
“I thought it was an assault vehicle,” said Weir with a smile. “I heard originally they may had a fake machine gun loaded up on top there. It does look military.”
The new playground for TaylorMade staff players and those who tweak the tools of the trade was unveiled in late January at the Bob Hope Classic and has since created a buzz among those who visit and those who make their living there full-time.
Weir is a frequent visitor even if he isn’t one to be constantly tinkering with his equipment.
“Every couple of weeks, I’ll go through. If I’m hitting a lot of balls, I’ll get my lies and lofts checked every three weeks or so, every four weeks, just because of the soft nature of the type of head I use in my irons,” he said.
“It can bend a little bit, especially if we’re playing, not so much (at Riviera, site of this week’s Northern Trust Open), but maybe like a Phoenix or somewhere in the desert, where the ground’s really firm. It can change just a little bit, so I’ll check that out.
“Some guys switch shafts every week, change heads. They’re in the (tour truck) weekly. Actually, guys will use a certain set of irons one day and actually use a completely different set of irons the next day.
“I’ve never been like that. I like to stick with what I know and what’s going to work,” said Weir, who says he has other reasons to visit the giant workshop on wheels.
“It’s very cool,” he said. “It’s a great spot to hang out when you’re killing time, rain delay or whatever. They’ve got a little video game in the back. There’s a lot of hockey talk in there.”
There is a social aspect to the assault vehicle, as Weir calls it. It even has a private room in which contracts between players and the company can be negotiated. However, its main purpose is serious, according to Shawn Mullin of Mississauga, Ont., who serves as a TaylorMade PGA Tour representative.
“The idea was to maximize the amount of workspace we have to make it as efficient as possible. The really cool thing is the footprint of the truck is no bigger than other trucks (on tour),” said Mullin, adding that the main difference between this model and previous TaylorMade truck is inside.
“Really, it’s just space. We have added another work area in there,” he said, adding that the extra space is necessary given the enormity of the task faced by Wade Liles, who concentrates on metalwoods and hybrids, while his co-worker Henry Lima handles irons and wedges mostly.
Various tour reps are usually buzzing around the truck as well.
“Every single week, we probably have over 100 guys in the field using a TaylorMade product. It was getting impossible for us to be able to bring them product in a timely fashion, just because there are so many guys and we had only two work areas,” said Mullin.
“As the year goes on, you’re doing lofts and lies every week,” he added. “You have 40 or 50 staff guys using your irons. They’re going to need to do their lofts and lies, typically, every three to four events, so they come in staggered, so you’re always doing lofts and lies, same thing with grips.
“You’re doing some small tinkering with putters, you’re doing some tinkering with fairway woods, hybrids. It’s just never-ending,” said Mullin.
One thing that is making that job easier, other than the additional work space inside the truck, is the new r9 driver, which is gaining popularity among TaylorMade staff players.
The r9, which Weir has been been trying out in practice, features Flight Control Technology, which allows players to change its face angle, loft and lie angle and its adjustable capabilities means a specific club can be put together for an individual in just over two minutes, including a specific grip.
The new tour truck was a collaboration that came together when Keith Sbarbaro, vice president of tour operations for TaylorMade, drew the plan for it on a napkin that is framed and hanging inside the truck.
Besides the additional work area and the toys such as the waiting area, satellite TV, WiFi and meeting area, there are other advantages, according to Liles. “Normally, with these trailers, you would walk right into where I’m cutting shafts, so it’s not that safe,” he said.
“Eventually, if it’s not this year or next year, someone will get hurt by having a spark shoot up, so we just put a half wall in, so we can still talk face to face with the players, the caddies, so we can perform our job and not have to lock them in separate rooms or behind closed doors,” said Liles.
That would make players prisoners of war inside the new TaylorMade assault vehicle, as Weir describes it.