Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Brooks Koepka prototypes, and Rickie Fowler’s ego check
Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the Monday morning gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.
The USGA’s conforming driver list remains the ultimate equipment news-breaker. Before a club ever makes its way to Tour (or retail), it passes through USGA headquarters where it undergoes a battery of tests before receiving final sign-off. From there, yet-to-be-released prototypes sometimes find their way into the bags of elite players — like Brooks Koepka.
Koepka, you might recall, signed a multi-year with Cleveland/Srixon last November that required him to play the company’s clubs and ball. The switch appeared to be seamless, but Koepka struggled behind the scenes to find a driver-ball combination that was the “perfect fit.”
At the U.S. Open, Koepka returned to a TaylorMade M5 driver and Titleist Pro V1x ball, but the switch, as Cleveland/Srixon noted, was temporary. There was a new prototype waiting in the wings that had Koepka’s fingerprints all over it.
“To work through this adjustment period most efficiently, we decided to focus our energy on fitting Brooks into the next generation Srixon driver and golf ball prototypes that will debut on tour in the near future — products developed with Brooks’ input and needs in mind,” Cleveland/Srixon said in a statement at the U.S. Open.
At last week’s LIV event in Chicago, Koepka offered gearheads a sneak peek at the unreleased Srixon ZX7 MKII driver that had his “input and needs in mind.”
In addition to the standard ZX7 MKII driver, one of several Srixon drivers to land on the conforming list, Srixon added a ZX7 Diamond head that’s likely smaller in size and matches up in naming with the last “Diamond” product (golf ball) the company released that was also built for Koepka.
Koepka’s Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70TX shaft still remains, so the variables haven’t changed much from his usual build.
Rickie’s ego check
Rickie Fowler was due for new irons. At the end of each season, Fowler bids adieu to the old sticks and starts the process of breaking in a fresh set. But with new Cobra irons in the pipeline, Fowler chose to test out three different models instead of defaulting to his usual muscleback blades.
The at-home testing revealed something surprising: Fowler was better off with a bit more forgiveness.
“Ben [Schomin], our Cobra [Tour] rep, who caddied for me at Memphis, sent me our new MBs, CBs and the Tour Forged, which kind of went through testing on my own, just hitting them, getting numbers and seeing flights and getting feedback,” Fowler said. “Ultimately decided to go with the ones that would be definitely bigger than the MBs I played in the past, but just more forgiving but with all the same characteristics.”
The cavity-back King Tour prototypes in Fowler’s bag do a nice job offering better player sleek looks with more heel-toe forgiveness. Compared to his previous MBs, they’re noticeably bigger, but not to the point that Fowler was turned off by the profile. In fact, he found it to provide some additional confidence his blades lacked at times.
“I figure if I was getting all the same numbers but they were more forgiving, why make it any harder on yourself? Kind of check the ego at the door and play what works.”
Forgiveness has long been considered an iron characteristic for mid- to high-handicappers, but if Fowler is embracing it, maybe it’s time to change that thinking. It should also be noted Fowler went on to finish T6, his best showing since last year’s CJ Cup. He ranked 25th in SG: Approach (+2.181) for the week.
Titleist’s TSR driver has been on a heater since it was first introduced on Tour. Max Homa kept the good times rolling at the Fortinet Championship with TSR’s fifth win in 11 starts since it debuted at the Travelers Championship, in June. With a 10-degree Titleist TSR3 in the bag, Homa finished 9th in SG: Off the tee (+3.406) in Napa while leading the field in SG: Tee to green (+9.80).
“I actually like the sound quite a bit,” Homa said. “Sounds like you’re smashing it, which is nice. I did notice that the spin didn’t change as much when you mishit it. The heel and toe strikes kept the spin a little closer to your good ones. That’s obviously something I think everybody would be happy to have. It’s a mile an hour faster for me, just ball speed. So, yeah. It just doesn’t feel like any reason not to use it. I hit basically only two types of golf shots with my driver, and they both are still flying very similar.”
Quick-hitters: Hideki Matsuyama was spotted using Srixon’s Tour-only ZX5 MKII driver. … Kevin Streelman switched to an unreleased Wilson prototype putter. … Greyson Sigg used Mizuno JPX 923 Tour prototype irons. … Brendan Steele was one of several players testing Wilson’s DynaPwr Carbon driver.
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