For 17 holes in the first round of the Masters, Jon Rahm played “video game golf.”
It’s the best way Rahm’s caddie, Adam Hayes, can describe those rounds where his boss blacks out and starts filling in the scorecard with circles. Save for a double-bogey on the opening hole, Rahm was nearly perfect as he piled up seven birdies and an eagle en route to an opening-round 65 and a share of the lead with Brooks Koepka and Viktor Hovland.
Rounds of this quality make it difficult to pinpoint a single club in the bag that was working better than the rest, but Rahm went out of his way to give his Callaway Paradym Triple Diamond driver some extra love in his post-round press conference — and rightfully so. Rahm didn’t miss a fairway during the round and continually put himself in a position to fire at flags.
“It’s the first time this year that it’s felt like it should in the past, my swing off the tee,” Rahm said.
While the name on the driver hasn’t changed since Rahm put Paradym Triple Diamond in play at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he confirmed it’s not the same head.
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“I changed one or two other times after [Riviera] because it wasn’t the right one and finally found one I’m comfortable with,” Rahm continued.
As arguably the best driver on the PGA Tour, Rahm has found success with literally every driver he’s used since he signed with Callaway in 2021. During a practice session last season at the Ely Callaway Performance Center, Rahm unleashed 10 consecutive drivers where the difference in spin between the shots was 100 RPMs. He’s that guy with a driver in his hands.
So when something isn’t working with the big stick, Callaway’s Tour reps are going to do whatever it takes to find a solution.
In Rahm’s case, the search to find a suitable driver head wasn’t an arduous process. If anything, the backstory highlights the razor-thin margin that exists between a “good” and “great” driver for Rahm.
According to Callaway Tour rep Kellen Watson, Rahm started to feel as if something was amiss with the driver’s spin rate around the Waste Management Phoenix Open. When Rahm’s at his best with the driver, he’s launching it between 10-11 degrees with 2,500 RPMs on the “stock” fade shot with a 10.5-degree head in the “NS” OptiFit setting (neutral face angle, stated loft).
At that time, Rahm was hovering around 9.5 degrees with a spin rate shading below 2,500 RPM. It wasn’t a red alert, but Rahm wanted to find a fix to ensure his cut started left and curved more right. At Riviera, Watson and team gave Rahm another Paradym Triple Diamond with roughly a half-degree more loft to add spin, but the overall look of the head at address didn’t suit Rahm’s eye at first glance.
“Rahm’s not sensitive about face angle,” Watson told GOLF.com. “It was the visual of looking like there was more loft that didn’t look right.”
Rahm went on to win at Riviera, but Callaway’s Tour team wasn’t done working on the driver. Additional work at Bay Hill, during the Arnold Palmer Invitational, didn’t produce a winner. In fact, Rahm’s biggest weapon turned out to be his Achilles’ heel during the event. On his way to finishing T39, the Spaniard lost almost two strokes off the tee and finished dead-last in the field in SG: Off-the-tee.
One week later at the Players Championship, Rahm found the driver cheat code.
While Rahm initially balked at the idea of seeing more loft in the address position, Watson decided to add one degree to the 10.5 head during a practice session — moving the OptiFit from NS to N+1 — to see what happened. This time around, Rahm didn’t mind the look of 11.5 degrees at address.
Within a few swings, Rahm noticed an increase of 200-250 RPMs with a slightly higher launch on the go-to cut shot. Things have been clicking for Rahm ever since.
“Seeing small, incremental changes make a huge difference is important for these guys,” Watson said. “They don’t want to make big changes if they don’t have to. Jon already liked the driver, so for him to be able to stay in the 10.5 head was big.”
The work behind the scenes was on full display on Thursday as Rahm put on a driving masterclass at Augusta National. Rahm’s dangerous whenever he tees it up, especially when the driver is a certified cheat code.