Surprise driver swaps, putter shakeups, the best club ever made | Wall-to-Wall
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.
Looking for lightning
The final two regular season events are the PGA Tour’s version of a last-chance saloon — an opportunity for pros on the FedEx Cup bubble to solidify their spot in Memphis for the opening event of the playoffs. Some pros throw caution to the wind in a last-ditch attempt to extend their season, while others seek out a magic bullet in the form of a new club.
For Justin Thomas, Billy Horschel and Hideki Matsuyama, the potential magic bullet was a putter at the 3M Open.
Sitting on the outside looking in, Thomas attempted to resuscitate his playoff hopes by trying out the hottest putter build on Tour this season: a longer counterbalanced mallet.
“I guess it’s the hot thing right now,” said Thomas, who used a 38-inch Scotty Cameron Phantom X 9 Tour. “I’ve always said, I’ll putt with a shoe if it means I’ll make everything, as long as it’s a Scotty Cameron shoe. It’s something I feel comfortable with. Obviously to go back and forth just because of where we’re at in the season, but at the end of the day I’m obviously going to play with what I feel is going to give me the best chance for success and good play, and that’s what I did and I still have faith in it.”
The build has worked wonders for Rickie Fowler, Wyndham Clark and Keegan Bradley this season, but it failed to help get Thomas back on track in Minnesota as he missed the cut for the fifth time in his last seven starts. The new putter wasn’t great or awful; it was simply below average. Thomas ended his two days ranked 87th in SG: Putting, losing 0.315 shots to the field on the greens.
If there’s one bright spot for Thomas heading into the Wyndham Championship, it’s that he closed with four birdies in five holes on Friday, including a 30-foot bomb on the last.
For Horschel, a T13 was his best 72-hole finish of the season since a T11 at the Zurich Classic team event. It came on the heels of a decision to bench his Ping Sigma 2 Tyne 4 for an Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie Slant that resulted in a strong week with the putter. Horschel gained 3.43 strokes with the Odyssey in his hands (T20 in the field) — a positive sign as he prepares to tee it up this week at the Wyndham Championship.
And then there’s Hideki Matsuyama, who sits comfortably inside the FedEx Cup’s Top 70. Hideki being Hideki, he made a change after finishing T13 at the Open Championship with an eye-catching Scotty Cameron Newport 2. Unlike Thomas and Horschel, Matsuyama simply returned to the “ace” Newport 2 he’s used for years and finished 68th in SG: Putting (minus-3.048) for the week. Knowing Matsuyama’s propensity for changing gear, he’ll have something new in the bag soon enough.
Nelly Korda’s lowest round of the season came during the third round of the Amundi Evian Championship — a bogey-free 64 that had everyone talking about the world No. 1. Some even noticed a new club in the bag. In a move few saw coming, Korda benched her TaylorMade Stealth 2 HD driver and replaced it was a familiar Titleist TSR1.
Prior to signing with TaylorMade at the beginning of the year, Korda worked diligently to transition from Titleist’s TSi1 into TSR1 after seeing a decrease in launch and spin.
“It’s a lot less spin, which is what I’m looking for,” Korda told GOLF.com last year. “My [TSi1] was flying nicely, but it was spinning a bit much. Since we’ve been able to drop the spin, I’m still seeing a similar carry and more rollout. The overall look of the two drivers is pretty similar, except where the shaft is inserted on the TSR1. It looks a bit more pronounced. It’s nice to look at, and it doesn’t hurt when you can make the switch without having to make a bunch of adjustments.”
Korda never commented on the driver switch, so it’s unclear why she decided to make the swap after two rounds. Using a non-TaylorMade club isn’t against the rules — most manufacturers give players wiggle room to play at least a club or two from a competitor — but considering Stealth 2’s visibility, the change was always going to raise eyebrows.
With the Women’s Open less than two weeks away, Korda’s driver situation is a storyline to monitor heading into the final major on the schedule.
It’s always worth taking a pro’s on-camera reaction to a new club with a gigantic grain of salt, especially if they’re being compensated by the equipment manufacturer. So when Lee Hodges promptly proclaimed on the Muirfield Village driving range that Titleist’s yet-to-be-released T100 6-iron “might be the best club I’ve ever hit, in my whole life,” gearheads likely rolled their eyes.
The best club Hodges has ever hit? It felt like a stretch. But maybe the newly minted PGA Tour winner was speaking the truth. Hodges debuted three T100 irons (4-6) at the Memorial and finished T12 in his first week with the new sticks. Nearly two months later, and conveniently enough, during the same week as the official launch, he went wire-to-wire at the 3M Open and gained more than nine shots (plus-9.393) on the field on approach shots.
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