Crafty shots and lead tape: Detailing Rickie Fowler’s Cobra driver change

rickie fowler tests cobra darkspeed x driver at PGA Tour event

Cobra Tour rep Ben Schomin (left) and Fowler (right) chat during a practice session at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

ORLANDO, Fla. — The par-5 17th hole at Medalist Golf Club is the epitome of a risk-reward hole for the Tour pros who call the course home. Going down the left side is the prudent play, but not everyone enjoys the safe route.

Until last week, Fowler might have been inclined to favor the left side with the driver. Ranked 167th on Tour in SG: Off-the-tee and 127th in driving accuracy, Fowler’s usual driver consistency took a hit as he attempted to rectify the issue with Cobra Tour rep Ben Schomin.

“We worked hard on LS for weeks and weeks making tweaks, but it just never quite got there,” Schomin told “He got in a comfort zone for a tournament or two, but how he was swinging and what he was seeing, his misses were bigger than he thought they should be.”

One of Fowler’s Darkspeed X backup drivers with lead tape in the heel. Jonathan Wall/GOLF

Late last season, Schomin made the rounds to meet up with Cobra staffers to show them the finished Darkspeed product and see how it stacked up against current gamers. Instead of simply having Fowler hit the low-spin Darkspeed LS head — he was in Aerojet LS at the time — Schomin had the 6-time Tour winner test every model in the lineup, including Darkspeed X.

What Fowler quickly found was the X head, with its combination of speed and forgiveness, wasn’t that far off from the Darkspeed LS in terms of spin rate and launch. But as someone who was already playing Cobra’s low-spin offering, he opted to stick with something familiar.

With the driver struggles lingering, Schomin proposed the idea of giving Darkspeed X another shot. The testing session started with four heads at different weights and eventually turned into a 9-degree head equipped with a Project X Denali Black 70TX shaft that delivered the flight, feel and forgiveness Fowler needed.

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“We’re trying to make sure the toe ball is spinning enough and not working left too hard,” said Schomin. “Getting that miss to come back on line is the biggest thing. Overall, it’s a little more forgiving than [Darkspeed LS]. These guys walk a fine line and you can see it quickly with them. The right isn’t as far right, and the left isn’t as far left. So his hittable fairway is getting bigger in his mind.”

In other words, Darkspeed X gave Fowler the confidence to try risk-reward shots and trust the built-in mishit protection.

Which brings us back to Medalist’s 17th hole. After making the trip to Medalist last week to do some fine-tuning with Fowler, Schomin headed out on the course to see the driver in action.

Fowler switched to Project X’s Denali Black 70TX shaft. Jonathan Wall/GOLF

“It was a good day to test because it got really windy,” said Schomin. “And that allowed him to hit a lot of really crafty shots. The wind helps bring out that creativity and how he sees the shot should be played.”

With the wind blowing off the right and a bunker, along with a hazard, in view, Fowler attempted to cut off all of the dogleg with a low peeler that carved into the breeze and spun enough to land safely in the fairway, some 40 yards ahead of Xander Schauffele.

“It was great to see him hit that shot,” Schomin said. “Because when he connects with those, that’s when you know he’s feeling good and can execute shots like he wants to. I expected him to have a pretty good week last week, and he did. The gamer was really good. Best he’s driven it in a while. [Darkspeed X] is more forgiving, and the stats showed exactly that. He likes it and his numbers with it were really good.”

Fowler finished a modest T41 at the Cognizant Classic, but take a closer look at the numbers and you’ll notice he ranked 31st in SG: Off-the-tee and 33rd in driving accuracy, a major improvement from where he’s been most of the season.

As for the driver heads and slabs of lead tape Fowler and Schomin were tinkering with on Tuesday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Cobra Tour rep confirmed it was merely work being done on a future backup head.

While hot melt is generally the preferred option to make internal weight and sound modifications to the head, it can make the testing process incredibly tedious if the rep has to keep running back and forth to the truck for a bit more glue.

Instead, Schomin slaps strips of lead tape in strategic spots on the head and then moves them ever-so-slightly to make small adjustments for launch, spin or feel. Once Fowler gives the head a thumbs up, Schomin heads back to the truck, weighs each strip of tape and then adds glue to the correct spots in the head. The end result is a perfectly dialed-in backup driver.

“It’s been a pretty seamless process,” he said. “You can make more finite tweaks [with lead tape]. It’s nice to make those tweaks on the move.”

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