How Ping supercharged Tony Finau’s driver ahead of the Masters

tony finau ping driver

Finau's driver underwent some necessary changes at the Houston Open.

Getty Images

Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the weekly gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.

Augusta National prep

History will tell you length offers a distinct advantage over the field at Augusta National. If you need recent examples, look at the number of green jackets Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have amassed over the last two-plus decades. If you can bomb it, your odds of success increase.

It’s one of the reasons why someone like Tony Finau generally has short odds at the Masters. Not to mention a strong track record with three top-10 finishes in six trips around Augusta National. Finau is one of the longest hitters on Tour — or at least it looks that way based on his ball speed numbers.

Ping G430 LST driver crown
Finau’s Ping G430 LST driver is optimized for Augusta — and beyond. Ryan Barath/GOLF

Finau recorded roughly 178 mph ball speed during both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons, ranking inside the top 30 in the category. The ball speed number remained flat last season, but Finau’s coach Boyd Summerhays started to notice a concerning trend off the tee.

Ball speed had dipped to anywhere from 175-177 mph, and Finau now found himself outside the top 40 on Tour. Chalk it up to a long season. When Finau returned to the course rested and recharged in January, his elite speed had returned — to the tune of 183 mph. The last time Finau topped 180 mph was during the 2019-20 season, an important point in time for this story.

While Finau’s speed was up in a big way, so was his spin rate. Finau was averaging anywhere from 3,300-3,600 RPMs on the course. The combination of more speed and spin can be a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

Following a missed cut at the Valspar Championship, Summerhays called Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates to see if they could get the spin under control at the Houston Open.

“Tony’s model has always been 10.5 [degrees of launch] and 2,500 [RPMs] with the driver,” Oates told GOLF.com. “If he could live at those numbers, that’d be great. But at his current speed, which is around 185, we want him to live at 9 and 2,700 instead of 11 and 2,200. If we’re going to err, we can err on the side of a little more spin. But 3,330 and 3,600 is going to add excess curve because it’s spinning so much. It can get hit in the wind, too, and that’s not a good thing.”

Instead of starting from scratch, Summerhays had Oates go back and look at Finau’s Ping driver build in 2019-20 when he was averaging 180 mph ball speed.

Ping G430 LST Custom Driver

$579.99
The PING G430 LST Driver features an exclusive Low Spin Technology (LST) Carbonfly Wrap, a lightweight composite that covers the crown and wraps into the heel/toe sections of the skirt to save weight and lower the CG for more ball speed, less spin and higher MOI. The 8-layer, one-piece composite saves four grams and weighs 11.5g fully installed. A moveable 22-gram, high-density tungsten backweight influences shot shape ±7 yards between the Draw, Neutral and Fade settings. At 440cc, the smaller tour-style LST is available in 9° and 10.5° lofts (adjustable +/-1.5° and lie up to 3° flat from standard) and best fits faster swing speeds. THE DISTANCE DIFFERENCE. MORE BALL SPEED. A shallower, variable-thickness face is thinner to create more face deflection for generating faster ball speed for our biggest distance gains to date. THE SOUND SOLUTION A new integral rib structure and increased curvature of the crown, skirt and sole fine tunes clubhead frequencies to produce a desirable sound and impact experience. SPINSISTENCY A variable roll radius, with less loft low on the face, enhances spin consistency and carry distance. CARBONFLY WRAP Lightweight composite crown wraps into the heel and toe of the skirt to save weight and lower the CG for more ball speed with higher MOI. MOVEABLE BACK WEIGHT A 25-gram, high-density tungsten moveable backweight influences shot shape +/-10 yards between the Draw, Neutral and Fade settings.
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“Back then, Tony always played either a left-bias model or something with internal heel weight or the CG shifter in the heel,” Oates said. “There was no question he had more of a left component in the driver than he had since his speed had gone down. And he was playing more loft. Recently, he was around 6.25 or 6.5 degrees, but he’d always played 7.5 degrees.”

During the early part of the week in Houston, Ping Tour reps added more loft and heel mass to the head to see if they could nail the build. The entire process took 2.5 hours to complete before Finau landed on the perfect driver, something Oates credits to Finau’s otherworldly feel.

“Guys like Tony have such elite feel,” Oates said. “You change a few things and their golf swing morphs into the product pretty quickly. It’s special to work with guys who have that talent. Tony’s athleticism and feels help that process so much.”

Going up to 7.75 degrees of loft and adding 10 grams of glue internally to the heel on his Ping G430 LST driver solved part of the problem. The other part of the equation was a shaft change from Mitsubishi’s Diamana D-Limited 70TX to a Diamana GT 70TX. The GT has a firmer handle but gets noticeably softer through the rest of the profile, a combination Finau immediately felt was a better fit for his swing.

ping g430 lst driver
This 2023 driver exceeded our expectations | Fully Equipped Mailbag
By: Jonathan Wall

“I feel like this is counter to what you might think,” Finau told Summerhays and Oates, “but if the shaft was a little bit softer, it would help me lean the club in there a little bit easier like I want to, which would help lower spin. I wouldn’t have to come out of it. I can stay on top of it and lean the shaft into the delivery zone.”

The spec and shaft changes resulted in Finau going from 3,300-3,600 RPMs to 2,600 RPMs at around 10-11 degrees of launch. Perfect numbers for someone who’s currently cruising at 183-185 mph with 190 in the tank.

The range work proved out in Houston where Finau finished runner-up to fellow Ping staffer Stephan Jager, while ranking 2nd in Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee, 12th in driving accuracy and 17th in distance.

It’s the kind of showing that could have Finau primed for a big Masters week.

Rolling with Rose

erik barnes axis1 putter
Barnes eyes a putt with Axis1’s Rose Black putter in his hands. Getty Images

Last week’s Darrell Survey had Erik Barnes rolling an Odyssey putter on Thursday. But when Friday rolled around, Barnes had opted for something else — Axis1’s Rose Black. Mid-tournament putting changes rarely pay dividends, but Barnes’ week didn’t follow the same script.

According to Axis1 VP Phil Long, Barnes asked to have a putter built on Tuesday with the same black head and shaft that’s received positive visual comments from several other Tour players. After losing a half-shot to the field on Thursday, Barnes decided to shake things up and give the Rose Black a shot.

The positive vibes continued from the practice green to the course on Friday, where Barnes gained 2.7 shots on the field. He added another 1.74 on Saturday and 2.787 on Sunday to end the week second in Strokes Gained: Putting. Barnes would go on to finish T17.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2024? Find a fitting location near you at True Spec Golf.

JWall

Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.