PHOENIX — It could be debated that no one is playing better golf than Viktor Hovland at the moment. Wins usually keep pros from tinkering with their equipment setup, but when Hovland arrived in Phoenix following a two-week stretch in the Middle East, he made it a point to stop by Ping headquarters for a G425 LST driver tuneup.
Hovland’s driver has been in the news a considerable amount over the last several months, only this wasn’t a case of the Norwegian needing a replacement for a busted big stick. Hovland’s recent speed gains revealed a decrease in spin rate to roughly 1,800-1,900 RPMs — a number that toes the line between being absolutely perfect and categorizing the 24-year-old as an “underspinner.”
“Viktor can wake up and cruise at 177 mph ball speed out here,” said Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates. “That used to be a number he’d hit when he was swinging hard. Now he can hit 180 without much additional effort. So his playable speed has gone up over about the last six months.”
This isn’t the first time Hovland has been dubbed an underspinner. During last year’s Memorial Tournament, Hovland asked Ping Tour reps to come up with a solution that allowed him to gain launch and spin with his i210 irons to handle the firm conditions at Muirfield Village.
In a move that somewhat mirrored the iron dilemma, Ping reps made slight modifications to combat the lower-than-comfortable spin rate and increase launch — it was 10 degrees with Hovland’s previous driver build — removing the shaft tipping from his Fujikura Speeder 661 TR TX shaft to soften the overall build.
“His coach, Jeff Smith, spoke to Fujikura about some solutions, and the first thing we decided on was removing the tipping,” Oates said. “Instead of being tipped 1 inch as it had been in the past, there’s no tipping on this one. But it’s still the same length.”
The loft also increased slightly from 8.4 degrees to 8.6 degrees and hot melt (three grams) was added to the toe to keep Hovland from overdrawing the ball since his path started moving more right.
“All of those things are going to help him add spin,” Oates said. “When he was on the range, we saw 11-12 degrees of launch with about 2300 RPMs of spin.”
The changes all add up to a driver that allows Hovland to not worry about spin dropping to dangerous levels on the occasional mishit. (With the WM Phoenix Open being played at 1,300 feet above sea level, an increase in spin will be nice to have with less air density.)
It’s a driver build that makes Hovland that much better this week, which is a scary proposition for the competition.
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