Why Dustin Johnson added a club that’s almost never seen on Tour

Johnson was one of the only players in the field carrying a 9-wood during the opening round.

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At 7,556 yards, Southern Hills is the epitome of a “big ballpark,” with two par 5s stretching over 600 yards.

The additional length required to navigate several holes forced some big hitters in the field to reassess their bag setups for the PGA Championship, including former major winner Dustin Johnson.

Most weeks, Johnson is content to navigate the course with a TaylorMade Stealth 3-wood (16.5 degrees), Stealth 7-wood (21 degrees) and Stealth Rescue at the top of the set, but after working with TaylorMade Tour reps on Wednesday, the group came to a general consensus that he needed a different “second shot” golf club to get himself in the best position to play offense.

Testing revealed Johnson could benefit from adding a 24-degree TaylorMade Stealth 9-wood (tipped 2 inches; D4 swingweight) that generated a higher launch and spun slightly more (4,200 RPMs) than the 3-iron it replaced.

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With a 245-yard carry, the 9-wood wound up producing an almost identical distance to the 3-iron, which made for a seamless transition.

While the 9-wood is a club you almost rarely see on Tour — amateurs with slower swing speeds tend to gravitate towards the club in an attempt to induce a higher launch — it has surfaced in surprising numbers at recent major championships.

During the 2020 PGA Championship, Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen and Matthew Fitzpatrick all added 9-woods as they attempted to find suitable options to extricate their ball from the rough with a towering launch and ample spin.

With only one cut of rough at Southern Hills — instead of graduated lengths — having a reliable second shot club becomes even more important

A TaylorMade Tour rep confirmed the ever-changing weather conditions makes the 9-wood a fluid situation for the rest of the week. For the moment, however, Johnson appears content to roll with two high-lofted fairway woods (7- and 9-wood).

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Photographer

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.