Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Why this Masters champ finally switched out decade-old irons
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.
Old school tries new school
Freddie Couples doesn’t switch into new equipment very often. Until last week, he was still bagging custom Bridgestone iron designs that he’s been playing for about a decade, and a TaylorMade M3 driver that released in 2018. He’s also still using a Callaway FT-i Squareway fairway wood from 2008. Couples is an old-school feel player who finds what he likes and sticks with it.
Ahead of the 2020 Charles Schwab Cup Championship, however, the 1992 Masters Champion made big changes with the Masters looming.
As Ping Tour rep Brad Millard told GOLF.com, Couples recently reached out to Ping in search of a driver upgrade. After testing a few different Ping G425 heads at different lofts, Millard says Couples found optimal launch with a Ping G425 LST 9-degree head with a Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue 65TX shaft. He was launching it around 12-12.5 degrees with about 2300 rpm of spin, which is the ideal window for Couples, according to Millard.
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Ping i210 Irons
Millard says that Couples liked the driver so much that he wanted to try some Ping irons, too. According to Millard, he sent Couples sets of both iBlade irons and i210 irons, and Couples took a liking to the i210’s with his previous Aerotech Steel Fiber gamer shafts.
A week later — the week of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship — Couples paid a visit to Ping’s headquarters in Phoenix for a testing session to make sure his new i210’s were dialed in before putting them in play. During the session, Millard says they flattened the irons a touch and Couples liked the way the irons looked and felt.
“He isn’t too concerned with Trackman numbers, he’s more concerned with how the irons looked to his eye,” Millard said. “We sent him the [Ping i210 irons] ahead of time so he messed around with them for about a week… when he showed up in Phoenix, he didn’t even have his Bridgetone’s with him, so that shows you how much he liked the new irons.”
As a reminder, Ping’s i210’s are designed for golfers who want feel, control and minimal offset, but with the added forgiveness of a cavity-back design. They have an elastomer insert behind the face for better feel and sound, and they have a progressive design through the set making the long irons a bit more forgiving.
In Couples’ first event with the new golf clubs, he ended up finishing T5. It seems as though Couples is on the leaderboard every year at Augusta, and with new technology in the bag, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him up there again. Even at 61 years old.
Couples also made another big equipment change in 2020 that’s worth noting. He switched into Bridgestone’s Tour B RXS yellow golf ball. In a video on Bridgestone’s YouTube channel, Couples noticed longer distances and a softer feel from the ball.
Why does Couples use the slightly softer Tour B RXS ball rather than the Tour B XS that Woods uses? Couples recognized that Father Time isn’t on his side, and he needs a ball that will allow him to compete.
“If I was 40 years old, I would be using the ball Tiger is using, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Couples said in the Bridgestone video. “But I’m not.”
Adam Scott switched to a 46-inch driver in Houston. With the rise in longer driver shafts on Tour in recent weeks, it would’ve been easy to assume the former Masters champion was chasing distance in an effort to keep up with Bryson and crew. In actuality, Scott, who was making his first start since the U.S. Open, was working his way into the latest version of Titleist’s Pro V1x ball when inquired about the possibility of testing a longer driver shaft.
After extensive testing, Scott landed on a TSi4 with Fujikura’s Ventus Red 6X shaft at 46 inches (D2 SureFit setting). The new ball-driver combination resulted in near-immediate gains for Scott, who led the field in driving distance (326.4 yards) while recording the longest drive of the tournament at 369 yards.
Georgia on my mind
Rory McIlroy usually plays a TaylorMade TP5 ball with the number 22 play stamp. “It’s the date I got married, which is a really important date to me,” he told GOLF.com. “I wanted to remember it on my golf ball.”
For at least one week, McIlroy is switching things up and going with a logo. To be more specific: a peach. McIlroy posted a photo on his social media feed of a bevy of balls with a peach logo centrally located just below the TaylorMade stamp. In a sport where basically every ball looks the same, McIlroy’s will surely stand out from the crowd at Augusta.
Drive for distance
At 45.75 inches in length, Viktor Hovland already plays one of the longer drivers on the PGA Tour. While the specs on his Ping G425 LST driver won’t be changing at the Masters, Hovland decided to test two different builds in Houston. One was a 47-inch G425 LST (8.3 degrees); the other was a 48-inch G425 LST (7.8 degrees).
According to Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates, the 47-inch driver was roughly 3-5 mph faster than his gamer, while the 48-inch generated an additional 4-6 mph. The dispersion delta was minimal, but Hovland still didn’t feel comfortable breaking in one of the drivers during a competitive round. The plan is to continue testing during the offseason.
Prepping for Augusta
Hideki Matusyama used the Houston Open to break in a piece of gear he’ll have in the bag at the Masters — a TaylorMade SIM UDI 3-iron (True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue shaft) with a sole that was shaved down to reduce bounce for the firm turf at Augusta National.
Callaway staffers will have fresh staff bags (and headcovers) for Masters week. An Azalea flower is positioned prominently on each piece of green and white gear.
Quick-hitters: Francesco Molinari added a Fujikura Ventus Black 6X shaft to his Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero driver and 8X to the Mavrik Sub Zero 3-wood. … Tommy Fleetwood tested a custom Kia Ma-designed TaylorMade putter. … Dylan Frittelli added two Callaway X-Forged UT utility irons (18 and 21 degrees).