This major winner is the ONLY Tour pro carrying a 5.5-iron. Here’s why

Titleist Tour rep JJ Van Wezenbeeck, not Simpson, chose to have the half-degree stamped on the 5-iron.

Jonathan Wall/GOLF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Webb Simpson is quick to point out that the half-degree stamped on the sole of his Titleist 680 Forged blades wasn’t done in jest. Simpson is deadly accurate with his irons — from 2015 to 2020, Simpson ranked inside the top 25 in Strokes Gained: Approach — but he isn’t that accurate.

Even still, the 5.5-iron is a guaranteed gear conversation starter when a fellow Tour colleague pokes around Simpson’s bag. We’ve seen Justin Thomas, along with a few other pros, add a half-degree to his Vokey lob wedge. But Simpson is the only one bagging an iron with the half-degree stamping.

So what gives? As Simpson told GOLF.com during the FedEx St. Jude Championship, it all started when the former U.S. Open winner and his caddie, Paul Tesori, started to notice a sizeable yardage gap at the bottom of the set — between the 47-degree pitching and 54-degree gap wedge — that was causing some headaches during competition.

Patrick Cantlay hoists the FedEx Cup Trophy
Your complete guide to the FedEx Cup Playoffs
By: Jack Hirsh

“I had a big yardage gap between the lob wedge, sand wedge and pitching wedge,” Simpson said. “[My caddie Paul Tesori] had the idea to write the yardages we wanted them to be on paper. Then Titleist could make the clubs conform to our yardages. So we just did that. To add a fourth wedge and tighten the gaps, I had to get rid of another club, and then the best thing we thought of doing was a strong 6-iron or a weak 5-iron, and we opted to go with the weak 5-iron.

To make room for a fourth wedge and close the gap, Simpson replaced his 54-degree with a 52- and 56-degree, moved the 7-iron one degree strong (35 to 34 degrees) and weakened the 5-iron two degrees (27 to 29 degrees). With 15 clubs in the bag, Simpson used the smaller yardage gap at the top of his iron set to remove the 6-iron.

“It’s definitely a bigger yardage gap at the top,” said Simpson, “but it’s worth the challenge because [the wedges] are awesome.”

As for the story behind the 5.5-iron, Simpson confirmed Titleist Tour rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck was the man who made the executive decision to stamp the half-degree on the sole.

“It was more not trusting Webb,” Van Wezenbeeck said with a laugh. “When I sent the first test set home with him, we were trying to mix lofts — and I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t put it in a corner and then forget which is which. I wanted to let him know which 5-iron was bent to the different loft, so we put the .5 on it to let him know which one that was.”

Simple as that. Instead of getting a fresh 5-iron with the 5.5 stamping, Simpson’s has embraced the different look. When you’re a Tour pro with a major victory and seven Tour wins, you can play irons with whatever you want stamped on the head.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2022? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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.