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.
Proving ’em wrong
It’s been a whirlwind six months for Jon Rahm. The U.S. Open victory and WD after a positive Covid test at the Memorial — with a 6-shot lead, to boot — make it easy to forget the Spaniard’s monumental decision at the beginning of the year when he walked away from TaylorMade to sign a megadeal with rival Callaway.
The decision placed the Spaniard firmly in the spotlight as he attempted to navigate a complete overhaul of his equipment as the year began. Some pondered if Rahm’s move would look more like Tiger Woods’ successful jump from Titleist to Nike or Justin Rose’s short-lived run with Honma.
For the moment, it certainly looks like the former.
While Rahm has let his clubs do the talking on the course, he went out of his way to dunk on the detractors who questioned his equipment switch during Sunday’s post-round press conference.
“For all those people that doubted the manufacturing change, there was a reason why I believe I could get better,” Rahm said. “The new ball and new irons allowed me to hit certain shots that I simply wasn’t capable of before. It showed. Some of those wedge shots and some of those long shots — that 8-iron at [the 1st hole], being able to hit that shot high with spin and see it go through the wind and land short of the pin, and many others like that as well. It allowed me to stay aggressive. I need to say a huge thanks to the team at Callaway.”
No one will confuse hitting a golf ball with ripping around a hairpin turn, but in many ways, golf and motorsports are more closely intertwined than you might think. Beyond the simple fact that they’re individual sports, both rely heavily on teams to get the golfer and driver in the best position to win.
When a race car driver wins, he goes out of the way to heap praise on the crew behind the scenes. But very rarely does the winning golfer do the same when it comes to his gear team. The equipment reps tasked with making last-minute club adjustments are the unsung heroes — a traveling circus moving from one Tour stop to the next with a singular goal: to ensure their players have the necessary tools to succeed.
It’s a thankless job, to be clear. But every so often, the reps get their due. On Sunday, it was Odyssey Tour rep Joe Toulon who received a personal shoutout from Rahm for the putter, a club that’s taken Rahm some time to get acclimated to since he joined Callaway.
It all came together for Rahm at Memorial when he made the switch to a custom Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie S that turned him into a world-beater on the greens. Woking closely with Toulon, Rahm returned to a short slant neck that allowed him to consistently rotate the head and square up the face at impact.
“I’ve given them a headache,” Rahm joked. “I don’t know how many putters they’ve built for me to find the one I needed. And I’m pretty sure I found the one I need. It’s working really well. So [Odyssey Tour rep Joe Toulon], thank you for all the hard work. We got one boys!”
Rahm didn’t skip a beat with the new putter down the stretch, burying two tournament-defining birdie putts on 17 and 18 to secure his first major. It was an afternoon that not only validated the work Rahm has been putting in behind the scenes, but the countless hours Callaway and Odyssey reps have been logging to figure out Rahm’s gear Rubik’s cube.
The process is never easy, but the pay off is always worth the effort.
The rough at Torrey Pines was always going to be a problem. Similar to the unpredictable rough at TPC Harding Park during the 2020 PGA Championship, the thick Kikuyu forced many players in the field to adjust their setup. The most common addition was a high-lofted fairway wood to extricate the ball and get it back into play.
Tour winners Lanto Griffin and Matt Jones opted to replace their utility irons with 21-degree Titleist TSi2 fairway woods, while Bubba Watson went the unconventional route and added a Ping G410 9-wood to tackle Torrey Pines.
“The TSi 21-degree 7-wood has been very popular,” said Titleist Tour rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck. “Players are really liking what it does out of the rough and then into the greens – really high launch angle and landing very softly has been really effective.”
Something old, something new
Sergio Garcia wasted little time returning to a head shape that helped him win his lone major title at the 2017 Masters. Garcia inserted a Spider X Chalk mallet at the U.S. Open that featured LAGP’s multi-material putter shaft. He would go on to finish T19 with the new wand.
Quick-hitters: Adam Scott added a fourth metal to the bag (13.5-degree Titleist TSi2) for U.S. Open week. … Dustin Johnson and LA Golf made their partnership official. … Phil Mickelson switched to TaylorMade’s 300 Mini Driver. … Players removed bounce from their wedges to help the club cut through the rough. Vokey’s A, L and low-bounce K were popular grinds at Torrey Pines. … Henrik Stenson added fresh Callaway Jaws MD5 Slate wedges (52 ad 58 degrees). … Dustin Johnson returned to TaylorMade’s TP Bandon 1 putter, while Max Homa added a new Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5. … Matthew Wolff’s setup consisted of TaylorMade’s SIM driver (9 degrees), P770 (3-iron), P750 (4-PW), Spider X and TP5 Pix golf ball.