Rory McIlroy influenced Justin Thomas’ latest gear change for the Masters
Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas are friends who just so happen to belong to the same private club in Jupiter, Florida — the Bear’s Club. When you’re buddies near the top of golf’s food chain, practice rounds are going to happen. And when practice rounds happen, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to think the conversation might turn to the gear in the bag.
Professional golfers, for the most part, are curious about what their peers are playing, especially when they’re on a heater. It’s important to point all of this out because McIlroy and Thomas are definitely sharing clubs — and gear notes — during practice rounds.
When McIlroy switched to Vokey wedges at the beginning of the year, it was Thomas’ wedges that turned out to be the impetus behind his decision to try different scoring tools.
“I see Justin Thomas all the time at home and messing around with some of his wedges and some of the grinds he has,” McIlroy said during the Waste Management Phoenix Open. “I got in touch and ordered a couple, and they’ve worked really nicely.”
Last week, McIlroy returned the favor during a friendly practice round when he let Thomas try out his new Scotty Cameron 009M blade. Thomas briefly went back to a blade in January after using a mallet almost exclusively for several years, but it wasn’t the overall look of McIlroy’s wand that had Thomas engaged during the round.
Instead, it was a lesser-discussed piece of gear: the putter grip.
Almost every putter Thomas has used over the last few years has featured a larger SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour grip to help quiet his hands ever-so-slightly during the stroke. Thomas’ brief foray with a blade from his middle-school days meant the return of a more traditional Scotty Cameron cord grip, but the putter and grip last long.
While the grip didn’t stick the first time around, handling the pistol grip on McIlroy’s Cameron 009M made Thomas wonder if he should try out a smaller pistol-style Cameron grip on one of his X5 backup mallets. So he had one built up to test — and things started to click on the greens.
“It’s very similar to a grip I’ve used and won with quite a bit,” Thomas said. “And my dad had it as well. We played on Sunday, and I picked his up and I said this does feel pretty good. I’ve traveled with an identical backup every single week, and I just threw it on there to see how it felt, to be perfectly honest, and it feels pretty good, so why fight it.”
Entering the Masters, Thomas ranked 147th on Tour in SG: Putting, so if ever there was a time to find a spark with a gear change on the greens, it’s now. So far, Thomas has been pleased with how the mallet and new grip performed during practice. The big test comes tomorrow as Thomas prepares to tee off in search of his first green jacket.
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