Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Why 2 of Justin Thomas’ putters were in penultimate Players pairing
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.
History repeats itself
Unless you’re deep in the equipment scene, you most likely had no idea Tiger Woods nearly won a major championship with a Ping Anser 2 putter that once belonged to Mark O’Meara. As the story goes, Woods would make about 90 percent of the putts he looked at with O’Meara’s putter whenever he picked it up during practice rounds at Isleworth.
Woods needed O’Meara’s putter.
“No, this is my putter,” O’Meara recounted during an interview last year with GOLF.com. “I need it. I don’t hit the ball like you, I have to putt well.”
“Then you have to leave this putter to me in your will,” Woods said.
O’Meara still wouldn’t budge, but he did make a reasonable offer to his friend.
“You know, I’m not going to let you putt with my putter because I putt with my putter. But if you want, you can putt with my backup putter,” he said.
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For three months during the summer of 1998, Woods used O’Meara’s backup Ping putter, including during the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale — better known as the site of O’Meara’s second major victory. Woods would go on to finish one shot back with O’Meara’s backup putter.
In the aftermath of O’Meara’s win, he jokingly told Woods, “You know that Ping Anser 2 putter that you’re putting with? My backup? Why do you think it’s the backup? It always comes up one shot shy.”
Woods would switch to his iconic Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS the following year at the 1999 Byron Nelson, starting a run of 14 major titles with arguably the most famous putter in the history of the sport. It’s important to bring this story up because Justin Thomas lived out the O’Meara-Woods backup putter story during the final round of the Players Championship.
Unlike O’Meara, Thomas likely didn’t know fellow playing competitor Doug Ghim, who was paired alongside Thomas during the final round, was using one of Thomas’ backup Scotty Cameron X5 Flow Neck putters.
Ghim isn’t the first player to find success with a putter made for another player. Rickie Fowler’s original Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS was first earmarked as a backup putter for Woods.
In a repeat of what transpired at the 1998 Open Championship, Ghim finished behind the victorious Thomas at the Players Championship, proving once again that the backup putter is the backup for a reason.
Jon Rahm pulled the trigger on two Callaway Epic Speed “Sub Zero-T” fairway woods (3- and 5-wood) at TPC Sawgrass. Rahm, along with Maverick McNealy, added feedback on the look and feel of the new prototypes, which feature two weight ports in the sole — a design currently found on the Epic Max version.
“We’re always trying to test new stuff out on Tour to kind of help us with future product designs,” Callaway Tour rep Jacob Davidson told GOLF.com. “This 3-wood has a little bit of a smaller footprint and a deeper face. It also has much more camber on the sole, which allows players to have a steeper approach and not have to worry about turf interaction.”
Rahm received early prototypes prior to departing for Florida and was impressed with the fairway wood’s workability and turf interaction.
“Jon is very much a feel player who likes to hit a lot of different shots,” Davidson said. “That means being able to hit it off the deck and tee. He felt like having that extra camber allowed him to get a little bit more club on the golf ball.”
Lee Westwood picked the perfect time to throw fresh Ping i210 irons in the bag. The Englishman posted his second straight runner-up finish with a set of sticks that went in play the previous week at Bay Hill.
Westwood had the irons built to the exact same specs as his old gamers but chose to have the 8-iron through gap wedge — designated the “UW” with Ping — strengthened a half-degree at the bottom of the set to get his desired yardage gaps. Fresh grooves have a tendency to add a slight uptick in spin, so Westwood merely wanted to ensure the extra RPMs weren’t affecting his yardages.
Keeping it tight
One eagle-eyed cameraman managed to catch Bryson DeChambeau making what appeared to be an adjustment to his Cobra King Ltd Black driver on the 15th hole during the third round. One golf fan on social media posited that DeChambeau was making a mid-round “weight port modification.”
Driver adjustments aren’t allowed during the course of play, so that couldn’t be it. The correct answer is the spaceport found in the sole of the driver tends to come loose when DeChambeau connects with the ball, which requires him to regularly tighten the port during play.
When Cobra released the driver in 2015, DeChambeau was still in college and had yet to partake in speed training sessions. In other words, Cobra wasn’t expecting someone with DeChambeau’s speed to ever use the driver.
Even with the spaceport quirk, DeChambeau continues to use the driver.
Scotty Cameron’s Phantom X putter line extension has been on a roll since it was first introduced at Pebble Beach. Two more players made the switch at Sawgrass, including current gear free agent Sergio Garcia. The former Masters champion was interested in trying out the 5.5 head shape used by Justin Thomas but chose to go with the 11.5 after a discussion with Scotty Cameron Tour rep Drew Page.
“He really liked how the ball was coming of the face of the 11.5,” Page said. “It’s a larger head size than the 5.5 with higher MOI, which was giving him a little more stability, but ultimately he was looking for that really solid feel he was getting from the 11.5.”
Garcia finished T9 while ranking 53rd in Strokes Gained: Putting with the new wand.
Quick-hitters: Adam Scott returned to Fujikura’s Ventus Red 7X shaft in his Titleist TSi2 driver after noticing better face control during testing. … Louis Oosthuizen gave his Ping G425 LST driver to a lucky fan on the par-5 15th. He went on to eagle the hole anyway. … Dustin Johnson weakened his TaylorMade SIM2 Max 3-wood (16.5 degrees) to hit specific yardages at TPC Sawgrass. … Abraham Ancer switched to a Callaway Epic Speed Triple Black Diamond driver. … Titleist led the driver count with 44 in play. … Collin Morikawa added a TaylorMade P770 4-iron for the course setup. … Fujikura won the driver, hybrid and total wood shaft count for the week. … Tyler McCumber added bounce to his Callaway Apex MB irons for the Bermuda turf conditions during the Florida Swing.
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