Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Could this driver tweak help Rory McIlroy catch Bryson DeChambeau?

rory mcilroy driver

In an attempt to catch Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy could be shaking things up in the gear department.

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Martin Laird came out on top in Las Vegas. Tyrell Hatton hoisted hardware at Wentworth. But all anyone wanted to talk about — outside of Hatton’s hoodie — was a guy who finished five shots behind Laird.

Bryson DeChambeau has been the story in golf since the Tour’s restart at Colonial, and the roar has only gotten louder with each win and 400-yard bomb.

While some of DeChambeau’s peers have spoken out about the ever-widening distance gap between the U.S. Open champion and the competition, others have chosen to quietly conduct their own testing behind the scenes in an attempt to keep up.

Rory McIlroy hasn’t played since the U.S. Open, but he’s been busy ramping up the driver speed at the Bear’s Club. The four-time major winner posted footage of a recent drive that touched an impressive 191 mph in the ball speed department. It was a warning shot from one of the longest hitters on Tour.

Naturally, McIlroy’s numbers sent social media into a frenzy. While nearly everyone was fixated on McIlroy’s launch monitor, the gear-focused likely noticed something different attached to the head of his TaylorMade SIM driver: Fujikura’s Ventus Black shaft.

McIlroy has played Mitsubishi shafts in recent years, but his history with Fujikura runs deep. The company’s Rombax shaft was in his driver, 3-wood and 5-wood when he secured his first PGA Tour win at Quail Hollow in 2010; the Rombax product was a mainstay in his fairway woods through the 2016 season.

A brief shot of McIlroy’s stand bag revealed other driver shaft products resting nearby — including the Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Orange shaft he was using most recently — but it was Ventus Black that was in play when he touched 191 mph ball speed.

Is this his new shaft of choice? We won’t have to wait long to find out with McIlroy scheduled to play in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

First time’s the charm

Tyrrell Hatton wasted little time breaking in a slew of Ping G425 woods at the BMW PGA Championship. The eventual winner added a G425 LST driver, 3-wood and Max 7-wood to the bag and didn’t skip a beat. It was the most significant win for G425 since it landed on USGA’s conforming list less than two months ago.

What’s interesting about the release of this particular product is that we’ve still yet to see the official launch on the PGA Tour. The product initially debuted on the Japan LPGA Tour before making its way to Europe.

Special anniversary

The release of Titleist’s new Pro V1 and Pro V1x saw 12 players put it in play (evenly split between the two models) the first week it was offered. It was a nice 20th-anniversary gift for one of the most impactful product designs in the history of the game. Considering the popularity of Pro V1 and Pro V1x, some players wasted little time making the transition.

Stewart Cink only needed one practice shot to convince him to switch. Cameron Smith opened with three straight birdies in his first practice round with the Pro V1x. And then there’s Cameron Tringale, who shot 59 at Santa Ana Country Club the first time he teed it up with the new Pro V1.

Needless to say, the ball was a hot topic at TPC Summerlin.

“There’s potential for faster ball speeds,” Fordie Pitts, Titleist’s Tour Consultant for Golf Ball R&D, told GOLF.com. “There’s potential for great spin where you need it. There’s spin where you don’t need it. We had a player yesterday who did some testing with it and he came back and said, ‘Geez, if it plays like this in the tournament you guys have designed a perfect golf ball.’ So to get a compliment like that was pretty good.”

Good memories

Rickie Fowler categorized his putting performance during 2019-20 campaign as an “off year.” Fowler ranked 60th in Strokes Gained: Putting after leading the Tour in the statistical category in 2017, and ranking 13th during the 2018-19 season. Fowler recently tried a multi-material putter shaft. When that didn’t solve his putting woes, he opted to trade in his Scotty Cameron blade for a custom winged Futura X mallet. Fowler reportedly used a similar face-balanced putter 5-6 years ago and figured a new look couldn’t hurt.

Stable choice

Even one of the best ball-strikers in the world can benefit from some semblance of forgiveness. Leading up to the Shriners, reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa inquired about testing a set of TaylorMade P7MC irons. A recent blade user, Morikawa felt the misses were better with the cavity-back irons during testing, which prompted him to take the clubs for a spin in Las Vegas. Despite gaining two strokes on the field approaching the green and shooting six under for the first two days, Morikawa still missed the cut by a single shot.

Masters ready?

Bryson DeChambeau has a 48-inch weapon he hopes to unveil at the Masters — assuming everything falls into place. After signing for a final-round 66, DeChambeau detailed some of his pre-Masters goals, which includes getting to “around” 245 pounds and banging innumerable drivers before heading to Augusta.

“I don’t know how many drivers I’ll hit, but I’ll hit as many as I need to,” he said. “And from a speed training perspective, I could probably go upwards of over a thousand to probably two thousand, around two thousand drives the next four weeks trying to get my speed up. So it takes around 100, 130 to have good speed training.”

The 48-inch driver remains the most intriguing gear topic entering the Masters, but DeChambeau revealed there’s more to his chase to get longer than simply trying longer driver builds.

“It will be some weight training stuff, like a little heavier head, little lighter head, just to — like runners running downhill, right? Just trying to move faster. So that will be part of it too.”

Coming soon

One week after Emiliano Grillo was spotted with Callaway’s unreleased Callaway Apex MB irons, GOLF.com photographed Tom Lewis with an Apex model designed for a wider handicap range. The irons appear to have a removable weight port in the back of the head that could alter head weight and other characteristics.

Callaway’s new irons have been gaining traction in recent weeks. Adam Hadwin added the MB version — Patrick Rodgers, Marc Leishman and Chris Stroud are also using the irons — at the U.S. Open, while Kevin Kisner is reportedly testing a cavity-back prototype version and might add them to the bag as early as this week.

Quick-hitters: Matthew Fitzpatrick switched to Titleist’s TSi3 driver after playing a TaylorMade model since 2017. … Jason Day overhauled his TaylorMade P760 irons with P790 (3-iron) and P7MB (4-PW). … Bryson DeChambeau and LA Golf have been kicking around a square putter shaft. … Ryan Palmer added TaylorMade’s SIM driver (9 degrees) and SIM Max 3-wood (15 degrees). … On the 20th anniversary, the inside story of what the original Titleist Pro V1 launch was really like. … PXG’s “0211 FB” irons surfaced in Wyndham Clark’s bag. … Titleist won the driver count for the fifth consecutive event and saw six equipment free agents play the new TSi.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com

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.