Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Rory McIlroy found 3 game-changing clubs in the unlikeliest spot
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.
Maybe Rory McIlroy’s “lost” 3-wood was a blessing in disguise. After ridding himself of a club that wouldn’t behave at the Northern Trust, McIlroy hopped on his private jet and headed back home to collect some belongings prior to making his way back to Caves Valley for the BMW Championship.
At the top of his list was finding a replacement 3-wood to get him back to 14 clubs. McIlroy confirmed he worked on the range with TaylorMade Tour reps to get the club dialed in, but all of the gear he added to the bag came courtesy of his garage.
“It’s actually a 3-wood I used last year,” McIlroy said. “I went home, I went down to Florida after Northern Trust on Monday night, went into the garage and rummaged through a few different things, got my old putter back out, got my old 3-wood, brought a few shafts out, tried different shafts in the driver, went to a new shaft in the driver, and it seemed to work out today.”
In gear speak, McIlroy made wholesale changes. Sitting at 28th in the FedEx Cup standings entering the week — the top 30 advances to East Lake for the Tour Championship — throttling back wasn’t an option. In addition to the “new old” 3-wood (15-degree TaylorMade SIM2), McIlroy revealed he wanted to drop spin with the driver, which led him to try a myriad of shafts in a 9-degree SIM2 driver head.
Testing revealed Graphite Design’s Tour AD XC 7TX was the best match. It should be noted that McIlroy has never used Graphite Design in his driver during his professional career, making the swap a bit more intriguing. The shaft is designed around a soft handle and stiff mid and tip section that produce a low-to-mid launch with low spin.
“It’s not as if I was driving the ball badly,” he said. “Like I just had a driver I felt was spinning a little too much, so a couple of times last week into the wind I’d hit it and it would balloon up in the air and then if I wanted to try to hit a cut off the tee, I was not comfortable doing it because I felt like I was losing too much distance by hitting the cut.
“Getting a driver that just spins a little less just makes it more comfortable for me to aim up the left side and peel it off if I want to.”
McIlroy’s brief run with a Scotty Cameron 009M blade also came to a close, as TaylorMade’s Spider Tour mallet (single black sightline) made its return to the bag.
“[I]t’s funny, I thought about it, I said to Harry after the first round last week, I’m thinking about going back to the Spider, and then I proceeded to gain four strokes on the greens over the next two days with the blade,” said McIlroy. “But I think the thing with the blade is the good days are really good but the bad days are pretty bad, as well. There’s quite a lot of inconsistency in it for me. It’s almost like I need to practice with the blade at home because you have to get your stroke spot-on to hit good putts with that style of putter.
“But then when I come out here, I started hitting putts with the Spider again, and it felt so easy. Felt like I couldn’t not start it on line. It was sort of there’s a lesson in there somewhere about maybe just keeping the blade at home and practicing with it and then coming out here and putting with something that’s got a little more technology in it.”
In the end, the changes got McIlroy back on track — he moved from 28th to 16th in the FedEx Cup standings — and in the hunt for the season-long title.
Two minor changes. That’s all it took for Patrick Cantlay to turn into a worldbeater on the greens at Caves Valley. Cantlay switched to Scotty Cameron’s Phantom X 5 mallet earlier this season at the Zurich Classic and won three starts later at the Memorial.
“A little different for me, I switched over into a mallet,” said Cantlay, who switched to the mallet after playing a Scotty Cameron GSS Prototype for years. “It’s more face-balanced, so it felt just a little easier to aim and it felt a little easier to swing just straight back and straight through. Launch conditions have been really good and I’ve been making some putts.”
The putter seemed to be a great fit for Cantlay, but something was missing. Midway through last week’s Northern Trust, Cantlay switched to the same putter with a small sightline on the topline — a similar look to the retail version — that got the 5-time Tour winner back on track.
“I have been working with the guys over at Scotty Cameron all year since I got into this new putter,” Cantlay said after the win. “Finally have one that feels absolutely perfect, and I can’t thank those guys over at Scotty Cameron – Paul Vizanko and Jose [Hernandez] – enough. They just sent me a ton of putters, and I got the magic one now.”
In addition to the minor putter change, Cantlay added a line on the side of his Titleist Pro V1x, opposite the side stamp, to help with alignment on short putts.
“That’s new, and I use it on shorter putts if they don’t have very much break,” Cantlay said. “I thought it just maybe got me a little more specific on the really straight short putts, and I don’t use it on very many putts, but I think it’s helping a little bit on three to five-footers.”
The changes resulted in a historic week for Cantlay, who gained 14.6 strokes with the putter — a Tour record since they started tracking the statistic in 2004 — and made 537 feet of putts over the 72 holes of regulation (he added 33 feet, 6 inches during the six-hole playoff). Magic wand, indeed.
For almost any golfer on the planet, the launch monitor numbers would make you call shenanigans. The 292-yard carry catches your attention, but don’t overlook the 7-degree launch and 176.5 mph ball speed. To be clear, these would be impressive driver numbers (minus the low launch angle) … but we’re not talking about a driver.
For Cameron Champ, these were routine numbers with a Ping i500 1-iron.
Champ requested Ping build him a fairway finder for Caves Valley that provided some extra oomph off the tee. To satisfy his request, Kenton Oates and the rest of Ping’s tour crew concocted a 15-degree version of the popular hollow-body iron that features a high-strength, maraging steel face.
The end result? A long iron with driver-esque numbers. If only we were all so lucky.
Open Championship vibes
Collin Morikawa returned to a familiar lob wedge from his Open Championship-winning setup. The two-time major winner reinserted a 60-degree TaylorMade Hi-Toe Raw lob wedge with a paltry 7 degree of bounce for the course conditions at Caves Valley.
According to TaylorMade Tour rep Adrian Rietveld, Morikawa tends to opt for the Hi-Toe when the rough around the green is “high and thick.” With the course receiving a significant amount of precipitation leading up to the tournament, the rough was particularly penal in certain spots around the course.
Quick-hitters: Ryan Palmer traded out his trusty Odyssey Dual Force Rossie II — a putter he’s used going back to college — for an O Works 3T with a butane finish. … Dustin Johnson put a TaylorMade SIM2 Max (10.5 degrees; LA Golf Prototype shaft) driver in play. … Jhonattan Vegas tested Mizuno’s unreleased Pro FLi-Hi and 225 irons.
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