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Tony Finau’s grip build sheet requires a degree in mathematics to fully comprehend the number of tape wraps required to build up arguably the biggest handle on Tour. Prior to joining Ping in 2018, Bubba Watson boasted the most unique grip build on staff. With a 12- and 10-wrap build up underneath the rubber, Watson’s bulging grip always looked as if it was going to burst at any minute.
What’s crazy about Finau’s grip setup is he actually has Watson beat in the tape wrap department.
With 13 wraps under the right hand and 12 under the left, Finau’s midsize grips more closely resemble a telephone pole than what you’d typically find on your sticks at home. Adding extra wraps to the grip allows Finau to all but eliminate the taper in the lower hand to produce a uniform thickness throughout.
“I’ve just always liked having a consistent thickness throughout,” Finau told GOLF.com. “I don’t like to feel as if my right hand is coming off the club when I release it. I just want the same feel from one club to the next.”
Attempting to install a total of 25 wraps underneath the grip is a daunting task for any tour rep. It requires patience and time to complete the project. To further complicate the grip installation, Finau started playing grips that were slightly askew several weeks back in an attempt to see more face at address and lean into his go-to fade shot shape.
“We’ve been messing around with turning the grip over because I like to see more loft than most guys,” Finau said. “So we tilted the grip a little bit more to the left to make the face look a little more open. That’s the way I like it. It’s more of a feel-based change. Anytime you can make a setup change for your benefit, that’s huge.”
Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates initially built the grips four degrees open on a new set of Ping Blueprint irons, but Finau’s coach, Boyd Summerhays, wasn’t convinced it was open enough for Finau’s liking — so he took a blowtorch to the grips and adjusted each one by hands.
“The gripping instructions are insane for Tony’s clubs,” Oates said. “As you can probably guess, doing them by hand is an inexact process. So we ended up doing some work for several hours at Ping to get them situated just how Tony wanted them.”
Finau checked out each iron in the bag and found the position of the 5-iron grip to be in the optimal position. From there, Oates drew a line on the face angle of the club and set every face angle in the set on the same line, which turned out to be 15 degrees open in the address position.
“It’s definitely a touch more [open] than Bubba [Watson] right now,” Oates said. “Tony didn’t use Bubba’s grips as a blueprint. This was all about Boyd and Tony trying to figure out a way to help his technique and get the ball to do what he wanted it to do.”
Once the grip position was agreed upon, Oates put each grip in the gripping station, secured it with plastic plates and rotated the grip to square, leaving the face in an open position at address. Because Finau’s clubs are so heavy, Oates was able to increase the swing weight in the driver and 4-iron through sand wedge, but he eventually ran into a problem when he came to the now-defunct Ping G400 Stretch 3-wood and Nike Vapor Fly Pro 3-iron.
“As we go with more grip weight, we need more head weight because he likes to feel the head,” he said. “I didn’t have an extra 3-wood and Nike iron for him, so I had regripped them and changed the back weighting on the 3-wood and added a strip of lead tape to the Nike. He’s now good to go for Players.”
More of a good thing
TaylorMade’s Stealth driver boasts a 60-layer Carbon Twist Face that’s unlike anything in the industry. I’m not talking about the eye-catching red color. Plenty of pros have been raving about the noticeable ball speed increases they’ve seen on the course.
For some players, the increase has been anywhere from 2-4 mph faster than their previous driver.
Scottie Scheffler has picked up just over 2 mph in the speed department since he switched to an 8-degree Stealth Plus. During the 2020-21 Tour season, Scheffler’s average recorded ball speed was 174.55 mph, good enough for 54th in the statistical category. Through Bay Hill, Scheffler ranks 41st at 176.58 mph.
In terms of distance, Scheffler is averaging just over 310 yards this season compared to 305 yards the previous year. No one is going to complain about more speed and yards off the tee.
Good while it lasted
Before Bay Hill turned into an absolute beast on the weekend, Adam Scott’s decision to go around the course sans driver looked to be a smart one.
The former Masters champion opened with 68 and chose to leave his Titleist driver in the locker and lean heavily on a 13.5-degree Titleist TSi2 3-wood in an attempt to find the short grass.
“Trying to hit fairways,” Scott said of his decision to go driver-less. “If you look at my driver stats, accuracy is not its best thing. Distance is fine, but accuracy is not good. If it’s not in the bag, it’s not a temptation.”
Scott stuck to the plan for the first round before reinserting the driver for the final three.
We need a break
In a move few noticed during the Genesis Invitational, Jon Rahm made a late putter swap during the final round of the event, benching his Odyssey White Hot OG Rossie S for a White Hot OG #7S. The putter remained in the bag when Rahm arrived at Bay Hill.
According to Joe Toulon, Rahm has worked regularly with a #7 putter when practicing at Silverleaf Club, his home course, and liked the overall look and feel of the head. But it still wasn’t enough to convince him to switch until he started “burning a lot of edges” with the Rossie S.
When Rahm arrived at Riviera to prep for the Genesis, he spent time on the practice green testing the #7 with Toulon to see how it performed. It didn’t take him long to pick up on several noticeable improvements while conducting head-to-head testing.
“His path looked very good with it,” Toulon told GOLF.com. “[The putter] stayed lower to the ground during the backstroke which allowed it to arc nicely and put him in a great position to release the putter through impact.”
Aside from the head change, Rahm refrained from making any changes to the weight, loft or length (37 inches). The only noticeable alteration was the addition of black sightlines to the wings for alignment purposes. Prior to switching to the #7, Rahm’s previous putter was “naked” — meaning it didn’t have an alignment aid on the crown.
The Pix design found on TaylorMade’s TP5 ball is meant to improve aim and visibility. However, as we’ve seen recently from the equipment manufacturer, it can also be used to bring out a golfer’s personality and celebrate some of the greats.
With the Tour shifting to Bay Hill, TaylorMade created a Pix ball around Arnold Palmer’s iconic multi-colored umbrella logo. Both Matthew Wolff and Tommy Fleetwood chose to use the Arnold Palmer umbrella Pix ball during the tournament.
Talor Gooch made several adjustments to his gear, but the one that stood out was the addition of Callaway’s X Forged UT (22 degrees) to replace the X Foged CB 4-iron he typically carries. The course-dependant change was made to give Gooch a long iron that helped deliver a slightly higher launch with similar versatility.
Minor loft adjustments were also made on Gooch’s Apex MB 8 and 9 irons to reduce the yardage gaps between the irons, while also reducing spin. The 8-iron was turned down from 38 degrees to 36.5 degrees, while the 9-iron went from 42 degrees to 40.5 degrees.
During a week where Bay Hill resembled a U.S. Open setup, every little improvement and tweak counts.
Quick-hitters: Jason Day signed a golf ball-only deal with Bridgestone Golf. … Check out seven interesting things we found in Jason Day’s bag. … Kevin Na added Callaway Rogue ST Pro irons at Bay Hill. … Matthew Wolff switched to a TaylorMade Spider GT Black mallet with a single bend hosel and short single sight line. … Tommy Fleetwood replaced his 3-iron with a 21-degree SIM2 Max. … Titleist won the driver count at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (35 drivers) and Puerto Rico Open (34).
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