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.
The title doesn’t come with a check or trophy, but Viktor Hovland can lay claim to the Ping i59 throne after he became the first pro to officially put the Tour-only iron in play at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Hovland (and Ping) refrained from discussing the new sticks, but it’s worth pointing out that almost two years have elapsed since the manufacturer released Blueprint on Tour — its last better-player iron model.
Go back another three years (2016) and you’ll find the release of iBlade. In other words, it’s been a while since Ping trotted out something on the lower end of the handicap spectrum.
What’s interesting about Hovland’s iron switch — it ended up being just i59 mid and short (7-PW) to go alongside three iBlades (4-6) — is that it actually coincided with a simultaneous wedge (Ping Glide Forged Pro prototype) and ball (Titleist 2021 Pro V1) change.
With a week off the road in between starts, Hovland likely spent a good chunk of time conducting testing to dial in his irons and wedges to the new ball.
Based on images from New Orleans, i59 appears to be a slightly more forgiving version of Blueprint with a similar (albeit thicker) muscle-pad design and slightly more recessed cavity. Increasing the size of the cavity should position extra weight around the perimeter for additional mishit protection.
A fixed weight can also be found in the sole that looks very similar to i500 and Blueprint, but based on the overall shaping and profile of the head, it’s more likely solid construction (Blueprint) than a hollow cavity (i500) product.
With i59 officially in the wild, expect others to follow Hovland’s lead and give the irons a shot in the coming weeks.
Mix it up
The same week Hovland broke in new irons, his Zurich teammate and fellow Norwegian, Kris Ventura, did the exact same thing, transitioning into a split set consisting of Ping i210 (4-7) and Blueprint (8-PW). According to Ping Tour rep Kenton Oates, Ventura was looking for more forgiveness and tested i210 the week of the Masters.
When he arrived in New Orleans, Ventura and Oates went to work on Trackman dialing in the setup and found Blueprint to be a better option for three-quarter and flighted shots with the 8-iron through pitching wedge.
Patrick Cantlay’s trial with an Odyssey White Hot OG 2-Ball at the RBC Heritage was short-lived. One week after the mallet went in play, Cantlay returned to a Scotty Cameron putter. Only instead of going back to his usual Newport 2, Cantlay opted for a Phantom X5 mallet (SuperStroke Traxion Flatso 1.0 grip) that allowed him to continue to reap the benefits of a more stable putter design.
The Phantom X5 prototype Scotty Cameron Tour rep Drew Page built for Cantlay features a double-bend shaft and no alignment aids.
“The Phantom X 5 gives Patrick the stability he was looking for,” Page said, “and without any lines he feels freed up to be more athletic with the putting stroke.”
Callaway has seen a significant driver usage spike from non-contract players in the last month. In New Orleans, 10 players chose to play a Callaway driver, including Michael Kim (Epic Speed), Chris Kirk (GBB) and Aaron Baddeley (Mavrik SZ D).
Quick-hitters: Odyssey’s 2-Ball Ten mallet led the way in putter usage with 10 in play. … Keegan Bradley added a 16.5-degree TaylorMade SIM2 fairway wood. … Thomas Pieters and Brendan Steele put TaylorMade SIM2 7-woods in the bag. … Kiradech Aphibarnrat switched to Callaway’s Apex TCB irons after testing them off-site in preparation for the tournament. Aphibarnrat told Callaway Tour reps he felt the irons added extra forgiveness and workability over his previous Apex Pro 19/Apex MB combo set.
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