How a strange and subtle tweak transformed Matt Fitzpatrick’s driving

Matt Fitzpatrick at 2023 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

After experimenting with different weight settings, here's how one grip change transformed Matt Fitzpatrick's driver for the better.

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If you ever wanted to draw an unusual parallel to the level of discernible feel professional golfers have and how small changes can make a big difference, think of the classic tale of “The Princess and the Pea.” As the story goes, only a real princess can feel a tiny pea under a huge layer of mattresses, and because of this, she has a terrible night’s sleep (don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this, I promise).

So just how the princess didn’t sleep well because of the pea, Matt Fitzpatrick was in a similar situation with his driver. Not long ago he had a left miss he couldn’t quite figure out. Turns out a big reason for that miss was something quite small, in the form of a counterbalanced weight placed under the grip in the butt end of his driver, and the only reason it was discovered was because Fitzpatrick needed a new grip.

“We did some testing in February last year, and never took it out,” Fitzpatrick said on Thursday, after he opened the Players with a 66. “I put weight in the grip of my irons, and it was successful for three, four weeks, and we thought, OK, well, let’s match it up with the driver because I felt there was a bit of an indifference there. … So we did, and then for whatever reason just forgot that it was ever in there. We took it out the week of Phoenix, and yeah, the driver has felt completely different.”

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All because he needed a new grip.

“I got it regripped at home and the guy that did it, he put a little bit too much tape on, so I took it to Titleist,” he said. “They regripped it for me and they’re like, ‘Oh, you know there’s a weight in there,’ and I almost had a heart attack.”

The weight in question was only four grams. From a technical standpoint, four grams isn’t much, but enough to alter the balance point of a club where some players — especially elite golfers — might change their release pattern, which is what Fitzpatrick was experiencing.

Fitzpatrick said he was getting “more face rotation, more kick from the shift,” which made left the common miss.

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And just how quickly did he see an imporvement?

“As soon as I came out and hit the next day, it felt night and day,” he said. “I could hit it as hard as I want and it wouldn’t go left. Previously, I felt like I hit it hard and it would just go straight left.”

And if you want proof of Fitzpatrick’s improvement so far this week at TPC Sawgrass, after the first round of the Players he ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off the tee, 5th in driving distance and hit 11 of 14 fairways.

It all just goes to show how sensitive some golfers can be to how mass is distributed in certain clubs, and for Fitzpatrick, this small change could pay off come Sunday.

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