Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Dustin Johnson finally found a TaylorMade hybrid
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. This week’s notes are highlighted by significant changes for Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Champ and Kevin Kisner, and a new deal for Eddie Pepperell.
The hybrid is a bag staple for many amateur golfers — the kind of club that sees action off the tee, from the fairway and everywhere in between.
Until Kapalua, the club was a foreign object to Dustin Johnson. Asked to recall when he last used a hybrid, Johnson vaguely remembered a moment after he turned pro when one took up real estate in his bag. TaylorMade was fairly certain Johnson had never used a hybrid, going all the way back to his junior golf days.
For Johnson, the hybrid — or “rescue,” as TaylorMade calls it — could never eliminate the left miss and produced launch and spin numbers that couldn’t keep up with the driving iron he’s used for so many years. Then along came TaylorMade’s SIM Max to shake things up.
During testing, Johnson found a 19-degree hybrid went too far, but when he went up to a 22-degree, the carry went to a “perfect” 255-260 yards. (Professional golfers: they’re just like us!)
Of course, there was more to Johnson’s new hybrid than simply capturing the perfect yardage. It also happened to be the first one he’d ever used that didn’t miss left — a common request for professionals with elite club and ball speed.
“I never thought that would happen,” Johnson said of the hybrid. “I hit it quite nicely. I don’t know, we’ll give it a run for a little while, see how it works.”
New pellets for X
Callaway has a new Chrome Soft golf ball in the pipeline that’s already receiving rave reviews from Xander Schauffele. It’s not yet clear how the prototype version differs from the ball available at retail, but Schauffele lifted the curtain back on a few improvements he’s noticed, including its spin performance on half shots and consistent launch on flighted efforts.
“I’m using a new golf ball, Callaway’s new Chrome Soft,” he said. “I’m not even trying to solicit it. It’s just, I feel more comfortable with it. Before I was a little worried with little half shots and spin, and now I’m more comfortable and pressing the ball lower to the ground, and not worrying about what it’s going to do, either blow up or get too flighted. I’m comfortable with how I’m hitting it, especially with those flighted shots.”
Along with adding a new ball, Schauffele was spotted with an Odyssey #7 prototype featuring the multi-material Stroke Lab shaft he was using most recently in a Tuttle mallet.
Cameron Champ is a freak on the golf course. With an average club head speed of 128.01 mph last season — the best by four miles per hour — the 24-year-old can produce numbers that don’t seem real.
Case in point: Champ chose to remove his Ping fairway wood and go straight from the company’s G410 LST driver into a G410 Crossover #2. During testing, Champ recorded a 281-yard carry with the club. Just take a look at the TrackMan numbers. Those aren’t doctored.
With an iron-like profile, Crossover can produce hybrid speed with the help of a C300 maraging face insert that acts like a souped-up trampoline at impact. Champ can attest to what the club can do on the course.
With those numbers, maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock that he’s considering playing without a fairway wood this season.
Change of scenery
The sole of Kevin Kisner’s Odyssey White Hot #7 is worn in spots where paint no longer exists. It has played a part in all three of his PGA Tour wins. Chances are he’ll go back to his trusty gamer at some point down the road. Like Tiger and his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS, you can only keep a good putter and his magic wand separated for so long.
But sometimes it’s beneficial to give something else a look when things aren’t clicking. For Kisner, he arrived in Hawaii feeling less than confident in his #7 — to the point, he started asking Odyssey Tour rep Joe Toulon for potential options.
Next to DJ adding a hybrid, Kevin Kisner switching from his longtime @odysseygolf White Hot Pro 7 to Stroke Lab Bird of Prey ranks as the biggest change at Kapalua.— Fully Equipped | GOLF.com (@Fully_Equipped) January 4, 2020
Kis wasn’t feeling the 7 this week so he tried BoP. Overall stability of the head sold him on the switch. pic.twitter.com/PDlIsMbiXv
Toulon reached into his bag and handed Kisner a Stroke Lab Bird of Prey mallet that checked all the boxes, specifically in the consistency and stability departments. The squared-off head shape frames the ball at address and works in tandem with a white high-definition line on the crown to enhance alignment.
Kisner finished 14th for the week while ranking 22nd in strokes gained: putting.
Weekend golfers rejoice
Speaking of hitting it too far, TaylorMade’s standard SIM 3-wood might not be an option for some tour players. Johnson, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff all noticed an abundance of distance with the fairway wood and chose to go up in loft and/or switch to a different head.
Rahm went from 15 degrees to 16.5 with SIM Ti 3-wood to gain an optimal launch angle and distance, while Johnson found a worthy option in SIM Max (Project X HZRDUS Black 95 shaft), a club he’s carrying 280 yards with a touch more spin.
Morikawa (260-270 yards) and Wolff ended up in the SIM Ti product as well, with both noticing more distance, higher launch angle and added versatility. Wolff went so far as to claim the 3-wood was the best he’s ever hit.
Too much distance can be a detriment to elite golfers who are trying to hit a number, but for the weekend golfer who can’t get enough ball speed out of their fairway wood, SIM going “too far” should be music to their ears.
A relatively quiet start to the January equipment signing period — outside of PXG’s recent haul — brought an interesting surprise to close out the opening week, as Eddie Pepperell announced on social media that he was departing Mizuno to sign a club and bag deal with Ping.
Instead of letting Ping make the formal announcement, Pepperell, who was already using a G410 driver and fairway wood when he was on staff with Mizuno, chose to do it on his own with a single photo of his new bag and gear. As of Sunday evening, Ping had yet to make the deal official on their social channels.
In terms of notable new additions, Pepperell joins Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton as i210 iron users. The iron was released in 2018 but continues to have a strong following on Tour.
The debut of TaylorMade’s SIM line at the Sentry Tournament of Champions provided an early look at what some of the biggest names on the company’s staff could have in the bag this season, in terms of driver. Rahm, Morikawa and Wolff chose the SIM head while Johnson wound up in SIM Max.
Morikawa saw 1-2 mph in ball speed after bumping his 8-degree SIM up two notches to obtain the control and spin he’s used to seeing off the tee. Wolff was taken by the flight and spin a 9-degree SIM head produced in the “hard winds” at Kapalua; he also noted the forgiveness and consistency of the head were superior to his previous gamer.
Rahm (SIM) and Johnson (SIM Max) both ended up in 10.5-degree heads that produced extra ball speed; Johnson was particularly impressed with the consistency in spin rates and ball flight he saw during testing.
Quick-hitters: Dustin Johnson wielded TaylorMade’s Spider X Copper mallet at Kapalua. … Patrick Reed carried a Grindworks staff bag for the first time in competition, which happens to be the name of the manufacturer who produced his custom-made irons. … Max Homa transitioned into four Titleist Vokey Design SM8 wedges (46-10F, 50-12F, 56-14F and 60-04L degrees) for the first time. … Collin Morikawa used TaylorMade’s TP Soto putter and TP5 ball. … Tyler Duncan switched from a 58-degree Vokey SM8 lob wedge to the WedgeWorks SM8 version. … Joaquin Niemann added Ping’s G410 LST driver at the Presidents Cup and still had it in the bag one month later. … Paul Casey is working with Dormie Workshop to design a collection of special headcovers during the 2020 season. … Rickie Fowler’s Hawaiian attire was the talk of the tournament. … Edoardo Molinari is living every golfer’s worst nightmare.