NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
BROUGHT TO YOU BY GOLF PRIDE, THE #1 GRIP ON TOUR
After three months without official competition, the return of the PGA Tour brought to light several equipment changes.
The most fascinating had to be Jimmy Walker’s decision to put a steel-shafted driver and fairway wood into his bag, making him just the third player since 2008 to do so. Back in April, Walker was experimenting with clubs when he discovered his old Titleist 970 fairway metal performed far better than he thought.
“I was blown away by how well it worked,” Walker said in a Titleist news release. “I remember it was the first club I ever had built by Titleist when I qualified for the Byron Nelson as an amateur in 2001. I had that club in the bag for the longest time.”
While Walker didn’t put that exact club into the bag at Colonial, he decided to use a True Temper X100 steel shaft in both his 8.5-degree Titleist TS3 driver and his 15-degree TS3 fairway metal. For the past six years, no PGA Tour player has ventured from graphite driver shafts because they are lightweight and allow for greater swing speeds.
In theory, going with the steel shaft sacrifices distance. Walker, however, averaged 322 yards off the tee in Round 1 of the Charles Schwab Challenge.
“I remember playing steel for the longest time and somewhere along the line, everybody’s like, ‘Well, you’ve got to make the switch to graphite,’ and we all did,” Walker said. “That was early to mid-2000s. I held out as long as I could. The steel just feels like it just works a little better for me. It’s been pretty interesting. The shaft is quite a bit heavier, but I also feel like it’s got a lot more play in it than the really stiff graphite. I just feel like it works a little better for my golf swing.”
Once Walker realized he wanted to use a steel shaft in competition, he reached out to Titleist rep JJ VanWezenbeeck, with whom he had been communicating before the 13-week layoff.
“I’m like, ‘JJ, ‘I am going to put this sucker in play,’ ” Walker said. “I was trying to be serious, and he’s laughing.
“He said, ‘Well let me try to find some X shafts if I can even get in the building. I’ll see if I can dust some off and build you a current model.’ Sure enough, he sent me a picture of this dusty box in the corner. He built the TS3 fairway and shipped it to me.”
There were other major champions tinkering with equipment changes, just not as drastically.
Dustin Johnson decided to give the TaylorMade Truss TM1 putter a shot, departing from the Spider Tour Mini. And Rory McIlroy was spotted testing a 9-degree TaylorMade SIM Max driver to potentially replace his 10.5-degree SIM driver, a move that would lower his ball flight.
And with the return to competition came a majority of players using FootJoy products. More than 50 percent of the field wore FootJoy shoes, compared to 14 percent for their closest competitor.