NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
BROUGHT TO YOU BY GOLF PRIDE, THE #1 GRIP ON TOUR
Gear junkies will plainly admit that equipment setup accounts for only a limited portion of a player’s success or failure. There are hundreds of contributing variables in play – that includes everything from agronomy to psychology – and it’s a tall order to pinpoint what place equipment has in the grand scheme of things.
At the end of the day, all we can do is speculate.
Take the case of Brandt Snedeker, one of the most underappreciated players of the past decade. In that time span, he won eight PGA Tour titles and had 15 top-25s in majors, good enough that he reliably ranked among the top 60 of the world – and often within the top 20 – at the end of each year. However, this past year Snedeker only registered a single top-10 finish in his 20 appearances and fell all the way to No. 94 in the rankings, his worst standing since 2009. For a recession-proof kind of a player like Snedeker, a drought like this is puzzling.
At first glance, you could solve that puzzle by blaming this slide on wholesale gear changes. The 37-year-old Tennessean became an equipment free agent late last year and changed out of a mostly Bridgestone bag into a mixed setup featuring a Ping G410 Plus driver, Srixon Z785 irons and three Callaway Mack Daddy 4 wedges. Only his trusty Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie putter, a club he has used nonstop for the past 14 years, and his Bridgestone Tour B X ball has remained the same.
Then again, maybe the equipment change has less to do with the slump than we thought. For starters, Snedeker’s dominant putting numbers fell to slightly more human levels (37th in strokes gained putting), leaving him with his worst year on the greens since 2008. Given that Snedeker is among the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour and the gap between his average drive and everyone else’s average drive is growing, he needs his putter to carry a larger load.
Eight years ago, Snedeker averaged 288 yards off the tee and ranked 110th on the PGA Tour in driving distance. This past year he averaged the exact same yardage off the tee and ranked 162nd in driving distance. If you rank 169th in strokes gained off the tee like Snedeker does, something remarkable has to offset that. His putter didn’t do that in 2020.
And then there is another factor of Snedeker’s equipment DNA remaining almost identical. The structure of his set – driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, 4-PW, 52-, 56- and 60-degree wedges – is the same and his specs throughout each category are almost exactly the same. His 5-wood, lob wedge and iron shafts are all the same, and he continues to play a forged cavity-back iron. The brands are different and there are aesthetic changes, but there’s far more in common than anything else.
The lesson is that equipment isn’t always the leading culprit in a down year for a player who just switched out most of his bag. Golf is a complicated game and it doesn’t take terribly much to turn momentum in either direction.
At last week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, Justin Thomas found success playing the new 2021 Titleist Pro V1x for the first time in competition. Thomas tested the new ball with Titleist’s golf ball tour consultant, Fordie Pitts.
“Justin and I worked together at his home club in Florida during Thanksgiving week, testing golf balls and discussing his performance goals for next season,” Pitts said. “One of the things J.T. has been talking about wanting to see is a slightly higher trajectory in the long game, so he was really excited to see the ball flight and distance he was getting with New Pro V1x.
“He also pointed out how well it held its line in windy conditions. We tested other options, but he wanted to put the new Pro V1x in play in Mayakoba and see how it performs under the gun in competition.”
Thomas jumped into contention with a third-round 62 and ranked well within the top 10 in driving distance on the way to a T12 finish.