NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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The avalanche of gear news has continued well into January.
Rory McIlroy showed up to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a new TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver, changing from the SIM2 he used to win the CJ Cup this past fall. It comes on the heels of TaylorMade seeing 19 players put a Stealth driver or fairway wood in play at the Sony Open two weeks ago for the first full-field event of 2022. Harry Higgs and Haotong Li were among those under contract with the brand who made the switch, while Keegan Bradley, Kevin Chappell and Ryan Palmer were among those not under contract who converted.
Through two weeks of 2022, Callaway had seen nearly 80 percent of its staff players switch into a Rogue ST driver. The company was particularly happy to see Kevin Kisner finally bench his 2015 Great Big Bertha driver – which he has used in all four of his PGA Tour wins – in favor of the 9.5-degree Rogue ST he tested late last year. Kisner found that his mishits were more manageable with the new driver, and the evidence is clear in the early going as the former Georgia Bulldog started the year with a tie for eighth at Kapalua and a tie for third at Waialae.
We reported last week that Adam Scott no longer has a full Titleist staff deal, freeing him up to experiment with new clubs. Well, Scott went to Abu Dhabi with, to put it mildly, an oddly shaped putter. The flatstick is L.A.B. Golf’s DirectedForce’s oversized mallet, which has been described on social media as an “alien gardening implement” and “golf’s version of a vacuum cleaner.” As long as the ball is being sucked into the hole, we bet he won’t mind the comments.
Scott famously used a 52-inch Scotty Cameron Futura X putter to capture the 2013 Masters prior to the anchoring ban, but putting has traditionally been a sore spot for the Aussie – from 2005-2018, he never once finished in the top 50 of strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour and was often well outside the top 100. The last three seasons have actually been the best stretch of his career, as he ranked No. 31 in 2018-19, No. 49 in 2019-20 and No. 18 a season ago. However, he is off to a slower start this season (No. 93) and is hoping for a spark with the DirectedForce mallet.
In other putter news, Tommy Fleetwood benched his custom Odyssey 1-ball for an Anser-style Odyssey blade. Fleetwood is also among the converts to follow Bryson DeChambeau in using an LA Golf putter shaft, which he first tried with his TaylorMade TP Bandon mallet last year at the RBC Heritage.
The attention around Hideki Matsuyama usually goes to his ballstriking – and how could it not when he can hit a cut 3-wood from 277 yards, back into the setting sun, that finishes 32 inches from the hole? – but it’s worth reiterating that Matsuyama’s Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS won him the tournament more than any other club.
The putter is an ode to his hero, Tiger Woods. Matsuyama has struggled mightily throughout his career on the greens, averaging No. 128 strokes gained putting over eight full PGA Tour seasons, but he has rarely benched his Scotty because Woods rarely benched his. Matsuyama has collected seven of his eight tour wins with his Tiger-inspired Scotty. His Newport is nearly identical but does have a few subtle differences from the most famous putter of all time, including that Matsuyama’s putter face has milling marks whereas Woods’ flatstick is completely smooth.
Sticking mainly with the same putter hasn’t always worked out for Matsuyama, but the Masters champ has found magic a few times in the past year. His 1.81 strokes gained putting at the Sony Open ranked first in the field and was the best mark of his career for a single event.