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.
Scottie Scheffler has been nearly unbeatable going back to last season, fending off numerous Jon Rahm heaters to wrest away the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking. One could contend Scheffler has no weaknesses.
The only way to take Scheffler down is to beat him at his own game — and that’s really difficult to do against someone who rarely makes mistakes.
Of course, it’s impossible to expect someone of Scheffler’s pedigree to be perfect. Every golfer has an area of their game that can be improved upon, and for Scheffler, it’s the putter. He ranked 58th on Tour last season in SG: Putting and made a couple of shakeups with the wand throughout the year, before ultimately going back to a Scotty Cameron Special Select Timeless Tourtype GSS Tour Prototype at Mayakoba.
This season hasn’t been much better for Scheffler, who sits 101st in the statistical category following a dominant win at the Players Championship. Mediocre putting can be offset by otherworldly performances from tee to green, which is exactly what Scheffler has been able to produce on multiple occasions this season.
Unlike Jordan Spieth or Tiger Woods, who live and die with their gamer putters, Scheffler has never been one to roll with just one flatstick, as evidenced by his changes last season. The 26-year-old actually swapped putters this season in an attempt to jumpstart his performance on the greens — but it flew almost completely under the radar.
Leading up to his first start of the year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Scheffler asked Cameron’s team to build him a carbon copy of his Newport 2 that was bent 2 degrees flatter than his previous putter. Following work on his setup during the offseason, he felt the lie angle was a better fit for his stroke.
Outside of the stamping in the cavity, it’s nearly impossible to differentiate the difference between Scheffler’s old and new gamer. It’s not uncommon for a pro to alter the specs of their putter during the season, especially when a setup or stroke change is being implemented. However, most usually alter their current gamer to see if it’s a good fit.
In Scheffler’s case, he had no intention of tweaking the gamer’s specs. In his eyes, if the flatter lie angle putter didn’t work out, he could always go back to the other Newport 2 and not have to worry about bending the head again.
As an added bonus, it’s a great way to keep the Masters-winning putter intact if things didn’t click.
With two wins already this season, it’s safe to say things are going according to plan with the carbon copy putter.
Not quite there … yet
Gear talk takes a backseat when the equipment trucks depart on Wednesday afternoon. The focus shifts to the action on the course when balls are in the air on Thursday. Or at least that was the case for five-plus hours until Rory McIlroy strolled through the flash area.
A 4-over 76 generally allows you to skip the media duties altogether, but McIlroy let the assembled scribes pepper him with questions about his round. What should’ve lasted a few minutes quickly turned into a discussion about a club in his bag that’s kept him a step ahead of his peers over the years: the driver.
Several weeks ago at Riviera, McIlroy made an impromptu driver change after the first round when he swapped out TaylorMade’s Stealth for the Stealth 2. Pressed to explain the change, McIlroy said it had more to do with being “sick of Tiger [Woods] outdriving me.”
That was part of the story.
As McIlroy later revealed, there was a more serious reason to ditch Stealth. Since the Tour started randomly testing the spring-like effect (known as Characteristic time) of the gamer drivers used by pros, it has placed the onus on the manufacturer and golfer to ensure their driver is legal for the week.
With the countless balls pros hit every day, it doesn’t take long for the face to thin out to the point where a driver becomes non-conforming. And in McIlroy’s case, he could sense things were starting to get out of hand at Riviera.
“I just didn’t even want to take the chance,” he said of the decision to remove the driver. “I just was not comfortable knowing that it could feel — doesn’t look good on me, doesn’t look good on TaylorMade.”
As much as we all want to believe every driver is the same, there are subtle differences pros can pick up on. In other words, McIlroy’s new driver doesn’t have the same comfy, reliable feel as his old Stealth. And that could be a problem.
McIlroy’s struggles were on full display at TPC Sawgrass. He hit just six fairways in round one and found himself out of position on numerous occasions, leading to costly bogeys. An off week with the driver isn’t anything to worry about, but with McIlroy in full-on Masters prep mode, a giant question mark surrounding the most important club in his bag is definitely a story to watch in the weeks ahead.
The one and only
The 1-iron is still alive and kicking on the DP World Tour. During last week’s Kenya Open, Masahiro Kawamura used a blast from the past in Mizuno’s MP-29 1-iron. The club was equipped with an Aerotech SteelFiber shaft, so it wasn’t a total throwback. (The MP-29 is best known as the long irons Tiger Woods used during his 1997 Masters win.)
According to Sports Marketing Surveys, which handles equipment counts on the DP World Tour, Kawamura used it several times during his round. In other words, it wasn’t a showpiece.
Draws for days
Hoping to find a 3-wood that was easier to draw and flight, Max Homa worked with Titleist Tour rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck on several different options at TPC Sawgrass. Homa had initially been using a 16.5-degree TSR3 with a Fujikura Ventus Blue TR 8X shaft but found the TSR2 and Ventus Red TR 8X to be a better fit during testing.
To get the flight he wanted, Homa went down 1.5 degrees in loft to 15 degrees but eventually added loft back to the head by moving the SureFit from C1 (the most fade-bias and flat setting offered) to D4 (standard lie angle with one degree of additional loft).
Collin Morikawa was another marquee name in the field who switched drivers at the beginning of the week. In Morikawa’s case, he returned to TaylorMade’s original SIM that played a role in both of his major championship victories at the 2020 PGA Championship and 2021 Open Championship.
With little time to break in a new Stealth 2 driver, Morikawa opted to stick with SIM, a known in his eyes, on a course where good driving is rewarded.
“I have a Stealth 2 driver that’s actually — it probably goes farther and it actually does what I want, I just haven’t put it in play yet,” he said. “It was something that we built earlier this week. Just to know where my misses would be, even though I missed a few left, I just know once I hit it off the face, I know where the misses are going to be. It’s nice to have something trusty. But I just didn’t have time to test my other one enough, especially after kind of having the misses on the last week.”
Quick-hitters: Adam Scott was spotted with a new set of Miura blades with fresh stamps. … FootJoy collaborated with fashion designer Jon Buscemi on limited-edition Premiere Series Field and Premiere Series Wilcox shoes. … Here’s what makes Tommy Fleetwood’s equipment setup unique.
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