The Loop

A tinkerer just like his grandfather, Sam Saunders qualifies for Open with caddie's irons

Professional golfers are used to having the ability to change equipment at a tour event, as equipment vans and tour reps are waiting to address any need. During a U.S. Open qualifier, that's not quite the case. But that didn't stop Sam Saunders from switching irons before his 36 holes Monday at Brookside Golf and Country Club and The Lakes Golf and Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Saunders, who used Callaway's MB1 muscleback blades at the Memorial, borrowed his caddie's Callaway Apex Pro irons -- a model Saunders has used in the past --  and shot 66-66-132 to grab co-medalist honors with Michael Putnam and earn a trip to Chambers Bay. Specifically, Saunders borrowed caddie Travis McAlister's 5-PW as well as his Callaway Apex UT 2- and 3-irons. Curiously, these irons were actually Saunders' before he gave them to McAlister.

I interviewed Saunders earlier this year about his thoughts on equipment, including his use of the Apex Pro irons. "I switched in Midland last year [at the Tour's WNB Classic]," said Saunders. "I was using the muscleback blades and was struggling a little bit with some shots into the wind. I was spinning the ball a lot and didn't get the distance I needed. So I decided to try something with a little more mass to it and these irons nailed it for me. I didn't feel like I had to force anything with these clubs." Sounds like a guy who likely shouldn't have changed irons in the first place, but Saunders also has a bit of his grandfather, Arnold Palmer, in him as he is a self-admitted equipment tinkerer. "The game has changed so much and equipment has changed so much," said Saunders. "There's so much more science than art now. But I still like to mess around. I'm always trying to get better, figure out a little bit of a secret. I'm definitely not afraid to switch clubs and I like keeping up with the technology in drivers. That said, I try not to make a ton of changes during the year because you can get caught up in trying something new every week." Maybe not every week. But the change he made before the Open qualifier turned out to be the right week.