Arnold Palmer was a renowned club tinkerer, so much so that his personal collection of golf clubs that he housed in Latrobe, Penn., was north of 10,000 clubs—including more than 2,000 putters. Even in his later years Palmer loved to fiddle around with equipment, certain that he could still find something that would allow him to play a little bit better. So with a nod to Mr. Palmer, we take a look at some significant equipment changes from this past week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, including a driver switch from the modern-day Palmer, Phil Mickelson, and a putter switch from a young player who nearly won the golf tournament.
Phil Mickelson used Callaway’s Epic Flash Sub Zero driver earlier this year before returning to the company’s Rogue model at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he won. At that event he said, “I went back to the driver I played well with in Palm Springs, and I'll stay with that all the way through Augusta.” Or not. At Bay Hill Club & Lodge Mickelson was back with the Epic Flash Sub Zero driver, and a close inspection of the club reveals an interesting twist: Lefty removed the movable weight from the rear track section of the club.
Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick might not have won the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but the runner-up probably played the most consistent golf over 72 holes, carding just four bogeys, which included only one over the final 40 holes. Much of that had to do with his fine work on the greens with a new Bettinardi BB1F Tour prototype blade putter. Fitzpatrick ranked a respectable 15th in strokes gained/putting and perhaps more importantly, made those momentum-saving putts as he ranked second in scrambling for the week. His putter had SUFC (for his favorite soccer club) and a purple N (for Northwestern University) stamped on the rear bumpers.
The nice part about being an equipment free agent is that you can play whatever the heck you want. That includes the golf ball, and Patrick Reed took advantage of that situation at the API to switch to Srixon’s Z-Star. The three-piece ball features a core design that is soft in the center but gets decidedly firmer toward the perimeter to give higher swing speed players more potential for longer driving distance. Enhancing the distance component of both balls is a new firmer, highly repulsive mantle layer to create more ball speed potential and a higher launch, something Reed was looking for.
For so many years high-lofted fairway woods were thought of as clubs used by weaker players who simply didn’t have the skill to hit a long iron. That stigma is now long gone, as many PGA Tour players embrace 5-woods and, in the case of Tommy Fleetwood last week at Bay Hill, even a Ping G410 7-wood. For tour players the ease of use isn’t so much an issue as is the extra height, which helps long shots come into greens at a steeper angle, making those shots easier to hold on the firm putting surfaces compared to a long iron. It’s something that on a course such as Bay Hill, with its four par 5s, could come in handy. Or another course in Georgia with four par 5s that is hosting the year’s first men’s major in a couple of weeks.