Though the people watching amongst the party atmosphere at the Waste Management Phoenix Open is the more common activity, equipment aficionados could also appreciate that big-name players such as Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson made some significant changes to their gear at TPC Scottsdale. Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, Dustin Johnson won his first European Tour event with a new driver as well. Here are details on the biggest equipment changes of the week:
It was a visit to Scotty Cameron’s studio where Justin Thomas told Cameron he was seeking a smaller mallet that he could align easily, but also one that promoted the arced putting stroke he preferred. The result was the Futura 5.5M putter, a club Thomas has used for most of his professional wins. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open Thomas was using a derivative of that club, one of Cameron’s Phantom T 5.5 prototypes that he first put into play at the Sony Open in Hawaii. The putter, which has 10-gram weights in the sole instead of the standard five-gram weights, is also a little more upright with a touch more toe hang than his previous gamer.
Bubba Watson came to the Waste Management armed with a new driver, Ping’s G410 Plus. The two-time Masters champ had no trouble getting acclimated to his new club, ranking first in driving distance at 326 yards (he was at 338 through three rounds before a cold, rainy Sunday brought the average down) and first in strokes gained/off the tee at more than seven strokes better than the field. While Watson still employed the True Temper Grafalloy BiMatrx shaft that he has been using since 2004, notably absent was his hallmark pink-colored clubhead as Watson used a standard-color club. Not that Watson was completely devoid of color, as he played with a yellow-colored Titleist Pro V1x.
Phil Mickelson is normally quick to adopt Callaway’s latest driver technology, and it didn’t take him long to put the company’s new Epic Flash driver in play. Mickelson tested the 9-degree club with a Project X HZRDUS T1100 shaft on Tuesday and Wednesday and decided to put it in play. The club features the company’s “flash face” design, which came about through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Driver changes for some of the world’s best players wasn’t reserved just for those playing in Scottsdale. Halfway around the world in Saudi Arabia, Dustin Johnson switched to TaylorMade’s new M6 driver, which boasts the company’s “speed injected” face where the club is made beyond the legal limit for springlike effect before a resin is injected to bring it below the limit. Johnson had used the M5 version earlier in the year, but moved to the 10.5-degree M6, preferring its more forgiving clubhead. The move worked well as Johnson won the Saudi International for his first European Tour win.