AUGUSTA, Ga, -- As the Masters gets underway, you would think a major championship is the last place a player should be tinkering with their equipment. But just as players get a more-focused game face for the Masters, they also tend to take a harder look at their bats and balls, making absolutely sure they have the 14 clubs they want in the bag and that they all are in perfect working order.
For Phil Mickelson that not only means two drivers, but having the second one tweaked from 5.9 degrees of loft to 6.3 degrees on Tuesday. For Jim Furyk it means having a left shoe with plastic cleats and the right one with metal spikes because of problems with his right foot slipping.
Former Masters champ Angel Cabrera normally uses two wedges, but at Augusta he has three -- all with thin soles for the firm turf and the 64-degree bent to 62 degrees. Hunter Mahan had the lie angle on his 6-iron flattened a 1/2-degree. Miguel Angel Jimenez changed iron shafts. Louis Oosthuizen switched back to his British Open-winning Redwood Anser putter. Lee Westwood experimented with a belly putter but stayed with the Ping Scottsdale Wolverine H he used in Houston last week.
You get the idea. "Equipment is about eliminating variables," says Nick Raffaele, vice president of sports marketing for Callaway. "If a player feels he has done that by changing something, he's going to feel more confident on the course."
For these guys, confidence means changing loft or lie angle by as little as half a degree. In other words, the little things mean a lot.
-- *E. Michael Johnson *