AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Justin Thomas realizes it. Rickie Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau, too. So does 2009 Masters champion Angel Cabrera. What these players have in common, along with a good many Masters participants, is the knowledge that getting their gear ready for the year’s first major is not something you do last-minute. In fact, many players have Georgia on their mind as much as a full month before the tournament begins—with one of the aforementioned players spending more than 14 hours with an equipment rep last week.
For Thomas, prepping for Augusta meant sending an early request to Titleist’s wedge man, Aaron Dill. Thomas wanted to pay tribute to Dill’s boss, the legendary Bob Vokey. Knowing Dill’s skill for taking ideas and translating them onto the back of a wedge, Thomas gave Dill almost a month’s heads-up—and was rewarded with a trio of beauties that not only paid homage to Vokey, but included his “Radar” nickname on one and a callout of buddy Brooks Koepka on another of his new Titleist Vokey SM7 wedges. This is some of the most creative work we've seen this week:
With the tour vans across the street and players familiar with the golf course, players know the drill. Some have even said that once they know they’re out of contention in tournaments earlier in the season, they’ll begin to work on things for the Masters, including trying to figure out what clubs they need.
For Angel Cabrera that means getting fresh Ping Glide 2.0 wedges with the company’s TS (thin sole) design. The thinner sole, Cabrera has discovered, works well with the normally tight turf and firm conditions presented by Augusta National.
Then there’s Fowler and DeChambeau. According to Cobra’s tour rep Ben Schomin, the pair do very few things with their equipment without the Masters in mind. “It’s top of mind for them throughout the year, and when we talk about things in the fall like a driving iron, wedge grind or whatever, Augusta always comes up,” said Schomin.
Which might have made for some interesting conversations in recent weeks as Fowler and DeChambeau have made significant iron shaft changes recently.
According to Schomin, Fowler came to him a couple weeks ago and told him that he needed more spin on his iron shots downwind. Rickie didn't think his irons were spinning enough to take advantage of the wind boost, and he didn’t have as much control as he would have liked because the distances weren’t as predictable. Schomin built him a bunch of different 7-irons in his Cobra King Forged MBs with different shafts, but he didn’t see much difference. Then he built him two more—one with a Project X LZ shaft and the other a True Temper Dynamic Gold S400. Schomin, Cobra's main tour rep, soft-stepped both (soft-stepping is changing the flex profile of a shaft by taking the shaft for one club and putting it in another, for example a 6-iron shaft in a 7-iron). Fowler, whose iron shafts are a half-inch shorter than standard, saw an immediate difference and put the new shafts in play with his King Forged MBs for Augusta National this week.
DeChambeau’s change was even more recent. Schomin went to see DeChambeau last Wednesday and spent 14 hours with the “Golfing Scientist” as DeChambeau sought more consistency in his wedges.
“We had tried varying head weights, then decided to try lighter grips,” Schomin said. “He normally uses a very heavy grip from JumboMax, but we tried some lighter options along with heavier head weights, some 300 grams in the wedges instead of the 275 grams he had been using. JumboMax did a great job getting us a number of prototype grips to try. They have the same dimensions and overlisting, but are made from a hard foam as opposed to rubber to reduce the weight. But then the wedges didn’t feel quite the same to Bryson. So we went from his True Temper Dynamic Gold X7 shaft to the S400 and the feel was exactly what he wanted."
DeChambeau also put the shafts in his 6-iron through pitching wedge in his Cobra King Forged One-Length irons, which he will deploy at the Masters.