There was plenty to talk about in golf in 2022. The emergence of LIV Golf and Tiger Woods’ return to competition, of course, rank near the top. There was plenty to talk about in the area of equipment, too. An old set of irons sold for millions, a high-profile player’s equipment deal was placed on pause and putter changes that led to a major title and ascent to World No. 1 among them. Several other stories of note relating to bats, balls and, of course, the hot-button topic of equipment rules grabbed our attention during the past 12 months. As such we give you our top equipment stories of 2022.
Tiger Slam irons bring millions
Could a set of irons whose authenticity is questioned by the man who used them really bring a whopping windfall at auction? The answer was definitively. Irons put forth as being the clubs that Tiger Woods used to win the “Tiger Slam” (2000 U.S. Open, Open Championship and PGA along with the 2001 Masters) sold to an unnamed American buyer in April for an incredible $5.156 million on Golden Age Auctions.
Houston businessman Todd Brock sold the Titleist 681-T irons, after buying them in 2010 former Titleist director of tour operations Steve Mata for just $57,242. However, as they did in 2010, Tiger’s camp denied these were the actual irons.
“Tiger has the authentic set of the Slam irons in his house,” said Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg. “Do you think Tiger would ever give away something that meaningful to his career? Could there be replicas out there that he was generous in giving away? Sure. But replicas versus authenticity—read into it as you will.”
Callaway “pauses” relationship with Phil Mickelson
Since signing Callaway in 2004, Phil Mickelson had been an integral part of the company’s tour pro staff. In fact, the longstanding relationship was set to continue for some time as Callaway stated he would represent the company for “the remainder of his competitive career” after re-upping him in 2017.
But the sentiment changed quickly after Mickelson’s explosive comments to writer Alan Shipnuck regarding LIV Golf and its Saudi-back funding were published in February. Mickelson, among other things, acknowledged the Saudis troubled human-rights record (“They’re scary motherf------ to get involved with”) but said he continued to plan to work with them in order to try and gain concessions from the PGA Tour.
"Callaway does not condone Phil Mickelson’s comments and we were very disappointed in his choice of words—they in no way reflect Callaway’s values or what we stand for as a company," a company spokesperson told Golf Digest, later adding, “At this time, we have agreed to pause our partnership and will re-evaluate our ongoing relationship at a later date.”
Ten months later, with Mickelson playing regularly on the LIV Golf circuit, there has been no re-evaluation.
Putter changes propel Scheffler
PGA Tour players switch putters all the time. Few, however, enjoyed the immediate success that Scottie Scheffler found in February. Scheffler went to a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Special Select Timeless Tourtype GSS at the WM Phoenix Open, where he won his maiden PGA Tour title. That sparked an career-changing run for the 26-year-old, who went on to win three of his next five events, culminating with the Masters, and ascending to No. 1 on the World Ranking in the process.
Scottie Scheffler, lining up a putt during Sunday's final round of the Masters.
Scheffler’s putter has a finished length of 36.25 inches and two 25-gram adjustable weights in the sole. But at Augusta National, some changes were needed. Prior to the tournament, Scheffler felt something wasn’t right with the putter and had Scotty Cameron tour rep Drew Page check it. Scheffler’s instincts were spot on. The shaft had been bent and the loft and lie angle were both off by multiple degrees. A new shaft and grip were installed, and Scheffler went on to win his first major title.
The passing of a longtime equipment writer
If you read about golf equipment, you’ve probably read some of Jim Achenbach’s work. That made it a sad day in the equipment arena when Achenbach passed away in April at age 78.
Jim Achenbach got his own parking spot in the Masters Media Lot after earning the Masters Major Achievement Award (photo courtesy of Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The lanky Achenbach was known to tour pros and industry execs alike, with a passion and enthusiasm for covering the equipment beat that kept his readers informed, educated and entertained for the 24 years he worked at Golfweek, a run that ended with his retirement in 2015. He earned the Masters Major Achievement Award for covering 40 Masters in 2010 and several awards from the Golf Writers Association of America.
As Golfweek’s Jason Lusk wrote, “He could hobnob with USGA or R&A executives just as easily as he would listen to the preachings of a local club fitter at a small, independently owned retail golf store. He was always happy to talk golf.”
Grips less than an inch apart lead to DQ
Ty Gingerich and Cole Harris, teammates at the University of Cincinnati, were 1 down with two holes to play in their quarterfinal match at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in May when play was stopped due to darkness. As it turned out, they never got a chance to stage a comeback.
That’s because the split grips on Gingerich’s 39.5-inch TaylorMade Spider putter were too close together. According to the rules, split grips on the same club must be at least 1.5 inches apart. Gingerich’s grips were less than an inch apart, according to the USGA, which discovered the issue the morning that the match was supposed to resume. Because he'd played with the club already throughout the match, the violation of the rule came with the harshest of penalties: disqualification.
For his part, Gingerich handled the gut-wrenching situation with class. “I was just shocked,” Gingerich said when reached by Golf Digest driving back to his home in Carmel, Ind. “I didn’t even know it was a rule. I had never heard of it before. No one has ever told me about that. But you know I guess it’s my fault. I should have looked deeper into that. I made a mistake.”
Stark didn’t check the list twice
Maja Stark, a 22-year-old Swede who earlier in the summer earned her LPGA Tour card, learned the hard way to be careful when using prototype clubs.
That’s because Stark was disqualified from October’s LPGA Ascendent event in Texas ahead of the second round for putting a Ping G430 driver in play. The problem? Stark jumped the gun as the club had not yet been listed on the USGA’s List of Conforming Clubheads.
Stark took the DQ in stride (she shot 75 in the opening round so just making the cut would have taken some doing), taking to Instagram to explain the situation.
“So I’ve gotten some questions regarding my DQ this week. Yes, I played with a driver that wasn’t on the list of approved drivers yet (but it is conforming to the rules). I got it on Wednesday from a tour rep and hit good shots on the range. There was some miscommunication, which resulted in neither me nor my caddie (who was with me when I tried it out) being aware that we couldn’t use it in competition yet. It’s my responsibility to know that my clubs are alright to use according to the rules, but I didn’t even think of looking it up or asking because I just assumed that the clubs I get will be okay. S*%t happens!”
Excessive paint leads to Matsuyama DQ
Hideki Matsuyama is a former winner of the Memorial in 2014, so he was likely looking forward to teeing it up in the event this past June. His week didn’t last long.
After just nine holes officials pulled the 2021 Masters champ from the course, informing him that the 3-wood he was using was in violation of the rules because it had white paint on the face. The paint was deemed to be a foreign substance and applying those to the face of golf clubs is an equipment no-no. The club would have been OK if it had not been used, but Matsuyama confirmed he hit his opening tee shot with it, resulting in a DQ. Although the paint was for alignment purposes, it was deemed there was an excessive amount of it on the face.
"Our committee became aware through some pictures that were posted that there may be a substance that has been painted on the face of one of Hideki's clubs," rules official Steve Rintoul explained. "And we approached Hideki [on the second hole] and went through the process. Hideki, are you carrying this club? Yes. Have you used this club? Because if he hasn't used the club, it's okay to carry a nonconforming club, you just can't use it. Have you used this club? Well, the poor guy has played one hole, and he managed to use it off the first tee.”
Would you like a sleeve of balls with that?
Shane Lowry is the epitome of the everyman, despite being a highly successful PGA Tour player with a major title to his credit. So, it was no surprise that after breaking his putter during the first round of the CJ Cup at South Carolina’s Congaree Golf Club in October that he took a perfectly logical approach to a replacement: He went shopping.
Lowry went to the PGA Superstore in Bluffton, S.C., about an hour away. Originally it was thought he went there on his own, but as it turned out, a member of Lowry’s team called Odyssey, which got a replacement White Hot 2-Ball Pro to the store. When Lowry went to pick it up, he bought another putter as an additional backup, forking over the full $229 like any other hacker would. Sometimes being the everyman can be costly.