PGA Championship 2019: The putter change Dustin Johnson made before contending at Bethpage Black
At the PGA Championship, three former major winners made putter changes, another player struggling on the greens found success with a funky-looking mallet and two prominent players swapped out some (or all) of their fairway woods in order to take on Bethpage Black.
PGA Championship - Round Three
FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK - MAY 18: Dustin Johnson of the United States lines up a putt during the third round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 18, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Photo by Christian Petersen/PGA of America/PGA of America via Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/PGA of America
Dustin Johnson made Brooks Koepka work for his second consecutive PGA title, and he did so with a new putter in the bag. Johnson, who had been using TaylorMade’s Spider Tour model, opted for the company’s new Spider X (in gold) with a SuperStroke Traxion GT Tour grip. The Spider X built off the Spider Tour’s success but with improvements in two key areas: alignment and off-center-hit stability. The Spider X uses a carbon-composite core that weighs just 15 grams, and a new steel frame that provides 30 percent more weight on the perimeter than before. Weights on the extreme heel and toe of the perimeter, which can be as much as 12 grams each, provide even more stability. To assist alignment, the thick, contrasting white band and centered black line helps the golfer focus on path. Johnson has tried aggressive alignment features before, including a T-line alignment aid that he used at times last year. The new putter worked well in its debut, as Johnson ranked 20th in strokes gained/putting for the week and third in putts per green in regulation.
If it’s a new tournament, odds are Adam Scott might be trying a new putter. At the PGA Championship, that putter happened to be one he was familiar with, a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Xperimental mallet with a long shaft. Scott, who had been using the massive-headed Directed Force 2.1 mallet, won the 2016 Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship with the Xperimental, which boasts a pair of 20-gram weights on the back wings of the putter to boost moment of inertia for better performance on off-center strikes. All the putter changing seems to have helped Scott so far. After four seasons in which he ranked no better than 128th in strokes gained/putting, the 2013 Masters champion currently stands 19th in that stat.
Zach Johnson owns two of the three major championships won with SeeMore putters (Payne Stewart has the other, at the 1999 U.S. Open), but the SeeMore putter Johnson was using at Bethpage Black was not the one he had in the bag for those victories. Instead, Johnson used SeeMore’s FGP Mini Giant Deep Flange—a model similar to his FGP, but with a larger head. According to SeeMore, the putter is created using four sets of non-adjustable copper weights in the extreme toe and heel section as well as the perimeter of the sole, to produce a desirable moment of inertia to size ratio. As with all SeeMore putters, Johnson had the company’s patented RifleScope red-dot alignment system.
When you’re coughing up strokes on the greens you’re willing to try almost anything, and Luke List is clearly nearing a breaking point. Starting with the 2015-'16 season List has ranked 152nd, 178th, 181st and T-153 this year in strokes gained/putting. Remember, this is the man who broke his putter during a match against Justin Thomas at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and had to putt with a wedge. So it was little surprise that List took the somewhat unusual measure of changing putters before a major, using an Axis 1 putter at the PGA Championship. The club, made somewhat more acceptable by Justin Rose’s use of it during his win at this year’s Farmer’s Insurance Open, is still, nonetheless, a somewhat unusual mallet with wings and a unique hosel design that helps produce a perfectly balanced putter that resists twisting to assist in applying a purer stroke. At least for one week the new wand worked as List finished sixth at Bethpage Black, while ranking second in strokes gained/putting at 7.218 strokes for the four rounds.
Like Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood enjoys being an equipment free agent. And Fleetwood took advantage of that freedom to sub out his fairway-wood lineup at the PGA Championship. Fleetwood added Ping’s G410 LST 14.5-degree 3-wood and Ping G410 17.5-degree 5-wood and 20.5-degree 7-wood. The G410 LST has a slightly smaller profile than the standard G410 and boasts a more forward and slightly lower center of gravity that helps get shots airborne, but with less spin.
Back in the days of Cobra’s Bio Cell woods, Rickie Fowler had rails welded to the sole of the club in an effort to put some weight low and assist with turf interaction—an homage to the company’s earlier Baffler clubs. The company was wise enough to make those standard on its fairway woods going forward, and Fowler had such a club in the bag at Bethpage when he put a Cobra F8+ 5-wood in play. The rails, which are fairly close together to enhance stability, get progressively taller as the lofts go up to better align with how the angle of attack into the ball likely gets steeper with higher-lofted woods.
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