Justin Rose didn’t take long to give Honma a little something for their endorsement dollars. Less than two weeks after Rose signed a lucrative, multiyear pact with the Japanese equipment maker, the World No. 1 responded with a convincing victory at the Farmers Insurance Open, solidifying his hold on the top spot on the World Ranking, and, perhaps more importantly, quickly putting to rest any potential talk that he might have made a mistake by walking away from TaylorMade after two decades with the company.
That said, Rose did have some TaylorMade influence in his equipment, as he continued to use the company’s TP5x ball and had a new M6 fairway wood in the bag. But it was the Honma equipment that served Rose well. Rose used a 9.5-degree Honma TW 747 driver effectively (averaging almost 310 yards per measured tee shot and hitting nearly two-thirds of his fairways), but was particularly efficient with his TW 747 Rose prototype irons with Lamkin R.E.L. ACE grips, which he used to finish T-2 in the field in greens in regulation at 77.8 percent and which he had input into the design.
“That was really important,” Rose told Golf Digest upon signing with Honma. “Obviously, TaylorMade’s been one of the juggernauts of the game. There’s elements there that you can have an influence on, but they have a solid R&D team that’s working years in advance. The collaborative process of making these [Honma] irons was so much fun. I was able to make them look and feel like my own, which I think is awesome. … “Even in the utilities, the top line and toe profile look like they flow through the set. Before I felt like I had two different sets. There was that awkward transition. I don’t feel like I have that now, which is great.”
Great could have described Rose’s iron game over the first two rounds when he hit 32 of 36 greens in posting scores of 63-66, that provided a welcomed cushion heading into the weekend.
Rose’s putter also is worth noting. Rose collaborated with a company called Axis 1, based outside Boston, on a mallet with wings with a unique hosel design that helps produce a perfectly balanced putter that resists twisting to assist in applying a purer stroke. Although Rose was serviceable in strokes gained/putting (ranked 28th), he made the most of his birdie opportunities, ranking T-3 in putts per green in regulation. There also was a key par-save putt on No. 15 and a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 16 Sunday to erase all doubt as to the outcome.
The win helps drive home the fact that switching equipment is less riskier than it used to be. Although there can be a learning curve for some players (see Rory McIlroy), manufacturers are better able to duplicate a players specs. There’s also less pressure to play certain clubs, leading to less chance of a player being uncomfortable with their equipment as was the case with Payne Stewart and Lee Janzen some 25 years ago when changing equipment had deleterious effects on their careers at the time. Instead, Rose is off to a good start in 2019, and Honma has received an immediate return on its investment.
What Justin Rose had in the bag at the Farmers Insurance Open
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Driver: Honma TW 747 (Honma Vizard FD-7X), 9.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M6, 15 degrees
Irons (2): Honma TW-U; (4-PW): Honma TW Rose prototype MB
Wedges: Honma TW Rose prototype (52, 56 degrees); Titleist Vokey SM7 (60 degrees)
Putter: Axis 1 prototype