Seen on tour
Brooks Koepka made some significant equipment changes en route to winning at TPC Scottsdale
Week in and week out, the equipment scene shifts on the PGA Tour. At the Waste Management Phoenix Open just outside Phoenix, that meant a trio of significant driver changes for two former major winners (Brooks Koepka and Gary Woodland) and one of the tour’s best drivers of the ball, Sam Burns.
Koepka updates his driver
On Friday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Brooks Koepka was asked what his comfort level was with the club changes he had made this year. “I mean, they wouldn't be in the bag if I didn't like them, right?” the four-time major winner replied.
Although the question likely was targeted to Koepka’s switch to Srixon’s ZX7 irons, Koepka made another change at TPC Scottsdale, changing from TaylorMade’s M5 driver to the company’s newer SIM2.
The SIM2 is a mid-launch, low-spin driver, the result of using material other than titanium pretty much everywhere but the face. That allowed designers to reallocate weight where it would be best suited. The other remarkable part of the design is that there is not a single weld anywhere to be found, allowing for a specific variable-face design to boost performance.
Koepka’s new driver has the same 10.5 degrees of loft as the M5 he was using as well as the same Mitsubishi Diamana D-LTD 60 shaft. The new clubhead, old shaft combination produced a driving distance average of 321.1 (ranked 10th), which helped Koepka produce 22 birdies and a pair of eagles en route to his eighth PGA Tour win, ending a streak of three straight missed cuts.
Burns has a need for [Epic] Speed
Sam Burns might be the one of the last players you’d look at to make a driver switch. Burns, after all, came to the Waste Management Phoenic Open ranked third in strokes gained/off-the-tee at .980, behind only Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy. He also was 14th in distance at 311.6 yards.
Still, on Monday at TPC Scottsdale—fresh off playing in the final group on Sunday at the Farmers Insurance Open—Burns went to the tour truck in search of a new big stick. “It’s a fine line for a rep knowing when to approach a player about a switch,” said Jacob Davidson, PGA Tour rep for Callaway. “One of the things we’re constantly doing is monitoring their stats through ShotLink, and we know Sam has a DNA he needs to be operating at from a spin and launch perspective when he’s playing his best golf. He likes to have between 245 and 255 rpms per degree of launch angle. At Farmers it ticked up higher. He was spinning it closer to 280 rpms per degree of launch. We saw that. On Monday Sam said he felt even as well as he was hitting it, that he wanted to spin it a little bit less—about 150 to 200 rpms less to help shots into the wind. All we did was go into Epic Speed with a little less loft. He was in the 10.5 Mavrik head and we put him in the 9-degree Epic Speed head (with a finished loft of 8.8 degrees) and set it up with the same lie angle and weighting.”
Burns' new driver has the same shaft as his previous gamer—a TPT 15.5 X-flex tipped half an inch. The 45-inch shaft weighs 67 grams with a D-6 swingweight.
According to Davidson, Burns prefers to hit little pull cuts off the tee—a shot that starts four or five yards left of center and falls back to his target. “Right away the launch window was a little lower, which he likes,” said Davidson. “A low, piercing pull cut. He loved the sound and feel. He hit six balls each with his Mavrik and Epic Speed and his dispersion was significantly tighter with the Epic Speed. He handed us the Mavrik and said we could take it back to the truck.”
Burns fired an opening-round 64 and was two off the lead going into the weekend before finishing T-22 at the Waste Management, averaging 328.3 yards off the tee, which ranked fifth for the week.
Woodland goes Rad
Coming into the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Gary Woodland had a -1.156 strokes gained/off-the-tee mark, ranked 236th on tour. Compare that to his 2019 mark of .472, which ranked 19th, and that's a difference of six shots over 72 holes. Given those numbers, it’s little wonder Woodland decided to shake things up at the top end of his bag, putting a 9-degree Cobra King Radspeed XB (with the same Accra Z RPG shaft he had been using) in play.
The XB—one of three Cobra Radspeed drivers—features a longer front-to-back shaping and more weight moved to the rear of the head to provide stability on off-center hits.
Woodland missed the cut in Phoenix, but there were some encouraging signs. After a shaky first round Woodland rebounded with a no-bogey 67 in the second round in which he gained .680 strokes gained/off the tee. For the two rounds he also averaged an impressive 325.6 yards off the tee, which would have ranked seventh for the week.