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Why Will Zalatoris ‘re-did’ his entire bag, featuring a huge driver change

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Ben Jared

After a lengthy absence from the PGA Tour due to back surgery, Will Zalatoris appears to be back in form. His 69 in the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational comes after a runner-up finish at the Genesis Invitational and a T-13 at the Farmers Insurance Open. What’s not back, however, is Willy Z’s distance off the tee—and there’s a reason for that.

“I'm playing a shorter driver,” Zalatoris said of his 9-degree Titleist TSR2 with a Fujikura Ventus Black TR 7X shaft at Bay Hill. “I played a 44 1/2 [inch] driver pretty much my whole life. I played a 46 in 2022 when I had a great year. Then went back to the 44 1/2. I would love to go back to that 46, just to add another 12, 15 yards, but I never really was that great with hitting fairways, and so far, so good with hitting fairways. In reality, even though I'm losing distance, I'm hitting more fairways, so I'm kind of netting everything out.”

Well, yes and no. Although the body of work is small, Zalatoris is actually losing 20 yards off the tee as he is averaging 294.2 yards off the tee this season compared to 314.7 in 2022. And so far, he’s basically hitting the same number of fairways. His clubhead speed is down five miles per hour and his ball speed has dropped eight miles per hour.

A shorter driver shaft isn’t likely the sole reason, and Zalatoris pretty much acknowledged as much, saying he has simplified his approach off the tee, a concession to his recovery from his back surgery.

“We kind of re-did is whole bag: T150 irons, T350 3-iron and back to the 44 1/2-inch driver and changing from the TSR3 to the TSR2,” said JJ Van Wezenbeeck, director player promotions, PGA Tour for Titleist. “The impetus for all that were his back issues.”

Zalatoris first started testing the shorter driver in September 2023. “He’s so into golf and gave this a lot of thought,” Van Wezenbeeck said. “It was a length Will had played throughout his amateur and early professional career before moving to a longer driver to gain some clubhead speed.”

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Along with the change in length, Van Wezenbeeck noted what also was interesting was the move from the TSR3 to the TSR2 model. “The TSR2 tends to launch a little higher and when Will was re-working his swing to try and take some pressure off his back, what we found was launch was helpful and anything that allowed him to launch it higher and allowed him to swing the way he wanted to in order to avoid putting pressure on his back.”

Still, everyday players might wonder: does a shorter driver shaft always mean a reduction in yards.

The answer is a resounding no. Although it is true a shorter shaft is likely to somewhat reduce clubhead speed, most everyday golfers are more likely to make better contact with a shorter shaft.

The benefit of that could possibly be increased accuracy and distance. Since everyday players are not as skilled as tour pros, a shorter driver shaft could lead to more confidence and finding the center of the face more often. And since everyday players tend to hit the ball lower than tour pros, finding the fairway instead of the rough could yield additional yards of roll. More fairways and more yards? Might just be worth a try.