The 2014-15 PGA Tour season (re)starts this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, where 34 PGA Tour winners from last season will compete for the first trophy of 2015. With that, we’re back with weekly predictions and a look at what clubs might come in most handy for our favorites along the way.
For many players in the field—especially those who snagged their maiden PGA Tour win last season—the trip to Hawaii is a relaxing way to start the season. Allow Chesson Hadley to demonstrate…
Let’s just hope everyone makes it through the Hawaii swing alive.
Less frightening than cliff jumps but still somewhat scary are the huge, heavily contoured putting greens at Kapalua’s Plantation Course. Navigating these mounds successfully is often the key to victory. Of the last five winners of the Hyundai TOC (Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Jonathan Byrd and Geoff Ogilvy), not one has finished outside the top 3 in total putts the week they won. Both Stricker and Ogilvy led the field in that stat during their respective wins.
That said, here’s a quick look at our favorites this week based on putting stats from the 2013-14 season. Also included is each players’ putter of choice at Kapalua.
Brendon Todd earned his first PGA Tour win at the Byron Nelson Classic last season, and finished the year sixth on tour in strokes gained/putting. The 29-year-old Pittsburgh native also finished fourth in total putting, sixth in putts per round (28.32) and sixth in putting from 4-8 feet, where he made 73.84% of attempts from that range.
In Todd’s bag at Kapalua is the Rife Titan. His 360-gram model is made of stainless steel and aluminum and has 2° of loft.
Not only was Walker a first-time winner last season, he finished the year with three victories, one of which came at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He also recorded three top-10 finishes in majors and qualified for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Contributing to his breakout season were end-of-season rankings of 11th in strokes gained/putting and fifth in total putting. He was also third on tour in putting from 10 feet, making 54.55% of attempts from that distance.
After using a Scotty Cameron Tour Rat 2 Prototype for most of last season, Walker recently switched back to his old Scotty Cameron Newport 2 that he used as early as 2003. One of Walker’s favorite putters, the Newport 2 had become obsolete as his specs changed. It has since been refurbished and re-weighted, with 10-gram tungsten weights added in the sole.
Kuchar finished T-6 at Kapalua in both 2011 and 2014, and was only derailed last year by a third-round 75. He finished last season ranked 15th in strokes gained/putting and seventh in total putting. Annually one of the tour’s better putters and most consistent players (11 top-10s in 2013-14), Kuchar is almost always a safe bet.
Kuchar’s putter is the Bettinardi Kuchar Model 2 Tour Stock arm lock. The putter is modified with additional loft to accommodate for Kuchar’s unique arm-lock style grip, in which the putter’s shaft leans well ahead of the clubface.
The Hyundai defending champion can’t be left out of this conversation. Johnson finished a mediocre 79th on tour last season in strokes gained/putting, but was T10 in 3-putt avoidance and made 953 of 954 putts he attempted from three feet or closer. In 2013 he was 31st on tour in strokes gained/putting and eighth in 2012.
Johnson has been gaming a black SeeMore Precision Tour Milled FGP blade, otherwise known as the PTM1. It’s nearly identical to the model shown below but has a few engraving and paint fill modifications.
Check back on Monday to see what club played the biggest role in helping the 2015 Hyundai TOC winner to victory.