Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Schauffele’s new Callaway gear, McIlroy alters TaylorMade setup

Welcome to Wall-to-Wall Equipment, the Monday morning gear wrap-up in which GOLF equipment editor Jonathan Wall takes you through the latest trends, rumors and breaking news.

 

Big start for Xander, Callaway Epic Flash and Apex Pro

Xander Schauffele couldn’t have scripted a better start to the new year. The same could be said for Callaway, who undoubtedly enjoyed Schauffele’s course-tying final-round 62, which capped off a five-shot come-from-behind victory in Maui.

Schauffele notched the win with 12 Callaway clubs in the bag, including the company’s new Epic Flash Sub Zero driver (9 degrees), which debuted on Friday. The Sub Zero version is the lower spinning option in the lineup and was used by four players in the Tournament of Champions field.

During the tournament, Schauffele recorded a 405-yard drive, during the third round, with the new club, which is outfitted with the same Graphite Design Tour AD BB 7X shaft from his previous Rogue Sub Zero driver.

Schauffele was also credited with having Callaway’s Apex Pro 19 (4-PW), even though they remain the prototype version he started using last season at the Northern Trust. The first player to use the irons in competition, Schauffele’s set is made raw carbon steel and doesn’t feature the retail badging; however, it has the same muscle pad design in the cavity as the retail version.

What sold Schauffele on the irons was a reduction in bounce that improved turf interaction at impact. He also found a ball flight in his preferred window and the ability to shape shots with regularity. The win in Hawaii marks his second title (HSBC Champions being the first) with the irons.

DJ, Rory, Rahm add TaylorMade M5

Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm wasted little time adding TaylorMade’s M5 driver at Kapalua. Just days after the driver was released on Tour for the first time, all three players saw noticeable improvements in certain areas that facilitated the switch.

For McIlroy, who also inserted a 15-degree M6 fairway wood, it came down to finding more fairways by going up in loft (from 8.5 to 9 degrees) — an adjustment that yielded a new shot in the arsenal.

“The driver was spinning a little less and launching a little higher so we could go to a little more loft, which is making it more forgiving for him,” said Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade’s VP of Tour Operations. “He’s actually able to hit a hold cut shot that he didn’t really have with last year’s driver.

Rory McIlroy went up in loft in his TaylorMade M5 driver.

While Dustin Johnson isn’t exactly lacking in the ball speed department, he found additional speed with M5 (10.5 degrees) that had dropped off in recent years.

“The biggest selling point for DJ was ball speed,” Sbarbaro said. “Believe it or not, he felt like he was a little down last year. But now he’s back to 185-186 [miles per hour]. We haven’t really seen those numbers in a couple of years.”

Rahm, on the other hand, had a pinch-me moment with M5 (10.5 degrees) in the bag during a practice round — his second go-around with the driver — where he shot 59. He saw roughly 6 to 7 yards of additional carry with the driver.

Titleist makes moves

Kevin Tway, Troy Merritt and Charles Howell III are Titleist staffers for 2019. All three were sporting Titleist staff bags and gear during the tournament week. Howell hasn’t altered his bag setup since his win at the RSM Classic. Tway and Merritt broke in new clubs for the first time, including the TS3 driver (9.5 degrees).

The rest of Tway’s Titleist setup consists of a TS3 3-wood (15 degrees) and two Titleist Vokey Design SM7 wedges (54.08 and 60.10 degrees). Merritt chose to add an 818H2 hybrid (19 degrees), 718 MB (3- and 5-iron), 718 AP2 (6-PW), Titleist Vokey Design SM7 wedges (50, 54 and 58 degrees) and Pro V1 prototype ball.

TaylorMade Spider prototype spotted

TaylorMade’s Spider Tour Red putter was given an incredibly short leash the first time around by Rory McIlroy, who used the putter during the 2017 U.S. Open for two rounds before eventually missing the cut.

The latest prototype version may have some staying power.

McIlroy debuted a prototype Spider at the Sentry Tournament of Champions that reportedly helped clean up some alignment issues on the greens.

“One of the things at the end of the year I was struggling with a little bit was just alignment,” McIlroy said. “And with the Spider I just feel like I aim it a little bit better, so that’s the reason for [the change]. I messed around with it, it’s not as if it went in the bag yesterday.”

The four-time major winner ranked 11th in the field in strokes gained: putting with the new flat stick, which features an additional set of weights in the sole to go along with two weight ports in the heel and toe (back portion of the head).

“I got a couple of heavier weights for it this week because the greens are pretty slow, especially into the grain, so I needed to swing a little bit more and it’s felt good.”

Rose gets his own irons

Just hours after he was introduced as the newest member of Honma Golf’s Tour staff, Justin Rose provided the first look at a set of irons bearing his name on the head. He also offered peeks at the driver and wedges that will likely be a part of his bag setup, which requires him to play 10 Honma clubs.

Rose played a set of “Rose Proto” blades during his time at TaylorMade, but the custom-made version was eventually turned into P730. It’ll be interesting to see if Honma goes forward with releasing a Rose-inspired iron — or line of clubs — at retail.

Molinari’s Callaway gear

The sight of Francesco Molinari with 14 Callaway clubs led many to wonder if the reigning Open champion was considering an equipment change. According to Molinari, no deal has been reached — at least not at the moment.

“I’m just testing and don’t have a deal so far,” Molinari told GOLF.com. “But we’ll see what happens.”

The only non-Callaway equipment Molinari had in the bag during the Sentry Tournament of Champions was Titleist’s Pro V1x golf ball.

Casey’s Honma gear

Paul Casey was photographed with a Honma driving iron in the bag, but that appears to be the extent of the gear from the Japanese equipment manufacturer. Casey was seen on the course with Mizuno’s MP-5 irons, further clouding the equipment status for one of the most coveted free agents on the market.

Like Molinari, there are signs Casey could be on the move during the equipment signing period. Then again, maybe he just liked the iron and decided to throw it in the bag.

Quick-Hitters: The same week he signed a 10-club deal with Wilson Golf, Gary Woodland came within one shot of winning his fourth Tour title. … Justin Thomas switched from Titleist’s Pro V1x prototype to the Pro V1 version. … Abraham Ancer lifted the lid on Miura’s unreleased CB-301 irons. … March Leishman inserted Callaway’s Epic Flash Sub Zero driver and Apex Pro 19 irons. … Titleist’s Pro V1x prototype (5) was the most-played individual model in the field.