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. This week, that includes Keith Mitchell’s putter switch, Mizuno’s new irons, Titleist’s fresh finish and much more.
When you’re 218th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting, the only way to go is up. That put Keith Mitchell’s putter on the hot seat, and it was time to make a change heading into the Honda Classic. Hoping to locate a spark, Mitchell tested several different putters at PGA National, including TaylorMade’s Spider X mallet.
Mitchell, who has used mallets in the past, was drawn to Spider X’s optical sightline that allowed him to consistently match his lines to the target. Mitchell finished 38th in strokes gained: putting en route to the win, but considering where he was coming from, the week on the greens could be categorized as a major success.
Spider X’s True Path system found on the crown is designed to improve focus while increasing the potential for more putts to catch the center of the face. Studies have revealed that increasing the width of the sightline to 50 percent the size of a golf ball can increase focus and concentration on the center point over the course of a round.
While Mitchell used the copper/white version during the tournament, he also placed an order for the midnight blue/white version at the beginning of the week. It’s safe to say the midnight blue/white won’t be going in the bag anytime soon after Mitchell’s dramatic win with the putter.
Prototype pays dividends
Long before it earned a spot in Charl Schwartzel’s bag, PXG’s Drone prototype putter resided on a rack inside the equipment manufacturer’s R&D facility collecting a thin layer of dust. Literally.
“It was something we were kind of messing with internally a few years ago but just put it on the shelf,” said PXG Tour rep Matt Rollins. “We actually had to dust the head off before giving it to Charl. It’s one of those designs where you know it could benefit a certain player. You’re just not sure who it might be.”
Following 18 months of inconsistency with the putter, Schwartzel spoke to Rollins about trying an arm-lock model after playing with Matt Kuchar, who popularized the method. The South African tested a couple versions, but every time the proper loft was added, the face looked shut at address.
That’s when the idea was floated of having Schwartzel try the one-off Drone mallet. From an aesthetics and design standpoint, the prototype looks identical to the retail version. Where they differ wildly is the hosel location, which was moved from the heel to the back flange. The shaft is inserted in an orientation where the bend is right on top of the leading edge of the face when Schwartzel rests the grip against his forearm.
A traditionalist when it comes to the putter, Schwartzel was initially hesitant to give the putter a chance until he saw how it produced in PXG’s putting lab.
“The numbers were out of the park from a consistency standpoint,” Rollins said. “He took it on the course at the Phoenix Open and was making everything. He was sold.”
The 370-gram head has 5.5 degrees of loft, but with the grip resting on Schwartzel’s forearm, the dynamic loft is a more realistic 2.5 degrees. The putter also has a slight counterbalance due to a longer SuperStroke Slim 3.0 grip.
Despite the odd look, Schwartzel has embraced the putter. He ranked 7th in strokes gained: putting at Honda.
Mizuno’s JPX 919 Hot Metal is a true game-improvement iron with a thin face designed to improve ball speed, which in turn boosts distance. The Pro version of the iron that was recently released is designed with similar characteristics, but as professionals have gravitated towards easier-to-hit long irons, some OEMs have started to release versions with a more compact profile and less offset.
Mizuno’s JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro features a multi-thickness, one-piece face construction for enhanced feel and feedback better players prefer. Re-engineered sound ribs further enhance feel by transmitting player-preferred vibrations at impact.
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Nick Watney was the first to put Mizuno’s JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro irons (4- and 5-iron) in the bag. Jason Dufner recently added the 4-iron, and there’s a chance Brooks Koepka could try the club in the near future. The three-time major winner received JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro long irons at Honda and confirmed he would test them out at Bay Hill.
Mitchell’s geography lesson
It’s unclear if Honda Classic winner Keith Mitchell knew of the crescent-shaped Mariana Trench before last week. Located in the western Pacific Ocean, it’s the deepest natural trench in the world with a depth of 7 miles. (Yes, I had to look it up on Google.)
Thanks to Vokey Tour rep Aaron Dill, Mitchell knows all about the trench, after he requested Dill adjust the crescent-shaped sole design on his 59-degree V Grind prototype wedge. Dill not only made the change, he had some fun at the same time, stamping “Marianas Trench” with two arrows pointing to the sole.
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Mitchell would go on to use the wedge for his approach shot from 129 yards on the par-5 18th hole, setting up the 15-foot birdie putt he would go on to make for the win.
In search of a tip-stiff driver shaft profile that provided more stability, Lucas Glover added Fujikura’s Ventus 6X to his Mizuno driver. When he no longer felt the club was behind him after making the switch, Glover opted to replace the shafts in his 3- and 5-wood with Ventus 8X (tipped 1.5 inches). Glover was one of three players in the field who converted to Ventus (Jimmy Walker and Morgan Hoffmann) at Honda.
As one of the longest players in professional golf, Trey Mullinax has no problem routinely flying the ball 300-plus yards. His most recent switch to Ping’s G410 Plus driver (9.6 degrees exact loft) wasn’t made with distance in mind (although Mulllinax saw similar numbers compared to G400 Max); it came down to a tighter dispersion he saw with the club, and the ability to hit a baby draw on command.
Back in black
Peter Malnati had a set of Titleist 718 AP2 Black irons (5-9) sent to his home in Tennessee during his off week, in the hopes of breaking them in before departing for the Florida Swing. There was just one problem: the weather wouldn’t cooperate. With no time to practice at home, Malnati chose to bring the irons with him to PGA National — the only set he had in tow — and work them into his bag during the early portion of the week.
— Jonathan Wall (@jonathanrwall) January 17, 2019
Malnati joins Cameron Smith as the only two Titleist players using 718 AP2 Black on the PGA Tour. The black PVD coating on the irons is designed to wear like the Jet Black coating on Vokey’s SM7 wedges.
Quick-hitters: Martin Kaymer and Danny Lee opted for TaylorMade’s M5 driver (9 degrees). … Russell Knox is the latest name to use an Axis1 putter (Tour-S model) in competition. … Jhonattan Vegas inserted a TaylorMade P790 3-iron. … Jimmy Walker put Fujikura’s Ventus 6X in his Titleist driver. … Speaking of Titleist, they swept every major equipment category count for the third time this season. … Seamus Power added a set of Ping Blueprint Forged irons with the OEM’s lie angle dot system, the latest hint that the better-player model should be coming to retail this year. … Zach Johnson added a 15-degree TaylorMade M6 fairway wood. … Sebastian Munoz switched to a custom Ping Vault 2.0 putter.