Wall-to-Wall Equipment: how Rory McIlroy, TaylorMade cashed in at the Players

March 18, 2019

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 Rory McIlroy’s (and TaylorMade’s) big Sunday, driver shaft changes, Jordan Spieth returning to an old friend and much more. 

It was a good day

You couldn’t have scripted a better Sunday for TaylorMade at the Players Championship — and that’s before Rory McIlroy calmly rolled in his par putt on the last to take home the gold hardware.

Everywhere you looked during the final round, there was a good chance a TaylorMade staffer (or driver) was nearby.

A few years ago, that would’ve been the norm on tour. Then came KPS Capital Partners’ acquisition in 2017 and the subsequent contraction of a tour staff that once owned one of the largest footprints in golf. When the dust settled following the acquisition, only a Fab Five-esque staff consisting of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johson, Jon Rahm and Jason Day remained.

While TaylorMade isn’t exactly hurting for star power — they signed Rickie Fowler to a ball-only deal this year — their run as the most played driver on tour was brought to a halt this year by Titleist, Callaway and Ping.

Even with fewer players using the driver under contract, TaylorMade’s usage has remained somewhat consistent, hovering around the mid-20s to low 30s most weeks.

On Sunday, seven of the 11 players who finished inside the top 10 used a TaylorMade driver. Only three (McIlroy, Johnson and Day) were staffers. The list of non-contract players included Jhonattan Vegas (T3), Tommy Fleetwood (T5) and Hideki Matsuyama (T8).

It was a perfect storm of sorts for TaylorMade, who owned the top of the leaderboard, and the winner’s circle, at one of the biggest tournaments of the season.

As Ice Cube once said, “It was a good day.” TaylorMade and Rory can certainly attest.

Turning back the clock

Jordan Spieth has some history with Vokey’s T Grind. During his time in college at the University of Texas, the T Grind was his preference on the lob wedge before switching to an L Grind when he turned pro.

During a recent practice session with coach Cameron McCormick at his teaching studio, Spieth found one of his old T Grind wedges and noted it was like “picking up an old friend.”

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@titleist @vokeywedges @jordanspieth bringing back an old friend this week. Out with the old and in with the new.

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In fact, Spieth had so much fun messing around with the old wedge, he had Vokey Tour rep Aaron Dill add the same grind to a 60-degree SM7.

RF on the rise

Tony Finau found a suitable replacement for his Accra Tour Z X485 shaft in Mitsubishi’s Diamana RF (“Red Board”) profile. Working with Ping Tour reps, Finau tested upwards of 6 shafts in an attempt to produce a slight cut off the tee with Ping G410 Plus — a go-to shot that had progressed into a more penal miss in recent weeks.

Testing with RF, Finau felt the ball was starting on its intended line due to the softer feel the shaft provided. The interesting change for Finau is “Red Board” happens to be the highest spinning/launching shaft in the Diamana lineup, which equated to more ball speed (180 to 185 mph) on the range.

“It was a good fit,” said Ping Tour rep Christian Pena. “Tony gets the shot shape he’s looking for and more speed. It was a tough setup to beat, but he went through a bunch of shafts before getting there.”

With more speed and additional height, Finau went down in loft from 9 to 8.75 degrees to ensure the ball was launching in his preferred window.

Tyrrell Hatton also switched to Diamana RF in his Ping G410 Plus driver.

See some Pix

TaylorMade’s new TP5 Pix made a brief appearance at TPC Sawgrass. Former Players Championship winner Rickie Fowler was filmed taking a lash at the ball during Wednesday’s practice round, but that was all the action Pix saw during the tournament week. Fowler stuck with his standard TP5, as did the rest of TaylorMade’s tour staff.

Welcome back

Phil Mickelson and his Odyssey Versa #9 took a break at Bay Hill but were reunited one week later at the Players Championship. Mickelson briefly used a milled #9 head with an inordinate amount of lead tape on the sole, which is a slightly more common spot to add tape compared to the time he wrapped it around the neck of the putter.

Ventus vibes

There was a time when any equipment change Brandt Snedeker made was big news, especially with the driver. Over the years, no one has been more methodical with his gear adjustments than Sneds, who waited until 2016 to find a replacement for his trusty TaylorMade Burner SuperFast driver.

No longer under contract, Snedeker has been more willing to change. At TPC Sawgrass, he not only switched to Srixon’s Z-Star XV ball but added a new TaylorMade M6/Fujikura Ventus 6X combo to the bag for the first time.

Pat McCoy worked who Snedeker, who saw in the neighborhood of 1-2 mph more ball speed with the new shaft. The numbers were good enough that Snedeker added an 8X version to his 5-wood. He ranked 6th in strokes gained: tee-to-green with the new driver setup.

Pro V for PReed

Patrick Reed’s experience with Srixon’s Z Star golf ball was brief. It reportedly took Reed one round at Bay Hill to make the decision to return to Titleist’s Pro V1. In addition to Pro V1, Reed added more Titleist gear to the bag at the Players in the form of a mixed set of 718 CB (4-iron) and MB (5-PW) irons.

Ch-Ch-Changes

It feels like a lifetime ago since Hideki Matsuyama made a driver change. In actuality, it was only a few months, but you can understand the excitement in seeing Hideki with something new. This time it was TaylorMade’s M5 driver with his go-to Graphite Design AD-DI 8 shaft.

If you’re keeping track at home, Hideki’s already used Ping’s G400, Callaway Epic Flash and M5 this season.

Another one

The putter merry-go-round continued for Ryan Moore, who added a new Toulon Las Vegas flat stick to the bag. It marks the third time in Moore’s last three starts he’s used a different putter. Toulon’s Las Vegas head shape is similar to the White Hot RX V-Line Fang model Moore used to win multiple tour titles.

Quick-hitters: Tiger Woods had a fresh 60-degree TaylorMade Milled Grind lob wedge (11 degrees of bounce) in the bag. … Eddie Pepperell tried out Mizuno’s JPX 919 Hot Metal Pro long irons. … Brian Harman switched to Titleist’s TS2 fairway wood (16.5 degrees) and inserted a 716 CB 3-iron. … Before withdrawing with a back injury, Cameron Champ returned to the Ping iBlade irons he used to notch his maiden tour title. … Patton Kizzire added a Fujikura Ventus 7X shaft to his Titleist driver. … Shane Lowry transitioned into Srixon’s Z 585 driver and Z F85 5-wood. … Bubba Watson and Rory Sabbatini both used Titleist’s Pro V1 yellow ball.