Wall-to-Wall Equipment: The unlikely reason Tony Finau just added more(!) driver distance
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, the highlights include Tony Finau’s driver adjustment, Matthew Wolff’s top of the bag changes and Charles Howell III’s new mallet.
Going the distance
Tony Finau has never been short on distance. Ranked seventh in driving distance (311.9 yards) and 12th in average clubhead speed (121.8 mph) on the PGA Tour, Finau can practically mash 300-yard bombs in his sleep. But just because you’re insanely long, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with finding a way to pick up a few more yards off the tee.
Working with Ping Tour reps in Minnesota, Finau underwent driver shaft testing to locate something that was stiffer in the tip than the Mitsubishi’s Diamana RF (“Red Board”) profile he’d been using since the Players Championship, but softer than the Accra Tour Z X485 preceding RF.
The search led Finau to test numerous shafts, including a 75-gram Accra TZ6 Proto M5 shaft that seemed to check all of the boxes. Curious if shaft length would improve Finau’s flight and contact — something Rickie Fowler noticed when he switched to 43.5 inches — Ping rep Kenton Oates had him try a shorter driver (44.75 inches) against his usual build (45.25 inches).
Going shorter typically leads to more consistency with a slight reduction in distance, due to to the shorter length. But in Finau’s case, his stock swing with the shorter driver produced a higher ball speed — 182-183 mph versus 180-182 mph — with more consistent center face contact.
From there, Finau punched the pedal to the floor three balls later, producing an eye-popping 194 mph ball speed with 11 degrees of launch (2300 RPMs spin) and a carry distance of 341 yards. Satisfied with the launch monitor numbers and what he saw during the testing session (as he should be!), Finau opted for the shorter driver.
Keeping it in line
Matthew Wolff’s decision to swap TaylorMade’s M6 driver for M5 set in motion another change that didn’t get nearly as much press. Along with changing drivers, Wolff replaced his 15-degree M6 fairway wood with an M5 version to match the driver.
Unlike the driver, which has a more neutral weight setup in the sole, Wolff chose to shade the adjustable weight in the 3-wood toward the heel, giving it a draw-bias shot shape. Depending on the shot and distance he’s trying to hit, Wolff can get the 3-wood up around 285 yards (carry) without breaking a sweat.
Wolff also chose to change 3-wood shafts, replacing the Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 6.5TX with a Graphite Design Tour-AD BB 8X.
Wanna be like JT
Charles Howell III took a page from the Justin Thomas playbook and exchanged his TaylorMade Spider Mini Red for the Scotty Cameron T5.5 W, better known as the head shape popularized by the former PGA Championship winner. (Thomas has since gone back to a Newport-style head.)
Howell ranked 50th in strokes gained: putting with the face-balanced wand on his way to a top-25 showing — his first since the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T15).
No surprise here
In a move that’s sure to surprise absolutely no one, Hideki Matsuyama had a mediocre outing with a new Scotty Cameron Newport 2 GSS putter and returned to his “ace” the following week at the 3M Open.
— Jonathan Wall (@jonathanrwall) June 18, 2017
On the bright side, Matsuyama logged a top-10 finish without cracking the top 50 in putting for the week. But from a statistical standpoint, he was actually better on the greens with the new putter. Go figure.
You’ve likely been told at least once or twice in your lifetime to not look directly at the sun. Seriously, don’t do it. The same could be said for the new mirror finish on Jimmy Walker’s Titleist Vokey Design SM7 wedges.
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The finish looks incredibly clean, but you’d certainly want to make sure you weren’t staring directly at them on a sunny day. Good thing for Jimmy, the finish was only added to the back of the head. In the address position, each wedge has a muted, non-glare finish that’s much easier on the eyes.
Quick-hitters: Titleist swept the board in every major equipment count for the third consecutive week on the PGA Tour. … Patton Kizzire switched to a Garsen Quad Tour putter grip and ranked third in the field in strokes gained: putting. … Lucas Glover finished T7 while ranking 8th in strokes gained: off-the-tee with a new Srixon Z 785 driver. … Adam Hadwin produced another strong week with the Odyssey Stroke Lab #2 Double Wide putter he put in play at the PGA Championship.