This is the first edition of Morning Read's "Truck Stop," where we check in with a PGA Tour equipment truck for gear news from the ground that week on Tour. Over the next four weeks, we’ll check in with Callaway Golf to see what’s happening with its athletes and equipment. This week: a report from the Zozo Championship.
There was one hot topic on the ground in the lead-up to this week’s Zozo Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and all of it was geared toward maximizing the sport’s hottest commodity: distance. Swing speed. Shaft length. TrackMan. You name it. Everyone wants to find a few extra yards.
Golf’s most influential figure, back to defend his title from last year, also weighed in.
“[The rules makers] should have been worried a long time ago [about distance], but the genie's out of the bag now,” Tiger Woods said at his Tuesday press conference. “It's about what do we do going forward and how soon can they do it? You're not going to stop the guys who are there right now. Guys are figuring out how to carry the ball 320-plus yards, and it's not just a few of them.”
Jacob Davidson, Callaway’s PGA Tour representative, said “multiple players” on the range at the Zozo hit 190-plus-mph swing speed. Just a week ago, at the CJ Cup, Dylan Frittelli dropped a 46-inch driver into his bag on the weekend and moved up 15 spots in total driving (note: in 2019, the average shaft length for drivers on Tour was 44.75 inches, according to Golf.com). Bryson DeChambeau, the unquestioned face of the distance revolution, has teased a 48-inch driver that he plans to unveil next month at the Masters at Augusta National. Phil Mickelson will be using a Maverick SZ 9.0 driver this week at 47.5 inches and a swing weight of D8.
Put simply: Maybe more so than ever, distance is the name of the game. And Augusta is set to be a playground for it like never before.
“I think Bryson and Phil have been ahead of the curve on challenging the status quo with driver length,” Davidson said. “The game is trending toward more distance focused. Guys are training for speed and willing to test longer shafts in order to push the limits.”
The Zozo this week — and the Houston Open in two weeks, which Tiger Woods surprisingly left the door open to play — provides a prime chance for players to calibrate their games and their equipment to attack Augusta National in three weeks.
“The bombers could potentially find a way to hit wedges into [holes] 1, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 17, and 18 [at Augusta]. Additionally, they will find a way to reach the majority of the par 5s in two,” Davidson said. “Guys are starting to test out longer shafts and re-calibrating the gapping in their bags, starting this week at the Zozo.”
Mickelson isn’t stopping with driver tweaks; he’s also potentially switching to the Callaway Apex MB21 irons this week.
“The new MB irons are designed with a removable weight in the rear of the irons to increase our ability to enhance the club builds with maximum tune-ability without changing the CG location,” Davidson said. “The weight [will] allow us to match swing weights to the nth degree, but also have the flexibility to adjust the irons if a player changes grips without having to build a new set of irons. The forged MB21 irons have a thinner top line and sole compared to the previous version of the Apex MB18 irons.”
Mickelson enters the week fresh off a win on the Champions Tour. He finished 17 under at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic to become the third player to win his first two Champions Tour starts.
“I put a new driver into play this week, trying to get a little more pop, a little more carry,” Mickelson said after the win, according to ESPN. “It was a little wayward at times, but it was also effective in allowing me to play this course the way I wanted to, which was aggressively.”
There is, of course, a line of demarcation between what tour pros are trying to do, and how a recreational player should best attack his or her local muni. But even for those of us who don’t roll out of bed, walk onto the range, and see 190-mph readings on TrackMan, increased distance still can be an attainable goal.
“I think, just like professionals, golfers wake up every day trying to figure out how to play the game better,” Davidson said. “For amateurs, potentially looking at longer shafts could give them more length, which could be advantageous. The added length will require the amateur to typically go down in loft and reduce spin from their current driver setup.”
For those interested in making such moves, Davidson recommends a lower-spin, lower-loft driver, with the Mavrik Sub Zero 9.0 among the best options.
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