While the PGA Tour plays in Texas this week at the Houston Open, most attention already has turned eastward, where a Masters unlike any other will begin in one week. Fall foliage will replace blooming azaleas, and there will be no patrons along the ropes.
Tour pros remain largely engulfed in an obsession over distance, and many appear primed to overpower golf’s most famous grounds like never before. The theory that Augusta National will play longer in the thick November air also compounds that urge. Players in Houston are using this week to gear up.
Where else to start but Phil Mickelson, who loves to tinker with gear. Lefty told the Callaway Golf Podcast on Tuesday that he plans to deploy a 47.5-inch driver, which he used in a recent victory on the Champions Tour. The Rules of Golf limit driver length to 48 inches.
“At Augusta, most of the carries carry the bunkers, and open up the fairways a little bit," Mickelson said. “So on No. 1, to carry the bunker on the right, to carry the bunker on 2, to carry the bunker on 8 and to get it over the hill on 14 and 17, you really want to fly the ball 310 to 320. … It's just that if you fly it there, you have a chance to take advantage of some of those holes.”
But that’s not all in terms of his gear tweaks. In a move that will surprise some, Mickelson will deploy the more-forgiving Callaway Epic Forged irons. Why?
“At Augusta, the grain of the grass, they started mowing from the green back to the tee. So you’re always into the grain with your approach shot at Augusta,” Mickelson said. “And the ball tends to sit down a little bit lower, and so you’re always catching it a groove low. The ball is then launching a little low and spinning a little more — and it’s hard to get the ball up.”
So Mickelson is looking to what he calls a “higher-handicap” set of irons to reduce some of his spin in order to flight the ball into the green higher and softer.
Elsewhere, this week Francesco Molinari switched to a Ventus Black 6X driver shaft, along with a Ventus Black 8X shaft in his 3-wood. “He felt like it allowed him to swing more aggressive and not worry about the left shot,” said Jacob Davidson, Callaway’s tour representative. Molinari, who led last year’s Masters until the 12th hole on Sunday, likely will deploy those new shafts at Augusta next week.
Dylan Frittelli reduced the loft in his 3-wood after making the switch to a 46-inch driver a few weeks ago. That switch already has begun to reap some rewards, as Frittelli is gaining .512 strokes off the tee this season, his best strokes-gained metric. He finished T-11 two weeks ago at the Zozo Championship.
Emiliano Grillo switched to a Callaway Riptide 100X shaft in his hybrid, and according to Davidson he saw “more dispersion.” Grillo has made the cut in all five of his events in the new season, but has yet to notch a top 10.
Davidson added that several players are adding fresh wedges ahead of Augusta, in preparation for a week that the golf world has been anticipating for 571 days. We’re almost there.
Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.