Pros tweaking their equipment for the Masters is a tradition at the “tradition unlike any other,” as Jim Nantz would say.
In addition to dialing in lofts and honing gapping between clubs, players often add weight to their putters (owing to Augusta’s lightning-quick greens) and put wedges with lower bounce in the bag. Having less bounce on your wedge is the preferred tack on tight lies, which players face plenty of on the shaved mounds around Augusta’s undulating putting surfaces.
Perhaps the most famous “Augusta equipment switch” in tournament history came in 1986. Jack Nicklaus put a massive MacGregor Response ZT 615 putter in the bag ahead of the tournament (yes, history nerds, he technically put it in play just before the Masters, but it was for the Masters).
The high MOI (moment-of-inertia) putter was designed to be remarkably stable throughout the stroke, producing a straighter roll, even on mishits. We all know how that worked out, as Nicklaus fired darts and rolled in putts during an inspired final-round 65 that earned him his sixth green jacket.
This year, a few significant equipment tweaks have filtered out through the wire. Rory McIlroy, who is without an equipment contract after Nike exited the club business, switched from Callaway GBB Epic fairway woods to TaylorMade M2 fairway woods. McIlroy had tinkered with the TaylorMade woods late last year. He also had Callaway build him a new set of Apex MB prototype irons to better equip him to capture the season’s first major. The forged irons are similar to the Nike VR Pro blades McIlroy gamed in recent years.
Another significant equipment change: Bubba Watson, who has struggled on the greens this season, got a new PLD Anser putter from Ping. The Putting Lab Design weapon is made from Damascus steel, a material that traces its origins to the Middle East and was used to make swords. The putter is reportedly heavier than his previous flatstick.
The perennial tour leader in driving distance also put the new Ping G 3-wood in play for the Masters. According to Ping, Watson did so “for more distance” (as though he needs it).
— PING GOLF (@PingTour) April 5, 2017
Another interesting change: Jhonny Vegas swapped out his irons for Mizuno’s yet-to-be-released MP-18 irons, per a report from GolfWRX. Unfortunately, the switch didn’t do him much good, as the Venezuelan fired a first-round 78.
To see a player like Rory McIlroy switch out his entire set of irons, or a player like Bubba Watson put a putter in the bag for the first time is just another reminder players will do things to win the Masters, that they wouldn’t dream of doing at other tournaments. Anything for that green jacket.