By E. Michael Johnson
Week in and week out, the equipment scene shifts on the PGA Tour. At the Sony Open in Hawaii that meant new drivers for Russell Henley and Brendan Steele, new irons for Keegan Bradley and a new putter for Marc Leishman based on 20-plus-year-old technology. Oh, and an expanded tour staff for PXG as well. Here are some of the more notable changes at Waialae Country Club.
Leishman’s new, old putter
Marc Leishman shot rounds of 66-65-65-65 at the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first week using a new Odyssey White Hot OG #1 WS putter with a red Stroke Lab shaft. The OG stands for “Original Gangster,” and it is apropos here as the putter incorporates an insert with exact same composition of the original White Hot that debuted in 2000—a two-part cast urethane mixture pressed into sheets that matched the golf ball cover material on the first Callaway golf ball, the Rule 35. At the Sony Leishman posted a .643 strokes gained/putting mark, which ranked 29th in the field.
Henley debuts new Titleist TSi4 driver
Titleist’s TS4 driver was designed to expressly concentrate on a crucial component of distance: spin reduction. Although the company has not formally introduced the follow-up TSi4, Russell Henley had one in the bag at the Sony. If the TSi4 follows the design goal of the TS4, expect it to be an extreme low-spin option, targeted mainly (but not exclusively) toward that small segment of generally higher swing speed players looking to control spin to increase distance. According to Titleist Director of Player Promotion J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, “Russell was seeing more speed off the face but was really blown away on TSi4’s forgiveness versus what he had been playing in the prior generation TS4.” Henley, who finished T-11 while averaging 305.3 yards off the tee, used the 10-degree version with a KBS TD 80 shaft.
TaylorMade SIM2 driver in Steele’s bag
It was surely disappointing for 54-hole leader Brendan Steele not to convert on another lead at Waialae, but he can still be proud of a T-4 finish in his first week playing a 9-degree TaylorMade SIM2 driver with a Fujikura Ventus X shaft. Although TaylorMade is till mum on the details of the club, photographs reveal the distinctive sole shape of the original SIM will be retained. That idea was to improve aerodynamic shaping while at the same time provide for a deep and low center of gravity for more stability on off-center hits and lower spin through an angled keel element on the sole. There is also a slot toward the front of the sole, what the company calls a “speed pocket,” designed to improve face deflection across the face particularly on low face impacts. Noticeable is that neither driver features any visible movable weight, a key feature of most TaylorMade drivers since 2004. Steele averaged 310 yards off the tee at Waialae, ranking 28th for the week, an improvement over his 2020-'21 season rank of 110th in strokes gained/off the tee.
New Srixon irons work well for former PGA champ
It’s difficult to shoot under par and miss the cut by three shots, but that’s what happened to Keegan Bradley at the Sony. Still, don’t put the blame on the new set of Srixon ZX7 irons he put in play. The 2011 PGA champ hit 31 of 36 greens (86.11 percent) and picked up 3.808 strokes on approaches to the green. Bradley’s irons are a half inch longer than standard in length and 1 degree upright. The shafts are True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 with Lamkin Crossline grips. According to the company’s tour rep, Bradley made the switch to the ZX7s because they have a much softer feel than his previous irons and better turf interaction.
PXG more than doubles its PGA Tour staff
Don’t look now but PXG now has one of the larger tour staffs on the PGA Tour, with 14 on board after a number of signings prior to the Sony Open in Hawaii. The company added Kyle Stanley, Jim Herman, Hudson Swafford, Sung Kang, Danny Lee, Luke List, Henrik Norlander and Adam Schenk to play its clubs. Said three-time PGA Tour winner Herman: “I have played with PXG staff players in the past, and I have always been intrigued with how I would play with PXG equipment. Once I swung PXG Irons, I instantly knew I needed them in my bag.”