May 3 2013
Martin Laird went from Titelist's ProV1x to TaylorMade's Lethal ball this season.
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Like a majority of players on the PGA TOUR, Martin Laird is a creature of habit when it comes to his equipment. Take a look his golf ball, a piece of equipment Laird said on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Championship was the most important in his bag.
"The ball is the only piece of equipment you use for every shot," Laird said. "If you don't have trust in your ball to get it to do what you want to do, it doesn't matter what kind of driver or 7-iron you have, it's definitely going to be a lot harder."
Laird had played a Titleist ball since his amateur days and had been using a 2009 Titleist Pro V1x – a ball he used to record his first two PGA TOUR victories -- until last season. He passed on the 2011 version because of the comfort level he had with the older model.
"When I win a tournament with a set of irons or a ball, there's a good chance those clubs are going to stay in the bag for a while. Most players would agree with that line of thinking. You just don't see a reason to switch."
It wasn't until last season that Laird seriously considered testing balls and switching to something new. Only instead of sticking with Titleist, he decided to flip the script and test out TaylorMade's 5-layer Lethal ball.
A feel player who doesn't even know the length of his driver or putter, or his launch monitor numbers, Laird admitted the process he goes through to test a new ball is fairly simple.
Instead of pouring over data, Laird spends time hitting pitch shots from 30-40 yards to see how the ball reacts around the hole. The shot sounds simple, but he said the pitch shot is the most critical part of his testing process.
"The first thing I do when I start ball testing is go 30 or 40 yards from the green and hit some pitches," Laird said, "because that's the one shot that tells me how the ball reacts spin-wise around the greens. I need a ball for the pitching distance that's going to have some feel and be able to flight a particular way so it one-hops and stops.
"With the Lethal ball I could tell within three shots that I liked it. It came out right like I wanted with the control that I wanted. From there I went around the green and hit some other chips, and then I started going back from there and hit full shots."
Three shots. That's all it took for Laird to decide it was worth moving forward in the testing process. From there he spent time working on a launch monitor at last year's BMW Championship, going through every iron in his bag to see how Lethal's spin rate compared to the Titleist Pro V1x.
"We got on the launch monitor at the BMW Championship last year and I went through all the irons, comparing the spin rates between my currently ball and Lethal, and Lethal didn't produce as much spin with the 9-iron, pitching wedge and sand wedge, which was perfect.
"Everything checked out with Lethal and that point it was just getting completely comfortable with it on the course, and I was able to do that during the off-season."
One of the higher ball hitters on the PGA TOUR, Laird also noted Letha's 5-layer technology — which promotes optimum spin and a penetrating ball flight — not only allowed him to hit full wedge shots into the hole with less spin, but also flight the ball through the wind — something Laird had to do at TPC San Antonio the week before the Masters.
"To be honest, the week of [the Valero Texas Open] was the first time I really had to deal with strong winds that year," Laird said. "I tested the ball in the wind, but San Antonio was the first time I really saw the technology in gusty conditions."
Battling the winds all week, Laird put everything together during the final round, firing 9-under 63 to become the first player to win with TaylorMade's new ball.
"Not everyone goes about testing a new ball the same way I do, but I trust my process," said Laird. "I only switch equipment if I believe it's better than what I'm currently playing. I think the win in San Antonio validated the work I put in with the ball during the offseason."