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  • EQUIPMENT

    Equipment roundup: Arnold Palmer Invitational

  • Charles Howell III made multiple changes to his equipment at Bay Hill. (Cohen/Getty Images) Charles Howell III made multiple changes to his equipment at Bay Hill. (Cohen/Getty Images)

Charles Howell III made wholesale changes to his driver and fairway woods at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, switching into a PING's G25 driver and i25 3-wood and hybrid. The 8.5-degree G25 driver had a Matrix Velox P 60X shaft.

Howell III finished T35 with the new setup and ranked 12th in driving distance (286.6 yards) for the tournament.

Justin Rose's new putter: Justin Rose broke his own equipment news on Sunday when he tweeted a photo of a custom TaylorMade White Smoke DA-62 putter that was delivered to the 2013 U.S. Open winner on Saturday (Rose missed the cut and was back home for the weekend).

"Thanks @sghostputter it arrived Saturday from @Taylormadegolf," Rose tweeted. "Two weeks till Augusta so some R&R and some hard work on the game."

Rose had been using an all-black Spider Blade — he received a second all-black Spider Blade with a milled insert this week — with a True Roll insert but wanted a milled face that gave him more feedback on mis-hits.

Callaway's X2 Hot Deep line debuts: Callaway's X2 Hot Deep line launched last week at retail but made its official TOUR debut at Bay Hill. Callaway had X2 Hot Deep builds for a number of players in the field, including Henrik Stenson (2Deep), Nicolas Colsaerts (3Deep) and Matteo Manassero (5Deep).

The club that was made popular by Phil Mickelson last year, when he used it to win The Open Championship, now comes in three models.

X2 Hot 2Deep (12.5 degrees) features a 203-cubic centimeter head, high-strength Carpenter 455 forged face cup and Hyper Speed face that's thinner and more responsive for improved ball speeds. The club was also designed to be used almost exclusively off the tee.

X2 Hot 3Deep (14.5 degrees) has a 182-cubic centimeter head and flatter roll radius that makes it more versatile, especially off the fairway, than its predecessor.

The final addition to the line is X2 Hot 5Deep (18.5 degrees), a deeper-faced fairway wood that has a higher launch and spins slightly more than the X2 Hot Pro fairway wood.

New TaylorMade wedges for staffers: TaylorMade has slowly rolled out its new wedge line over the last month, giving players an opportunity to test the final version of the Tour Preferred wedge at the Northern Trust Open and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Made from 304 stainless steel, the wedges come in two different grinds — a classic grind that's being called the "Tour Preferred grind," and an "ATV grind."

The classic grind — expected to be used by a majority of TaylorMade staffers — has heel and toe relief, and a leading edge that sits on the ground longer, allowing players to hit open face shots without having the bounce come into play.

The ATV grind was designed with feedback from TOUR player Jason Day. The Aussie was the first to use a prototype version of the wedge last year that had a similar look to ATV.

The wedge has a concaved sole that offers increased turf interaction by delaying the bounce, which in turn allows the wedge to glide through the turf and sand.

Players receiving wedges this week included Justin Rose, Woody Austin, Brian Gay, Ken Duke, David Lynn, Peter Hansen and Rory Sabbatini. According to TaylorMade Tour rep Dave Roberts, most players decided to take the wedges home to work with them.

“Players stressed that wedges take several practice rounds before going into play," said Roberts. "We should start seeing them show up during the next three weeks.”

Checking lofts and lies: The average golfer likely doesn't know the current loft and lie specs on his irons. While it might not seem like a big deal, the loft and lie on a club can change over time, altering flight and the ability to make consistent, solid contact.

Because a single swing is usually the difference between second-place and a two-year exemption on the PGA TOUR, pros get their iron specs checked on a regular basis. How often usually depends on the player.

Russell Henley prefers to get his irons checked every couple of weeks. The two-time PGA TOUR winner had his irons checked at Bay Hill to make sure everything matched up with his current specs.

Putter talk: When it comes to putters on the PGA TOUR, the buzz word this season has been "counterbalance." With the ban on anchored putting methods set to take effect in 2016, players have been working with counterbalanced models that feature a heavier head and grip for stability through the stroke.

John Senden, who won last week at the Valspar Championship, ranks 10th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting — last year he ranked 124th in the category — with a counterbalanced TaylorMade Ghost Monte Carlo putter.

“He talked about how much control he has over the putterhead and how it makes him feel as if his hands aren’t as involved in the stroke,” TaylorMade Tour Rep Shawn Mullin noted, “which is exactly what counterbalancing is supposed to do.”

Sean O'Hair joined Senden, putting a counterbalanced TaylorMade Ghost Spider Si putter in play at Bay Hill. The putter change was the first O'Hair had made since the fall of 2012, when he started using Spider Blade.

Although O'Hair ranked 69th in strokes gained-putting for the week (-0.814), he still managed to post his first top-10 finish of the season.

Odyssey launches Tank Cruiser putter: Odyssey's Tank Cruiser putter line debuted at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and according to Odyssey Tour Rep Johnny Thompson, the response to all four models — #1 Wide blade, #7 mallet, 330 mallet and V-Line mallet — was very positive.

Nathan Smith was the first to use a Tank Cruiser #1 Wide with two 15-gram weights in the head — head weight of 375 grams — and a 15-gram weight in the butt end of the SuperStroke grip.

Laird adds loft: Due to the low, forward CG on TaylorMade's SLDR driver, players have been going up in loft to take advantage of the driver's low-spin characteristics.

Martin Laird tweaked his SLDR this week, going up in loft from 10 degrees to 11 degrees after working with TaylorMade Tour rep, Keith Sbarbaro. TrackMan revealed additional distance and a tighter dispersion with the new loft.

Divots: Seung-Yul Noh had a backup Nike VRS Covert 2.0 Tour driver, VRS Covert 3-wood, 5-wood and VR Forged 60-degree wedge built. ... Paul Casey switched to Nike's Covert 2.0 Tour driver (10.5 degrees; Mitsubishi Diamana White Board 73X shaft). ... Paul Goydos put three TaylorMade Tour Preferred MB irons in play (5-, 6- and 7-iron).

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