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Matt Fitzpatrick among players putting hybrids in play at PGA

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Matt Fitzpatrick among players putting hybrids in play at PGA


    Written by GolfWRX GolfWRX.comGolfWRX.com

    Although Oak Hill Country Club’s East Course is lengthy, even for a major championship, distance isn’t the main concern for most PGA Championship competitors this week.

    It’s the rough.

    “I don’t think you necessarily have to hit it a long way,” Tommy Fleetwood said. “Some holes, that’s always going to be an advantage, but I think once you get the ball in the fairways, it’s starting to play firmer and faster as the week goes on, so it’s more about … getting it in play. You might get lucky with a lie (in the rough) that you can get a mid-iron out of, but for the majority, it’s a gouge with one of the short clubs.”

    The long-and-lush rough that lurks just steps off the fairways gave players a wake-up call early in the week. The ball tends to nestle down in the thick Oak Hill rough, and the dense grass prevents players from getting the club beneath the ball to create the necessary backspin and height.

    According to a TrackMan representative, on-course data showed severe spin loss from the rough, even when using short irons. Xander Schauffele, for example, lost nearly 6,000 rpm of spin compared to his normal ball flight when hitting an 8-iron shot from a common lie off the fairway. Such a drastic spin loss creates a flatter trajectory, loss of carry distance, and serious loss of control.

    And that’s with high-launching, high-spinning short irons. Long irons aren’t nearly as effective at creating height and spin, due to their forward centers of gravity and lower lofts, making it difficult to even get the ball airborne in some cases, let alone advance the ball onto the green.

    Hybrids and high-lofted fairway woods, however, are naturally built with centers of gravity that sit lower to the ground and further away from the ball, thus helping to create significantly more lift and spin. They can also be more effective, in some circumstances, at getting underneath the ball in order to launch it higher.

    That’s why droves of players requested new hybrids and higher-lofted fairway woods from their fitters early in the week.

    Matt Fitzpatrick, for example, told GolfWRX.com that he’s switching into a hybrid this week to replace his usual 4-iron. Jordan Spieth, according to Titleist rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, requested a game-improvement Titleist TSR1 hybrid to keep around as an “emergency” club due its easier-to-launch design.

    Gary Woodland had a Ping G425 Max 7-wood in his bag on Tuesday instead of his usual Cobra LTDx LS 5-wood. Tommy Fleetwood already uses a 7-wood most weeks, but he’s also switching out of a TaylorMade BRNR 13.5-degree mini driver, opting instead for a smaller-headed and higher-lofted 15-degree Stealth Plus 3-wood. Some players were even testing out 9-woods, which have about 24 degrees of loft (around the loft of a 5-iron).

    If the trend continues into Thursday when competition begins, this year’s PGA Championship will have more headcovers in play than normal.

    The takeaway here at the PGA Championship?

    Keep the ball in the fairway.

    This is a lesson for amateurs, that it’s worth testing hybrids and higher-lofted fairway woods to increase carry distance and control. The pros wouldn’t switch if they didn’t work.

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