The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort is a bomber's paradise that routinely produces some of the longest drives of the PGA TOUR season. It's one of the last places on the schedule where you'd expect to find someone placing an emphasis on accuracy over distance.
However, that didn't stop PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker from doing exactly that at the SBS Tournament of Champions. Hoping to boost his accuracy numbers off the tee, Walker, who went to a 44-inch driver midway through the 2015-16 season, decided to cut an additional two inches of length off his 8.5-degree Titleist 917D2 driver while also adding an Aldila Rogue 125MSI 80X shaft.
“I’ve always been about a 50 percent fairway hitter for my career, and I’m like, ‘I want to see if I can bump it up over 60 [percent],’" Walker said. "I just wanted to experiment and see if a shorter driver would help me out and I wouldn’t lose too much distance. As it turned out it gave me more control without really losing anything. This was all about control, so I shortened the shaft, increased the weight from 60 to 80 grams and I saw an immediate difference. My swing is more efficient, and I am hitting the ball in the center of the face more often.”
To put Walker's driver length change into perspective, the standard length for the modern 3-wood is roughly 43 inches.
With a driver that was suddenly the same length as his 3-wood, Walker had to make an adjustment to the fairway as well, cutting down his 15-degree Titleist 917F2 to 41.5 inches.
Walker ranked 183rd out of 185 players last season in driving accuracy (48.31 percent) but saw an improvement on Kapalua's generous fairways, ranking T20 (71.67 percent) in driving accuracy.
Matsuyama changes Srixon sticks: Hideki Matsuyama's recent hot streak didn't deter the sixth-ranked player in the world from making a significant change to his equipment during the winter break.
Following his win at the Hero World Challenge, Matsuyama went to work testing Srixon's Z 965 irons (4-PW) and felt he did enough positive work with them to put a set in play at Kapalua.
The compact blade-style iron is forged from soft, mild 1020 carbon steel and features a refined Tour V.T. Sole design for less drag through the turf, which improves shot consistency and tightens dispersion.
Matsuyama posted a runner-up finish while ranking T3 in greens in regulation (86.11 percent) with the new irons.
Day overhauls bag setup: Making his first start in more than two months, Jason Day arrived at Kapalua with a brand new bag setup that included TaylorMade M1 woods, Proto irons, Milled Grind wedges and TP5x golf ball. The irons were the biggest change for the Aussie who finally replaced his Tour Preferred MC's with the Proto version that debuted the end of last year at the RSM Classic.
Little is known about the irons, but photos that have surfaced reveal that the club is forged and employs tungsten in the head. Recent iron offerings from TaylorMade — most recently PSi — have featured a 10-gram tungsten weight in the toe that improved forgiveness and launch.
The absence of sole slots also means the company is going back to a more traditional, forged design with more mass positioned low and back in the hitting area to increase feel.
Day's first go-round with the irons produced a T12 finish. He ranked T14 in greens in regulation (81.94% percent) for the tournament.
Berger adds new Callaway driver: Daniel Berger didn't waste any time putting 14 Callaway clubs in play at the SBS Tournament of Champions. Callaway's new staffer was one of three in the field to add the company's new GBB Epic driver (10.5 degrees; Fujikura Pro 53K X shaft) to the bag.
According to Callaway Tour reps, Berger hit 14 of 14 fairways in his first practice round with the driver and took to the shape of the standard version when he began testing in December.
The driver allows him to hit two of his go-to shots on the course: a low cut and a "high bomb" off the tee. The sliding weight in the sole is set in the neutral position.
Berger finished T14 while averaging 278.5 yards off the tee (T16) and hitting 75 percent of his fairways (T14).