Equipment Report

    Equipment Roundup: THE PLAYERS Championship

    McIlroy's move, Molinari's seeing red and Louis goes longer

  • Rory McIlroy started the week off with an announcement he'd signed a deal with TaylorMade. (Warren Little/Getty Images)Rory McIlroy started the week off with an announcement he'd signed a deal with TaylorMade. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Oversized putter grips have become a common sight on the PGA TOUR in the last few years. As the grip has grown in popularity, manufacturers have started to get creative with not only the size but the shape as well. One example is Flat Cat and its unique square shape that helps players square the putter face at impact.

The company's "Flat 1 technology" is geared to work with every putting style — conventional, left-hand low, saw, claw, and more — and because each side of the grip is in a parallel plane with the putter face, a reference point and "personal feel" is established.

Before last week, Flat Cat had one player (Justin Rose) in the Official World Golf Ranking top-10 using the grip. That number doubled at THE PLAYERS Championship when Adam Scott added a Flat Cat to his Scotty Cameron Rev X10 Experimental Prototype putter.

Scott ranked 18th in Strokes Gained: Putting with the new grip and made 287 feet worth of putts over 72 holes.

McIlroy's equipment move: By the midway point of the TOUR season, most players have a handle on their equipment setup. Save for an odd change or club tweak, it's rare that anyone, especially those in the top-5 of the OWGR, would make wholesale changes ahead of what many consider to be one of the busiest stretches of the TOUR schedule.

Prior to THE PLAYERS, Rory McIlroy seemed intent to play a bag setup that consisted of Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist clubs — the same equipment he used at the Masters.

But in a surprise move, McIlroy shocked the golf world during his pre-tournament press conference and announced that he had signed a long-term deal with TaylorMade Golf.

"I'm really excited that I have teamed up with TaylorMade," McIlroy said. "As I said, I needed to address a few issues after Augusta. I alluded to the fact that I wasn't really happy with the golf ball I was playing and I needed to do something. I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta, worked with a lot of different things, but I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on TrackMan on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball, that new TP5x ball that they have, and I thought, wow, this is what I need, this is exactly the thing that I've been struggling with, and this is, I feel, is what I need."

McIlroy wasted little time working his way into the company's new line of equipment, adding the TP5x golf ball and TaylorMade M2 driver to go along with the fairway woods he started using at the Masters. He also had a UDI driving iron, P770 4-iron and a custom set of P700 Series "Rors Proto" blades. Three Milled Grind wedges rounded out the bag.

The only non-TaylorMade club in play was an Odyssey prototype mallet he's been using since the beginning of the year in South Africa. Due to the short testing following his wedding, McIlroy admitted he was still testing a Spider Tour Red mallet and TP Collection Mullen at home.

"I've been playing around with it," McIlroy said. "I want to try some different inserts because that putter has such a different feel from what I'm currently using. But I got them to make up a red Spider Tour for me that has a long line on the top."

McIlroy finished T35 (+3) in his first start with the new equipment.

Molinari seeing Red: Putter struggles at the Wells Fargo Championship led Francesco Molinari to make a switch at THE PLAYERS. Based on the success many have found with TaylorMade's Spider Tour Red mallet, the Italian decided to give the putter a spin to see if it could produce similar results.

While it was only one week, Molinari wound up posting a T6 finish — tied for his best showing at TPC Sawgrass — while ranking 39th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the tournament.

"It's good, I rolled it well today," Molinari said after the first round. "I made some nice putts. It was a lot better than the weekend at Wells Fargo. Hopefully I can keep it going."

Due to the incredible demand Spider Tour has generated on TOUR, only the red version, that was popularized by Jason Day, is available at the moment. The black version that's currently used by Dustin Johnson is unavailable, even for players with a TOUR resume.

Longer is better of Louis: The average driver shaft length on TOUR is around 45 inches, but that didn't stop Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker from going against the grain this season and using shafts that were 43.5 and 42 inches, respectively. The decision to go shorter usually stems from a want to improve accuracy and remove a particular miss off the tee.

On the flip side, there's a small camp that has found success this season by going to a shaft that's longer than the standard 45 inches. Louis Oosthuizen recently went to a 46-inch shaft in his PING G driver and picked up an additional 5 mph of ball speed and 10 yards of carry.

According to PING Tour rep Christian Pena, Oosthuizen wanted to be able to swing it smooth and still get the ball out there with his new setup. Based on the numbers the former Open Championship winner picked up, the new shaft ticked all the boxes.

Reinforcing the driver change was a third-place finish at THE PLAYERS where he ranked T39 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+ 0.825).

Notes: Mackenzie Hughes cut down the shaft on his PING G LS Tec driver to 44.75 inches to help with his miss to the right. ... Daniel Summerhays recently switched to PING's i200 irons and liked the new clubs so much that he added an i200 gap wedge to the set as well.