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Equipment Report

    Equipment roundup: John Deere Classic

  • Several changes and some unique gear were in play at the John Deere Classic. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Several changes and some unique gear were in play at the John Deere Classic. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

With an equipment setup that includes single-length irons, wedges stamped with physics formulas, and significantly oversized JumboMaxx XL grips that are as wide around as a telephone pole, it's easy to overlook Bryson DeChambeau's SIK Pro putter.

DeChambeau began the season putting sidesaddle but struggled to find consistency with the stroke and switched to an arm-lock setup — where the grip rests against the forearm — during the Florida Swing. In the run-up to the Valspar Championship, DeChambeau spent a weekend in Orlando, Florida, working with SIK on a Quintec software program that measures the launch of a putt.

“I was a machine on that system,” DeChambeau said, “just one after the next.”

The putter manufacturer built DeChambeau a Pro C-Series at 44 inches that featured the company's Descending Loft Technology design on the face. According to SIK, "each plane descends in loft by one-degree thereby neutralizing every golfers’ inability to achieve a consistent shaft angle at impact." The end result is a putter that optimizes launch for a more consistent roll.

DeChambeau outfitted the flat stick with a Matrix U11-PO prototype graphite putter shaft and 17-inch SuperStroke Flatso 17 (100 grams) that's preferred by players who rest the grip against their forearm during the stroke.

Since DeChambeau first put the putter in play, he's gone to a 39-inch version but has continued to employ the same arm-lock method that was popularized by Matt Kuchar, and remained legal once the USGA's ban on anchored putting strokes went in place last year.

DeChambeau, who was second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting (plus 7.477), was lethal on the greens during the final round. His back-nine 30 included four birdie putts over 10 feet, including a 14-footer on the last that helped him overtake Patrick Rodgers.

Taylor switches to Axis1 putter: Vaughn Taylor found immediate success with an Axis1 Tour-B putter he put in play for the first time. Ranked 78th in Strokes Gained: Putting coming into the week, Taylor spotted the putter on the practice green and decided to give it a test run at TPC Deere Run.

The new putter resulted in Taylor's seventh top-25 showing this season (T19) and saw him finish 25th in Strokes Gained: Putting (plus 3.264) for the week. The Tour-B is a slimmed down version of Axis1's Joey model and features a scaled down back heel section that gives it a more traditional look at address.

The 350-gram head is milled from 304 stainless steel and comes in a black ion plated finish (Tour-B). While the heel design has changed slightly, the putter is still touted as the "world's first and only perfectly balanced torque-free and toe up putter."

To get it to balance properly, weight had to be repositioned within the heel and toe to keep the head perfectly tuned. The torque-free design helps place the center of gravity right on the center of the face and aligned with the axis of the shaft. The design results in a putter face that shouldn't open up at impact, improving accuracy and consistency.

Callaway Apex MB lands in Lovemark's bag: One of the last remaining players still using a set of Nike irons, Jamie Lovemark dropped his trusty VR Pro blades for a set of Callaway Apex MB prototypes. Callaway released a chrome version of the muscleback back in January at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and a raw version that was initially used by Rory McIlroy before he signed with TaylorMade.

Lovemark opted for the raw version that has a dark finish. The Apex MB remains a TOUR-only option, but a retail version is likely in the works for later this year. The blade will ultimately replace the current Apex MB that was released in 2014.

Lovemark hit 72 percent of the greens in regulation (T46) at TPC Deere Run with the new irons.

First win for Titleist 718 prototype irons: It didn't take Rafa Cabrera-Bello long to pick up a win with Titleist's 718 MB prototype. Using the irons for the first time in competition, Cabrera-Bello fired a course record 8-under 64 during the final round to advance to a sudden-death playoff at the Scottish Open. He would go on to defeat Callum Shinkwin in extra holes.

Released earlier this month at the Quicken Loans National, the 718 MB is the traditional muscleback model in the lineup. Compared to the 716 MB, the new version appears to have a slightly different look that's likely due to some subtle changes to the overall shaping.

Cabera-Bello has always preferred the look and workability of a muscleback to that of the other models offered in Titleist's iron lineup. Prior to switching to 718 MB, the Spaniard had been using its predecessor, the 716 MB.

Notes: A traditional Anser-style user for most of his professional, Bubba Watson was spotted using a PING PLD mallet during the first two rounds of the John Deere Classic. Watson eventually shelved the putter on the weekend for an Anser Damascus model he's been using on and off since the Masters.