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Equipment Report
  • EQUIPMENT

    Q&A: Rickie Fowler explains why he chose to switch to TaylorMade golf balls

  • Rickie Fowler will be playing a new ball and will be wearing a new glove when he tees it up at Torrey Pines. (Courtesy of TaylorMade)Rickie Fowler will be playing a new ball and will be wearing a new glove when he tees it up at Torrey Pines. (Courtesy of TaylorMade)

On Monday, TaylorMade officially announced that former THE PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler has signed a multi-year agreement to play TaylorMade golf balls and a TaylorMade glove. When Fowler tees it up at Torrey Pines for his 2018-19 Regular Season PGA TOUR debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, he’ll be playing a TaylorMade TP5x golf ball and a TaylorMade Tour Preferred glove.

Fowler had been playing a Titleist Pro V1 golf ball for essentially his whole golfing career. Fowler says he was “about 10 or so” when he made the switch from a Professional ball to a Pro V1 the year it came out. He turned 30 years old on December 13, so that’s about 20 years -- from AJGA to college to the PGA TOUR -- playing a Titleist Pro V1.

Now, Fowler joins TaylorMade staffers Dustin Johnson (TP5x), Jon Rahm (TP5x), Jason Day (TP5x) and Rory McIlroy (TP5) in playing a TaylorMade golf ball. Defending FedExCup champion Justin Rose also still plays a TaylorMade TP5x golf ball despite switching from TaylorMade’s staff to Honma’s staff in the offseason.

As a reminder, the TP5x golf ball that Fowler will play, according to TaylorMade, has a slightly firmer feel and launches higher on iron shots than the TP5. For more information on the new golf ball technology, click here.

Fowler, who was most recently playing the Titleist Pro V1 “Left Dot” golf ball, compares his former golf ball to his new TP5x:

“The TP5x is still very strong in the wind; it launches a touch higher, it spins a touch less. It still flies how I want it to through the wind. Like I said, I don’t feel like I’m giving up in any areas. I feel like I’m able to spin the ball a little bit more around the greens, and then getting that little extra yardage. That could be definitely beneficial when you look at… a few yards with the driver, and then getting a little extra with the irons coming into a green, I could be hitting a club less.”

For more from Fowler, below is my full Q&A where he explains the switch from Titleist to TaylorMade, the process of making the switch, why he likes the new golf ball, why he’s playing the No. 15, his philosophies on golf balls in general, and much more.

Q: So, big news. Quite a big change …

"Yeah, it is. I’m looking forward to it. There’s going to be some fun opportunities."

Q: After being with Titleist basically for your whole life – I’m sure when you were playing AJGA as a kid up through your professional career – what made you want to switch to a TaylorMade golf ball at this point? How did that come about?

"Like I said, I feel like we have some unique opportunities to work together with TaylorMade in the golf ball space. And obviously I’ve had a great relationship with Titleist through the years, and still do have a great relationship. I’m always going to consider them family, I’m always going to be a part of the family. That being said, like I was talking about, unique opportunities and I think we have some fun stuff that we’ll be able to do together. But all that aside, I wouldn’t be making the switch if I didn’t truly believe in the product, and if I wasn’t going to be able to go out and perform at the highest level."

Q: What’s the timeline of how this came about? When did you start testing the golf ball, and what was the process of getting into it?

"I’ve spent a decent amount of time over the last few months, obviously I haven’t been able to play it in competition, but played through the rest of the season with the ball I was playing. I spent as much time as I could this offseason leading up to Torrey basically trying to get as much play in with the golf ball, rally just trying to get used to it. It goes a little further, so getting used to some new numbers. It’s not significantly longer, it’s not a big change, but a few yards here and there that’ll be enough. It’s a nice adjustment. A little extra distance, I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing."

Q: Where are you seeing that distance? Is that with the driver or with the irons?

"The driver I would say is a little faster off the face, just a couple miles an hour, still with the strong ball flight. I would say I’m getting about 5 yards on long irons, and maybe 3 or so yards on mid irons. I would say wedges are still pretty much the same. And like I said, seeing that and making sure that it was consistently doing that. It’s a strong golf ball… mainly I’ve been playing the TP5x, I haven’t done much with the TP5, so the 5x is where I’m planning to go out of the gate. It’s been fun. It’s definitely been a little adjustment when I’m sitting there thinking I need to hit one maybe a little extra, and trusting that all I have to do is make a normal swing and it’s going to actually get there. It’s been fun and interesting and surprising at times."

Q: Is there any adjustment process in terms of gapping, or anything you’re giving up with the switch from – I think you were playing the left-dot (Pro V1) – to now the TP5x?

"Yeah, I was playing the left dot. And for me, the reason I was playing the left dot because I felt like it was a golf ball that had a really strong ball flight especially in the wind and into the wind. I don’t feel like I’m giving up anything in any category. The TP5x is still very strong in the wind, it launches a touch higher, it spins a touch less. It still flies how I want it to through the wind. Like I said, I don’t feel like I’m giving up in any areas. I feel like I’m able to spin the ball a little bit more around the greens. And then getting that little extra yardage. That could be definitely beneficial when you look at… a few yards with the driver, and then getting a little extra with the irons coming into a green, I could be hitting a club less."

Q: Rory said when he switched, and pretty much the reason why he switched, was that he was getting better performance into the wind. Is that something you noticed, and did Rory’s switch have anything to do with the golf ball getting on your radar?

"It didn’t. I feel like it’s very much a proven golf ball. It’s not just Rory that’s played well with it. I mean you have from Rosey to DJ, Jason Day. It’s a proven golf ball like I said. It wasn’t like I was going to a new ball company and just saying ‘Hey let’s see if we can make this work.’ I know the ball works, I know the ball works for other guys, it was just figuring out how to make it work the best that I could for myself. I feel like it’s been an easy and fun adjustment, like I said. The little extra yardage. And for me I felt like I was playing a very strong ball when it came to windy conditions. So I wanted to make sure it’s still kinda owned up to that performance. It definitely does."

Q: Now when you were considering making a switch off of a Titleist golf ball, were you testing a bunch of other companies and TaylorMade won out? Or what was that process like?

"No it was really just a TaylorMade golf ball. I tested some other balls just a few years back just to kinda see how they compared to a Titleist golf ball, and ultimately didn’t go any direction. But, I feel like with TaylorMade’s construction and how they make their golf balls, it’s very comparable to Titleist. I think they’re the only two companies who make the cover out of basically the same materials. So when you’re looking down at it, it’s got kind of the same color. You know all covers kind of have a different cover. It’s not a bright white golf ball, it’s kind of got the kinda normal, off-white urethane cover. Like I said it’s been fun, I’m definitely looking forward to moving forward with it and getting the ball in play."

Q: I was talking to (Eric) Loper (TaylorMade’s Director of Golf Ball R&D) about your switch, and he was saying that you’re a bit more technical than people give you credit for, or that they know about, and that you were pretty interested in learning about the golf ball designs. What did you end up learning?

"Yeah I’ve always been interested in how things are made, and built, and how one thing effects other things. For me, it was moreso the cover and the dimple pattern and the depth of the dimples, and the ball is low spinning but launches high, but then still has the aero to not float into the wind, that type of thing. So I’ve been very impressed with the golf ball. And when we did some of our initial testing and talking with Loper, and just kind of going back and forth. I’ve always been very interested. And I feel like I’m a lot more knowledgeable, or like you said technical, than people definitely think."

Q: TaylorMade has a bit of a different philosophy when it comes to golf balls, where Titleist has more of the drop and stop ball flight, whereas TaylorMade is more concerned about ball speed. How do you think that suits your game?

"Well, like, I was mentioning, I have definitely noticed getting a few yards with the mid irons. Around 5 yards with the long irons and then a little more speed and distance with the driver. Which I think, a little higher launch, a little less spin, we’re able to accomplish that, but at the backend of the flight the balls actually coming down on a steeper land angle. So that makes up for the touch less spin. So then the balls going to stop, you know, similar if not quicker."

Q: Golf ball, in my opinion, is the biggest switch you can possibly make.

"Yeah, definitely."

Q: Is this drastic switch in any way trying to switch mentality, or trying to win that first major, or to get more victories in general?

"Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t be making the switch if I didn’t truly believe in the golf ball, and if I wasn’t going to be able to perform the same if not better. With the things that I’ve talked about and this golf ball keeps performing the way that I’ve seen it here at home, in different conditions, I feel like it’s going to be a step in the right direction. Yea our main goals are going out there and performing, winning more, and definitely want to get that major monkey off the back."

Q: In terms of golf ball, what aspect do you place the most importance on, whether it’s with the driver, irons, greenside spin, feel, like what makes a good golf ball to you?

"I would say for me it would be kinda the 9 iron to 6 iron, control of the golf ball, the way it flies, the consistency like I was talking about into the wind, if the ball has a strong ball flight, not getting stood up, holding its line well, which ultimately leads to distance control and ultimately controlling the golf ball, and getting out of it what you’re putting in. Obviously bad swings happen and mishits happen, you have to deal with that when it does occur, but I’ve found that even some of my little mishits, the ball holds in there really well. It still gets close to the full number. Like I said, I’ve been very impressed with it. I’m hoping that it continues to do that, starting out, getting through this year and on."

Q: Is there any adjustment on the greens or around the greens?

"Compared to the left dot that I was playing, the TP5x is a little firmer, has a little more click to it. But that hasn’t been an issue. The ball is still white and it’s round, still making putts with it. So that’s been good, but around the greens like I talked about, I feel like if anything I’m getting a little more spin, a little more control around the greens, and it’s been great. Off the short irons into the mid irons, it has kind of a heavy ball feel when you hit it, which is a good feeling to have especially when you’re hitting into a light breeze to strong breeze."

Q: That’s a classic line, ‘it’s still white and it’s still round.’

"Yeah, (laughs). But there’s definitely a lot of golf balls that are white and round out there that don’t work."

Q: Loper said you’re going to play the number 15 on your golf ball. What does that number mean to you?

"So 15 was always my riding number growing up, riding dirt bikes and motocross. I’ve had 15 on the bottom of a lot of my golf bags, on the inside embroidered the shape of a number plate, so 15 is going to be the number starting out. Not sure if that will change at all, but that’s been my riding number. So that’s the reason for that."

Q: Is there anything else custom you’re trying to get on the golf ball, like maybe a logo or the numbers in orange or anything like that?

"As of right now, no. I know we’ve talked about some different stuff that we may want to do with the golf ball. It’s going to be a fun ride. I think TaylorMade’s open to having some fun, and I’m all for that. It’ll be interesting to see what we can come up with, and what they’re game for, and also what I’m willing to do.

"I think you’re under contract for 13 of 14 clubs, but you’re open with the putter. Are you looking at changing into a TaylorMade putter at all, or just sticking to the golf ball for now?

"Right now I’m just golf ball and glove. I have a great relationship with Scotty and Paul and all the guys at Scotty Cameron, and the ladies, Margaret up top runs the shop. She’s amazing. I putted with an Odyssey for a few months there at one point, I felt like it helped me with a couple things I was working on. But I’m pretty much a Scotty loyalist. And I’m pretty simple when it comes to putters, sticking to somewhat of a blade putter. I’ve been putting with a late 90’s tri-sole Newport 2 for 5 or 6 years now. And it’s the one that Tiger kind of keeps going back to. No, I’m pretty safe in the putter category."

Q: Actually, changing the glove is kind of a sneaky big change too. Is there anything you’re worried about there in terms of adjustment?

"I’m not. We have the fit down great. I’ve actually found that, I feel like the gloves last longer if anything. Not that that’s a huge issue when it comes to basically playing a new glove for all the tournament rounds. But at home I’ve seen that I’ve been able to go out and practice and play and get 3 or 4 days out of one glove. So I’m definitely happy with that. I haven’t had any negative feedback on the glove."

Q: When you’re lining up a putt, do you use the brand logos, or do you draw a line, or how do you see yourself lining up with the TaylorMade?

"I put a line on the ball so, that hasn’t changed anything. Like I said, I got the line there and it’s white and round, so we’ll just focus on getting it rolling and getting that line rolling end over end."

What ball did you grow up playing when you were playing junior golf and so on?

"I played from a balata, to the professional, then I remember going into the Pro V1, I want to say I was about 10 or so. I think that came out, I can’t remember exactly year wise, I think it was late 90s or right around 2000."

Q: That’s a long time with Titleist.

"I’ve had a great relationship with Titleist, and everyone over there. You know from the days playing with and against Peter Uihlein, and having Wally out there following us. Wally and Tina, we’ve had a lot of great times together. Great friends. Love everyone over there. This isn’t a switch away from the family type of thing, they’re always going to be family. They’ve taken great care of me. But like I said, I feel like we have some unique opportunities here in the future, and looking forward to seeing what we can do."