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  • EQUIPMENT

    Cameron Champ changes back to iBlades, Tony Finau changes driver shafts

  • After messing around with new equipment for much of 2019, Cameron Champ is going back to old equipment. (Andrew Tursky/PGA TOUR)After messing around with new equipment for much of 2019, Cameron Champ is going back to old equipment. (Andrew Tursky/PGA TOUR)

There are two general schools of thought in the world of golf equipment; play the clubs you know and trust, or test new equipment and play the clubs that test the best. Tiger Woods, for example, is known to play mostly the same clubs and shafts week-to-week, if not year-to-year. Vijay Singh, on the other hand, changes clubs and shafts seemingly everyday. Everyone else on the PGA TOUR falls somewhere in-between those extremes.

Ahead of THE PLAYERS Championship, long-ball hitters and fellow Ping staffers Tony Finau and Cameron Champ are going separate ways on that spectrum.

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Finau, who has played the same Accra prototype shaft in his driver since becoming a Ping staffer, is likely switching into a new Mitsubishi Diamana RF 70TX driver shaft this week, according to multiple sources.

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Champ, on the other hand, after missing two cuts in his last two starts, is going back to clubs that he played in the past after messing around with new equipment for much of 2019. Since his first PGA TOUR victory at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship, Champ has changed a lot of his equipment. He went from Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper irons to the new Ping Blueprint prototype irons with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts in 2019. He also changed into a new Ping G410 Plus driver with a longer shaft length, and while he’s played a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 shaft for most of his professional career, Champ switched into an LA Golf Shafts prototype last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

For Champ, who’s ranked 94th in Strokes Gained Approach in 2019, it’s back to old faithfuls; Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper 130X shafts, and a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 driver shaft at its original length.

“Cameron made a bunch of switches that were very positive,” Ping rep Kenton Oates told PGATOUR.COM. “I think they were good for him. But there’s value in -- especially out here [on TOUR] -- in what you’ve built and what you’ve done with [the equipment] you had. You can’t put a number on that. There’s no number on Trackman that says, ‘You hit a 6-iron to 20 feet at Sanderson Farms and made the putt for birdie to give you a three-shot lead.’ That you can’t value. So that’s always going to be in the back of your head, and that’s why this is going to be a positive move, just getting more back to a baseline of where he was at.”

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The Ping iBlade irons that Champ played for his 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship victory have a larger profile than the Blueprint prototypes he’s been playing in 2019, and they launch a bit higher, as well. To offset the higher launch, Champ is going back to the KBS Tour C-Taper 130X shafts, which have a lower peak height than the True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts he had in his Blueprint irons.

“I just think he wants to go back to the same look and feel that he had before,” Oates said. “[The KBS shafts are] going to peak height a little bit lower, if we’re just talking shaft-wise than X100. But you put them it into an iBlade that peaks out a little higher than Blueprint, I think we’ll end up in the same window, but we’ll get the look of that iBlade, which is a little bit bigger. The Blueprints are pretty small.”

On Monday, Champ had his old Ping G400 Max driver in the bag, equipped with a Fujikura Pro 63 shaft in it. Oates said, however, Champ had the Ping G400 Max head in the bag just because he was waiting for Ping to build up a Ping G410 Plus driver with the Fujikura Pro 63 shaft. So Champ will continue playing a Ping G410 Plus driver head, except it will be built with a Fujikura Pro 63 shaft in it.

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When Champ originally switched into the new Ping G410 Plus driver, he had it built with a Fujikura Pro 63 shaft at 45.25 inches instead of the 45-inch length he used in his old Ping G400 Max driver head.

 In addition to going back to his old shaft model, he’s also going back to the old length, too.

“He’s going to play a G410 with [a Fujikura Pro 63] shaft,” Oates said. “He’s only played [a Ping G410 Plus driver] at the slightly longer length, so he’s going to play 410 with the Fuji shaft at 45 inches instead of 45.25 inches.”

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Champ may go without a three wood this week, possibly opting instead for a Ping G410 Crossover 16-degree iron that goes “280 to 300 yards,” according to Oates.

Must be nice.

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Finau, on the contrary, was looking for something new and different. According to Oates, Finau always wants to hit a slight cut off the tee, but he was starting the ball farther right than he wanted to with his longtime Accra shaft. He also wanted something with a softer, lighter feel.

After testing “5 or 6” shafts from different companies, Finau saw the Mitsubishi Diamana RF (“redboard”) shaft allowed the golf ball to start where he was aiming, instead of missing right.

“With the lighter and slightly softer [Diamana RF 70TX] shaft, he felt like he could almost start it left,” Oates explained. “And if he starts it left, even if he misses left, he’s actually OK with that, which is different from some players. Most people think most players out here don’t ever want to miss left. He’s actually fine [with that], because if he starts it left, he can hold it off and get it back and it’ll end up at his target. For a cutter, unfortunately, if you start it right, it’s going to go right.”

The RF shaft is actually the highest-launching and highest-spinning shaft in the new Diamana series, which consists of the DF (whiteboard), BF (blueboard) and RF (redboard). Compared to the popular Tensei line from Mitsubishi, the Diamana line is lower-launching and lower-spinning due to its constructions. According to Mitsubishi rep Avery Reed, the RF shaft has a blend of MR-70 and Boron in the tip, making it “super stable in the handle.”

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Due to the shaft change, Oates made some adjustments to Finau’s G410 Plus driver head. While Finau’s driver measured “right at 9 degrees” with his old Accra shaft, Oates made the new head at 8.75 degrees “knowing that the extra speed would create extra height.”

Along with the feel and directional benefits testing the new shaft, Finau’s ball speed also jumped from 180 mph to 185 mph, according to Oates.