July 15, 2019
By Andrew Tursky, PGATOUR.COM
- Francesco Molinari is now using an Odyssey Toulon Madison putter with a Stroke Lab shaft. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Defending champion Francesco Molinari comes into the 2019 Open Championship with a completely different equipment setup than he used at the 2018 event, where he notched his first major championship victory. After his standout year in 2018 as an equipment free agent, Molinari announced that he signed an equipment deal with Callaway at the 2019 Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he won.
Not only did Molinari switch all of his clubs and putter – he’s now using an Odyssey Toulon Madison – but he switched into Odyssey’s new Stroke Lab putter shaft that uses a multi-material design. The shafts have graphite top sections and steel tips that are 40 grams lighter than a standard Odyssey steel shaft, and the heads are made slightly heavier. The new weight distribution leads to more consistent backswing time, face angle at impact, ball speed and ball direction, according to the company.
To learn about how the multi-material Stroke Lab shaft has helped improve Molinari’s putting, PGATOUR.COM caught up with Phil Kenyon, a renowned TOUR putting coach and Odyssey Brand Representative who has worked with Molinari since 2018.
Enjoy the full Q&A below!
PGATOUR.COM: How did you get into the golf industry, and where you are now?
Phil Kenyon: I originally started as a playing professional. And I worked with and got to know Harold Swash, who is a very renowned putting coach – he mentored me and helped a lot. From there, I began to develop relationships and work with players on TOUR, and it’s continued to grow over time.
When did you start working with Francesco Molinari, and what issues, if any, did you see with his putting stroke? What drills did you work on to improve his putting?
I started working with Francesco at Bay Hill in 2018, and at the time he was struggling a little bit by his standards. We started to change a lot of different things in what he was doing, like aiming the putter, the length of the stroke, the actual length of his putter, and the setup.
It wasn’t an overnight change in terms of improving his putting, but one of the great things about Francesco is that he is very dedicated and so we started chipping away at making those improvements. He pushed himself to get better and to put in the time, and it’s paid off for him.
After Francesco won the Open using a different putter, he made a switch to not only his putter head but his shaft. Can you talk me through that process, and what made him switch?
When Francesco made the switch, one of the things we spoke about was what putter was he going to use. I was privy to the Stroke Lab development, and I felt that the technology would be really good for him and he felt the same way. It was something we were excited to have him try.
One of the things he’s worked on is his tempo and controlling his stroke length, and when he tested the shaft, it helped him with both. So it was a really easy transition with getting him into the Stroke Lab shaft and we tested with different heads and found the right setup for him.
Is there any data you can share on how he’s improved his putting since switching to the Stroke Lab?
We’ve put a lot of focus on his speed, and it’s definitely gotten a lot better since he’s used the Stroke Lab. Toward the end of last year, we looked at where he could really improve and particularly his speed control. Bay Hill (where Francesco won this year) was a really good example of that; his speed was just so much better. In the past he could get a little cautious with his speed and that’s an area where he’s really grown this year.
Why do you think the design of the Stroke Lab shaft works for Francesco? What other types of golfers could benefit from the Stroke Lab shaft?
From my experience, it helps a lot of golfers in terms of consistency of stroke and timing. How it’s engineered with redistributing the weight, it allows golfers greater control of the overall stroke. Those two components: controlling swing length and time, are so important for a player like Francesco and for any golfer in general.
For amateur golfers in general who are looking to improve their putting, what drills or mental approaches can you recommend?
It depends more on the individual, especially since most golfers are only able to devote so much time to practicing. I think the best approach is to take a lesson to really analyze your putting, and from there develop a program you can work toward to improve. There are so many drills and so many different potential issues with putting and the stroke, that it’s important to take a different approach with every player.
Is a putter fitting more or less important than a putting lesson?
They’re both important and really golfers should think more about how they work together instead of separately. A putter can really have a different impact with any lesson, which is why the individual player matters so much. It’s important to create a program that can help you improve, and to find a model that can help you achieve those goals and become a better putter.