A driver switch also helped him to his first TOUR win
February 09, 2022
By GolfWRX, PGATOUR.COM
- A look at Tom Hoge's gear. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)
Tom Hoge captured his first PGA TOUR victory Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, standing strong down the stretch against the likes of former FedExCup champions Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth.
It was a long-awaited win for the TCU product and North Dakota native, coming in his 203rd career start. Recent changes to both his swing and equipment have clearly paid off for Hoge, who moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup. His win came just two weeks after a runner-up in The American Express.
A putter switch quickly paid dividends, as last week’s victory was punctuated by a 20-foot birdie putt on the 71st hole. Hoge put the one-of-a-kind club in his bag at Pebble Beach, and the backstory of how it got there is quite incredible.
Hoge was looking for a new putter a couple weeks ago at The American Express. He wanted one that could help him align more squarely to the target. According to Odyssey tour rep Joe Toulon, Hoge had a tendency to occasionally aim too far left.
Hoge’s caddie, Henry Diana Jr., approached Toulon with a request to build a custom Odyssey 2-Ball for his player.
“Henry thought a 2-Ball with a long line on it might be something easier for him to line up,” Toulon told GolfWRX. “He didn’t tell Tom about that conversation. I said, ‘You know what, I’ll have one made up and ready to go in case that time comes.’”
The problem with the order, though, is that it had to be custom made. Hoge only plays putters with a plumber’s neck, but Odyssey doesn’t make a White Hot OG 2-Ball putter with that hosel. So, Toulon had to put an order into Odyssey headquarters for a custom version with a plumber’s neck.
The order took about a week, and it got delivered during the practice days before last week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Upon arrival, Toulon noticed the plumber’s neck was significantly heavier than the stock hosel options on the 2-Ball, so he removed the back weight on the sole. At that point, the putter was ready for Hoge’s approval, and he tested it against his other options prior to the event.
Obviously, Hoge ended up making the decision to switch into the new custom putter. And the rest is history. But there’s another fold to the story. Diana Jr., Hoge’s caddie, originally suggested the 2-Ball putter because he has a bit of history with that model himself.
Back in the mid-90s, Diana Jr. was a professional golfer who, like Hoge, also struggled with aiming too far left. He was using a 1986 Dave Pelz 3-Ball putter at the time. That club was a predecessor to Odyssey’s original 2-Ball putter, which was released in 2001.
Diana Jr.’s father was a tool and die maker who built golf clubs on the side. When Diana Jr. was searching for a fix to his alignment issue, his father decided to make him a 2-Ball version. The 2-Ball worked wonders for the younger Diana. Then, years later, Odyssey brought a 2-Ball putter to retail and it became a huge success.
“My dad was a tinkerer and he was always forward-thinking in a lot of ways and he had great ideas,” Diana Jr. told GolfWRX. “Pelz was obviously the pioneer of it, and then [my father] tweaked it, then Odyssey obviously came out with it. But it really worked…It’s just unbelievable how full circle it went.”
It was a great call by Diana Sr. to craft a prototype version of the 2-Ball back in the mid-’90s, and it was a great call by Diana Jr. to suggest the custom build for Hoge.
It wasn’t just the shortest club in the bag that helped Hoge win for the first time. Changes to the longest club also paid off.
“When I started helping him – the reason I started helping him – was because he didn’t drive it well enough,” Hoge’s swing instructor, Scott Hamilton, told GolfWRX. “He was at like 51% or 52% driving accuracy. He was so in front of (the golf ball). The thing that makes his iron swing so good wasn’t very beneficial for his driver. He liked to push his pelvis forward on his backswing, so he’d get so in front of it, and that just didn’t work with the driver.
“We worked really hard on getting him to load and stay behind it. … He’s greatly improved his driving.”
Hoge was using a Titleist TSi2 driver in early 2021 to help take advantage of its more forgiving properties compared to the lower-spinning TSi3 version. According to Van Wezenbeeck, the high MOI (moment of inertia) driver helped offset Hoge’s inconsistency (more on Titleist’s TSi drivers here).
The improvements that Hamilton and Hoge made started to set in, however, and he was gaining speed. As his spin rates started to climb while using the TSi2, Van Wezenbeeck and Hoge started to explore the lower-spinning TSi3 head and more stable shafts. Hoge is hitting the ball both longer and straighter, a combination that any golfer would take.
“We were kind of fighting spin with the TSi2, and the mishit wasn’t as good,” Hamilton said. “When he jumped to the TSi3, the spin and launch profile started matching up and it started really moving out there. … Last year, he was probably at like 113 or 114 (mph of swing speed), and two years ago he was like 112. … He hit one the other day like 122 or 121. So he’s ramped speed way up. His on-course speed is like 115-117 now; not always, but when he wants it, it’s in there. So that always helps.”
It does indeed.