March 03, 2022
By GolfWRX, PGATOUR.COM
- A look at Will Zalatoris' driver. (Courtesy of GolfWRX)
Plain and simple, Will Zalatoris is a world-class ball striker.
The young and limber 25-year-old currently leads the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He ranks 18th in driving distance (311.2) and ninth in greens in regulation (74.6%).
Zalatoris arrives at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard as the most recent recipient of the Arnold Palmer Award, which is given to the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. Zalatoris also played his college golf at Palmer’s alma mater, Wake Forest, on the Arnold Palmer Scholarship. Due to the special connection to the founder of this week’s PGA TOUR stop, we thought it was fitting to peek into Zalatoris’ bag and look at two equipment changes that have helped him in 2022.
He has a runner-up and sixth-place finish in his three starts this year and ranks 25th in the FedExCup in his first season as a full-fledged PGA TOUR member.
For that behind-the-scenes information, GolfWRX spoke with Titleist tour rep J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, who has worked closely with Zalatoris on his equipment dating back to his amateur days.
Before hitting the scene on the PGA TOUR last season, Zalatoris used a shorter Titleist TSi3 9-degree driver to gain greater accuracy. Oftentimes, a shorter driver can help golfers hit the center of the face more often.
Thanks to recent improvements with his golf swing, though, Zalatoris approached Van Wezenbeeck prior to the 2022 season about lengthening his driver to gain more distance.
During the testing process with longer drivers, Van Wezenbeeck and Zalatoris realized they needed to lighten up the shaft weight to ensure that adding length wouldn’t add too much weight to the club. And they needed to adjust loft to lower launch and reduce spin from the increased length and speed.
So, when they lengthened his driver to 45.625 inches, they switched from a Fujikura Speeder TR 757 shaft to a Fujikura Speeder TR 661 shaft, which is about 10 grams lighter. They also switched into a TSi3 8-degree head to manage launch and spin better than the 9-degree version. The changes allowed Zalatoris to gain the speed benefits of a longer driver without making it unmanageably heavy or giving up accuracy.
For amateur golfers who are also looking to try out longer drivers to gain distance, don’t forget to make proper accommodations to overall weight.
Clearly, the driver changes have worked for Zalatoris, and he says he isn’t changing out the driver anytime soon.
“He obviously had a ton of success last year with the TSi3 9-degree that he had been using, but we had him in a shorter driver that really allowed him to control his golf ball,” Van Wezenbeeck told GolfWRX. “As he was swinging so much better, he was intrigued by what else was in the tank.
“He and I talked (this week) and he’s like, ‘Man, this thing is just not leaving the bag, I’m driving it so great. This is where I’m staying.’”
It’s not just the driver switch that’s had a positive impact on Zalatoris’ ball striking, however. He’s also introduced a new club into his iron set that has added both variety and consistency.
Zalatoris uses Titleist T100 irons in his 4-9 irons, but he now uses a more forgiving T200 model for his 3-iron. (More on Titleist T-Series irons on GolfWRX.com)
The T100 irons, also used by fellow PGA TOUR standout Jordan Spieth, are multi-material cavity back irons that are designed for players who want both precision and forgiveness. The T200 irons, which have a similar look at address to the T100 irons, are engineered to help golfers to create even more height and distance, with a touch more forgiveness, too.
That should come in handy this week, as Bay Hill has yielded more approach shots from 200-plus yards than any other course on TOUR since 2016, according to Justin Ray of Twenty First Group. That’s due in large part to Bay Hill’s long par-3s and reachable par-5s.
According to Van Wezenbeeck, Zalatoris has struggled in the past to find a 3-iron that launches high enough. The T200 has solved those issues.
“When he hit the T200 for the first time, it launched higher, it had a little more ball speed, he could take something off it and he could flight it,” Van Wezenbeeck said. “It just created so many shots in his bag. … The first time I got to work with him was at Riviera (for the 2015 Genesis Invitational) when he was still in college. We had the challenge of trying to make him something that launched over 6 degrees in a 3-iron. He was (hitting) so down on it. He was so fast, but he was so down on it that it was like, ‘How do we get him something that gets up in the air at all?’
“He’s done such an unbelievable job of refining his swing from a really good amateur to a really, really great professional. I’m really impressed with his face control and his ability to put the golf ball where he wants it now. It just shows why he’s become a world-class player.”
It’s no wonder why Zalatoris is currently leading the PGA TOUR in two crucial stats; he’s combined swing improvements with equipment adjustments to better suit his game.
Zalatoris is geared up for another big run in 2022.