May 17, 2022
By GolfWRX, PGATOUR.COM
- Justin Thomas debuted a prototype putter in last week’s T5 finish at the AT&T Byron Nelson. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Justin Thomas arrives at Southern Hills after a fifth-place finish at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson. Even more promising than the high finish was his performance on the greens. Thomas finished 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting at TPC Craig Ranch while debuting a prototype Scotty Cameron putter.
Thomas is in the midst of a solid season – he ranks 15th in the FedExCup despite a winless drought that’s lasted more than a year – and the putter may be the key as he seeks to win a second PGA Championship this week at Southern Hills. Last week marked Thomas’ seventh top-10 in 12 starts this season and ninth top-25.
Thomas gained 0.8 strokes per round on the greens last week, his best performance in that metric since February and his second-best this season. Thomas is known for his excellence with his irons, having ranked no worse than sixth in Strokes Gained: Approach in each of the past five seasons. But he’s struggled to cash in on all those birdie opportunities, finishing outside the top 100 in Strokes Gained: Putting in each of the past three years. He’s 82nd in that metric this year.
Thomas started his PGA TOUR career with a classic Newport 2 blade-style putter with a traditional plumber’s neck, collecting his first win, at the 2015 CIMB Classic, with the club.
The next 13 of his 14 PGA TOUR wins came with a custom Scotty Cameron X5 mallet that he debuted in the summer of 2016. The mallet had a short flow neck and a dual-winged shape.
That switch preceded Thomas’ top season, his five-win 2017 that included his first major triumph and FedExCup. In 2020, Thomas and Scotty Cameron celebrated his success with the putter by releasing a collaborative Phantom X5.5 putter, which was inspired by Thomas’ custom putter. Scotty Cameron released 2,020 limited-edition putters to the public.
Thomas and his putter seemed inseparable.
That was until he debuted a slightly different putter before last year’s Open Championship, however. The dual-winged, mallet head shape of the new flatstick, a Scotty Cameron T5, was nearly identical to his previous gamer, except the putter came with an extended plumber’s neck hosel that differed from the short slant neck style he’d been using for years. The custom hosel used what’s called a “knuckle” construction, which is a piece of a shaft that connects the bottom portion of the hosel to the top portion. The knuckle allows for the neck to be elongated without adding too much weight.
Thomas had only a short stint with the new putter, though. By the end of 2021, he had returned to the Phantom X5 with which he won 13 times.
That was until last week, at least, when Thomas brought out a new T5 with slight modifications from the one he used in 2021. WRX caught up with Scotty Cameron tour rep Drew Page last week to understand why Thomas made the switch back and what’s different about this unique Scotty Cameron T5 prototype.
Page said that Thomas’ new T5 prototype has smoother milling marks on the face than his longtime X5, a silver-colored knuckle neck and an aluminum plate on the back cavity. The new knuckle neck is slightly duller than the standard, which uses a chromed piece of shaft, and the aluminum plate was added to adjust the sound at impact, a change that Thomas requested after his first experiments with the putter at last year’s Open.
“He started working with a knuckle neck last year before the British Open,” Page told GolfWRX. “He put the first version of it in play at the (2021 Open Championship). Then, afterwards, he came back with feedback for us, what he liked, what he didn’t like, and what he wanted to see out of it. We were able to create that.
The new, custom neck design also provides a different toe hang, Page said. This helps Thomas gain more stability throughout the stroke.
“It stabilizes the stroke a little bit. His open to closure rate is just better, it’s more consistent as far as his strike and starting on line,” Thomas said. “He can feel it throughout the stroke a little bit. A player like that, it’s very much about honing in and being in touch with what they feel throughout the stroke. That produces confidence in being able to make putts, which is huge.”
Thomas also switched from the X5 head to the T5 because Scotty Cameron no longer makes the former. Thomas would’ve needed to stockpile inventory of the X5 head if he wanted to continue to experiment with that model.
“He was like, ‘Alright, let’s get into current product,’ so that’s why we went that direction,” Page said. “He can see something new, and he knew if he does get into it as a full-time thing there’s no shortage of current product to get, or head shapes, or new heads in that line if we want to alter necks.
It’s expected that Thomas will continue using the Scotty Cameron T5 prototype putter at the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma this week. During this time of experimentation, however, nothing is set in stone.