The key club for every FedExCup champion
September 12, 2017
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy wins it all at the TOUR Championship
To win the FedExCup, you will need to rely on every club in your bag. As a season-long race followed by a four-tournament sprint to the finish during the FedExCup Playoffs, there is no place to hide a club that doesn’t cooperate.
But at some point, some key moment, there is a club that could mean the difference between winning and losing. Here’s a look at the key club for each of the first 10 FedExCup winners.
2016 - Rory McIlroy - Scotty Cameron Concept M1 prototype putter(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Rory McIlroy's missed cut at the 2016 PGA Championship turned out to be a blessing in disguise. A subpar showing with the putter led McIlroy to make a dramatic change at the beginning of the FedExCup Playoffs.
McIlroy shelved his Nike Method Origin B2-01 putter for a Scotty Cameron Concept M1 Prototype mallet that marked the end of a lengthy run with an Anser-style model.
"Leaving Baltusrol, obviously I was very disappointed, and I needed to think about a few things," McIlroy said. "I needed to assess where my game was and address a few issues. Obviously I think I was No. 1 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee at Baltusrol, but I was near dead last in putting, so obviously that was something I needed to address."
The change produced instant results for McIlroy, who won the Dell Technologies Championship to move into contention for the season-long title at the TOUR Championship.
Even though he didn't have the greatest week (from a statistical perspective) on the greens at East Lake — he ranked 12th in the 30-man field in Strokes Gained: Putting (plus 0.352) — McIlroy made the biggest putt of the Playoffs when it counted.
Needing two putts to extend the tournament, which had reached the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoffs, McIlroy jarred a 14-footer for birdie to win the TOUR Championship and FedExCup title.
"It was nice just to roll one in on top of him and get this thing done," said McIlroy, who watched Ryan Moore make a 16-footer before him to save par.
The Cameron Concept M1 Prototype mallet McIlroy began using at The Barclays helped him fix an issue with his putter path that plagued him for much of the season.
"It was more to do with what my hands were doing, sort of going up and left," McIlroy said. "And obviously with working with Dave (Stockton) over the last few years, it's very much left-hand leading, but the left hand was leading but it was going this way and left and up."
Improving his path was one part of the equation. Going to a mallet also helped reduce head twisting and kept the face square at impact.
"I feel like with the putter change to a mallet, it doesn't encourage that face to close that much, which is the bad putt I was getting," McIlroy said. "So just sort of encourages the face to stay a little more square through impact."
2015 - Jordan Spieth - Scotty Cameron 009 prototype putter(Getty Images)
There was one club in Jordan Spieth's bag that separated him from the rest of the pack during the 2014-15 TOUR season: his Scotty Cameron 009 prototype putter.
The 35-inch Tour-only model helped Spieth notch five wins, including the Masters, U.S. Open and TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. It also helped him secure the FedExCup title at the age of 22.
Spieth led the TOUR in one-putt percentage (44.26 percent) and putting from 20-25 feet (25.93 percent) while ranking second in birdie or better conversion percentage (35.31 percent) and putting from 15-20 feet (27.89 percent). The phenomenal putting performance helped Spieth produce one of the most impressive seasons in golf history.
Plenty of players on TOUR have a trusty putter in the bag, but Spieth may be the only one who's still using the flatstick from his junior golf days. The putter had been in the bag for all of Spieth's TOUR victories to that point.
"The 009 was my favorite putter (as a junior golfer)," Spieth said. "Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, two of my favorite golfers, used it, and that got me. I've been using it since I was 15, and I won't be changing anytime soon."
While Spieth has changed most of the equipment in his bag over the last few years, he said the feel he has with his putter has kept him from tinkering and making changes over the years. (He did briefly flirt with a change earlier in 2017.)
"I realize technology changes," Spieth said, "but it feels right for me."
At East Lake, Spieth led the field in strokes gained-putting (plus 7.036) en route to a four-shot win, the largest margin of victory since Tiger Woods won by eight during the inaugural 2007 FedExCup Playoffs.
2014 - Billy Horschel - PING G30 driver (10.5 degrees)(Getty Images)
With the season winding down and crucial FedExCup points up for grabs, players typically keep equipment tinkering to a minimum. However, that didn't stop Billy Horschel from making a game-changing adjustment at the PGA Championship.
During a testing session with PING's G30 driver at Valhalla, Horschel saw an increase of 3 miles-per-hour ball speed and 10 extra yards of carry distance. After putting it in play for the final major championship of the season, Horschel went on to average an additional 12 yards off the tee with the driver over his final six events.
For Horschel, two of those six starts with G30 ended with him in the winner's circle at the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship.
The back-to-back victories to close out the season, along with the $10 million bonus he earned for winning the FedExCup title, capped off the biggest year of Horschel's career in style.
“I put the G30 driver in the bag at the PGA Championship," Horschel said. "Since then, I’m averaging 12 more yards off the tee, which means a least one less club into the greens. It’s given me tremendous confidence and played a huge role in my winning the FedExCup Playoffs.”
2013 - Henrik Stenson - Piretti Cottonwood II prototype putter(Getty Images)
Riding a red-hot putter for most of the year, Henrik Stenson became the first player to win the FedExCup and European Tour's Race to Dubai in the same calendar year.
Prior to his win at the TOUR Championship, Stenson's Piretti Cottonwood II prototype putter was a relative unknown. Founded by Mike Johnson in 2008 — an avid rock climber from Utah who didn't pick up the game until his early 20s — the Spring, Texas-based Piretti putter company made its mark on TOUR in 2012 when Ted Potter Jr. used a Cortino center-shafted prototype to win The Greenbrier Classic.
By the time Potter recorded his first TOUR win, Stenson had been using a Piretti putter since early 2011. After working on a few prototypes with Johnson, Stenson settled on a Cottonwood II prototype that had a neck that was a quarter-inch longer than the standard version, creating less toe hang and allowing Stenson to release the putter head. The 365-gram putter also featured 2.5 degrees of loft.
"I managed to scramble for par on 16 and 18," Stenson said of the key putts he made down the stretch during the final round of the TOUR Championship. "I guess on 18 it was more just get it up on the green there, and we could play around a little bit and still be the champion. So it was kind of a nice feeling there."
Stenson went on to win at TPC Boston and East Lake with the putter in the bag, putting the Swede and Piretti on the map.
2012 - Brandt Snedeker - Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie(Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)
Known as one of the best putters on the PGA TOUR, Brandt Snedeker leaned on an old Odyssey White Hot XG Rossie putter to claim the FedExCup title.
Snedeker finished the 2012 season ranked first on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting and second in total putting with the seven-year-old putter. After using a similar putter back in high school, Snedeker stuck with the mallet model — it features a White Hot XG insert — recording all six of his TOUR titles with the flatstick.
"I've tried out other putters before, but this one just suits my eye," Snedeker said. "I made a lot of big putts with that putter during the 2012 season and it paid off. When you have trust in your putter and you're rolling it well, it's a great combination. Lucky for me I was able to win the FedExCup that year."
Snedeker put himself in a perfect position to control his own destiny with two top-10 finishes in the first three events, setting the stage for his three-shot win at East Lake.
2011 - Bill Haas - Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled wedge (60 degrees)(Chris Condon/PGATOUR.com)
Bill Haas' 2011 season can be summed up by one career-defining shot during the second playoff hole at East Lake. After making a crucial downhill 12-footer for par on the first playoff hole, Haas watched as his approach shot on the par-4 17th rolled off the green and into a greenside water hazard.
"Anything can happen," Haas said of the lie in the water, "and we get up there and that's when I see the ball, and I say in my head, I have a shot,"
With the ball half-submerged in the water, Haas sized up the lie with his 60-degree Titleist Vokey Design Spin Milled wedge (E-Grind bent to 59-degrees) and hit a perfectly executed shot that checked and stopped three feet from the hole.
"I don't know how it came out perfectly like that," Haas said. "You play it like a bunker shot, for those of you that want to know, if there's a little bit of water, if you don't mind getting your feet dirty, and then blast it out of there. It came out perfect. Lucky."
While the shot may have been "lucky," master wedge craftsman Bob Vokey said the wedge's E-Grind and Spin Milled grooves also played a role.
"The full sole of the Vokey 60-degree E helped Bill pull off the shot," Vokey said. "He was able to open up the face and still have enough bounce to play it like a bunker shot. The grooves of the wedge along with a descending blow allowed him to spin the ball, even out of the shallow water."
2010 - Jim Furyk - Callaway JAWS wedge (60 degrees)(Getty Images)
Jim Furyk's Yes! Sophia putter received most of the attention following his TOUR Championship victory, and rightfully so. Struggling with his belly putter for the first three rounds at TPC Boston, Furyk wandered into a local golf store in South Easton, Massachusetts, and purchased a $39 Yes! Sophia putter that eventually helped the 17-time PGA TOUR winner win the FedExCup title.
There's no doubt the putter played a key role, but it was actually his bunker play that propelled him to victory at the TOUR Championship. Following back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th, Furyk's tee shot on the par-3 18th came to rest in the right greenside bunker.
Using a 60-degree Callaway JAWS wedge that had aggressive shot-making grooves, Furyk hit a shot from the wet sand that checked up and nearly found the bottom of the cup before settling just a couple feet beyond the pin.
"Let's just say I had a lot of confidence, and it came off the club perfect," Furyk said of the shot. "A lot of our pitch shots on the back nine were almost hydroplaning. You could almost hear them spinning. And then after two or three hops, they would grab and stop dead. From my perspective, I had kind of the worm cam. I was just stop, stop, stop, I knew I was spinning like crazy, but I heard everyone cheering from down there. I couldn't tell if it was five feet or two feet. It kind of appeared like it was a four-footer, like I still had some work left. I was happy to see it was pretty much dummy-proof."
Furyk went on to call it "the best bunker week of my career." He finished the tournament a perfect nine-for-nine from the sand.
2009 - Tiger Woods - Titleist by Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Major changes were made to the points structure of the FedExCup Playoffs, as points were reset prior to THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National Golf Club.
Even with the new Playoffs twist, Tiger Woods won his second FedExCup title in three years thanks, in large part, to a clinical eight-shot victory at the BMW Championship that allowed the 14-time major winner to control his own destiny at the TOUR Championship.
Woods shot a course-record 9-under 62 during the third round that included eight birdies and an eagle, stretching his lead to seven shots after 54 holes. Using a Titleist by Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter, Woods went 8-for-10 on putts inside 15 feet during the round.
Woods used the same Cameron putter to win 13 major titles before switching a Nike Method 001 putter at the 2010 Open Championship.
2008 - Vijay Singh - Never Compromise Milled Series Long putter(Getty Images)
Vijay Singh was basically assured of winning the season-long FedExCup title after he won the first two FedExCup Playoffs events to build an insurmountable lead. It was all thanks to his Never Compromise Milled Series Long putter that allowed Singh to separate himself from the pack during the Playoffs.
Although he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a Never Compromise GM2 Exchange #7 belly putter, Singh switched to a Never Compromise Milled Series Long putter prior to the Playoffs.
The putter change paid off in a big way.
When the Playoffs began, Singh ranked 125th on TOUR in putting average (1.801 putts per hole). At THE NORTHERN TRUST, he finished 32nd in the field in putting average (1.736), and improved to seventh (1.627) at the Dell Technologies Championship.
"I think through the past weeks and months and years, with the media talking about my putting and writing about my putting and people talking about my putting and people want to help me, I must have had hundreds of letters and phone calls and all saying that they can fix my putting,'' Singh said after his first Playoffs win. "You know, at the end of the day, it kind of gets to your head that you're not a good putter.
"So I made a point that I'm going to change that attitude, and I believed in myself that I'm the best putter, and I came out here with a different attitude, and I putted great."
The positive mindset on the putting green allowed Singh to coast to victory.
2007 - Tiger Woods - Titleist by Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter(Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
If Tiger Woods had the opportunity to hand out an MVP award to one club in his bag during the 2007 FedExCup Playoffs, it no doubt would have gone to his putter.
Coming off wins at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, Woods rode a hot putter into the Playoffs, finishing second at TPC Boston before reeling off two wins to close out the FedExCup, including an eight-shot stroll at the TOUR Championship.
"I don't know how many amazing putts I made this week, I really don't," Woods said after his TOUR Championship win. "Like I told Stevie (then-caddie Steve Williams) early in the week, I really tried to make it feel as if I was back in junior golf because the greens were basically this speed in junior golf, a little bit bumpy, and you have the same mentality, get up there and just whack it, make sure you get it to the hole."
With his Scotty Cameron Newport 2 putter in the bag, Woods led the field in putting average and putts per round during his two playoff wins. He also averaged only 27 putts per round and 1.517 putts per green in regulation during the TOUR Championship.
For Woods, there wasn't a single shot that defined the 2007 Playoffs. Instead, it was an incredible putting display that made him look unbeatable during his two victories.