2003: Performance for players key in equipment count
Golf equipment insights from the Masters: The new Titleist Pro V1x ball gathered some major steam in its first major championship, as 27 players teed up the Pro V1x compared with 18 who used the “new, improved” Pro V1; Titleist dominated the golf ball and putter categories, but was unable to overtake TaylorMade in either driver or iron usage at the Masters; just 39 of 93 competitors wore metal spikes, another indication that the death of metal cleats in pro golf is imminent.
Other big winners in the Masters golf equipment sweepstakes were Callaway in fairway woods, Cleveland in wedges, and FootJoy in shoes.
The battles among TaylorMade, Titleist and Callaway in several golf equipment categories are becoming almost legendary. The manufacturer competition is so intense that pros not contractually bound to a specific company can earn thousands of extra dollars each week. For example, the weekly driver payout for an individual player commonly is $2,000 or more.
However, professional golfers generally are looking for performance rather than money. As a result, there is a great willingness to switch equipment. Padraig Harrington started the Masters with a Titleist 983K driver, then switched to a Wilson Deep Red driver in the second round. Alas, he missed the cut.
TaylorMade has been the king of driver usage on the PGA Tour for the last two seasons, and its support comes from many different models. Although winner Mike Weir used the TaylorMade 580, also a favorite among amateurs, this driver was overshadowed at the Masters by the smaller-headed 510. Twelve players used the 510, while eight used the 580. The old 300 series hasn’t disappeared, either, as three golfers carried those drivers.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is this: The top golfers in the world use equipment with which they are comfortable, whether it is new or several years old. This might be demonstrated best in fairway woods, where 14 of the 6-year-old Callaway Steelhead fairway woods were in play at the Masters. The out-of-production Steelhead Plus tallied 20 clubs, and the current Steelhead III claimed 21.
Cleveland edged Titleist in the all-wedge category, thanks to heavy usage of its 588 wedges, designed 15 years ago. There were 39 different 588 or 588 Gun Metal wedges in play at the Masters.
TaylorMade offers three models of RAC irons, but Weir used an older set of TM 300 forged irons.
The big question about the Titleist Pro V1x – would the pros use it on the slick Augusta National greens? – quickly was answered when heavy rainfall early in the week softened the greens. The new ball, slightly firmer than the Pro V1, easily maintained the No. 1 position it has held all year on the PGA Tour.