AUGUSTA, Ga. – Padraig Harrington, playing a game of musical chairs with his driver, will go into this week’s Masters with a TaylorMade R1 driver and an abundance of confidence.
In March, Harrington fractured his TaylorMade R11 driver head while playing in Thailand. At the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio last week, he played the first three rounds with a TaylorMade R1 driver and the last round with his backup R11.
One broken driver, one abandoned driver. That doesn’t sound like a man overflowing with confidence.
Yet Harrington says, “I am driving the ball as well as I ever have.”
Harrington’s problem in recent years has been putting.
According to Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade’s vice president of tour operations, Harrington received a new R1 driver this week in Augusta and is producing superb launch-monitor numbers. The driver is 45.5 inches in length with neutral weighting in the head.
Harrington previously used a toe-weighting scheme to prevent wayward drives from going left with a draw or pull. In the new driver, however, he went with a stock weighting configuration and is “very pleased” with the results. Harrington, whose five PGA Tour victories include the 2007 and ’08 Open Championships and the 2008 PGA, confirmed that his swing has improved and he no longer needs the toe weighting.
The broken driver was salvaged, with TaylorMade clubmakers pulling the shaft – a Fujikura Speeder 7.2 that is tipped 1 1/2 inches – and installing it in the new R1 head.
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Sbarbaro called Harrington “easy to work with; a guy who really understands his equipment.”
On the other end of that spectrum is Martin Laird, winner of the Valero Texas Open. Laird carried a TaylorMade RocketBallz Stage 2 driver (9 degrees with a Matrix Ozik 8M3 shaft).
“I don’t think Martin would disagree with this,” Sbarbaro said. “He’s at the top of the list for guys who are tough to work with. He misses one drive, the driver is out of the bag. He’s been an Achilles’ heel for years.”
That being said, Sbarbaro called Laird “a great driver of the golf ball, with both power and accuracy.”
At San Antonio, Laird finished in the top 20 in two important statistical categories: driving distance and driving accuracy. So the RocketBallz driver remains in his bag.
One more driver observation from Sbarbaro: “The easiest guy on Tour to fit for a driver? Probably Sergio Garcia. You can’t mess him up. Give him any driver you want, he’ll hit it 320 down the middle of the fairway.”