Toy Box: Johnson, Couples increase driver lofts

Dustin Johnson missed the Hyundai TOC pro-am on Thursday due to a sore neck and right shoulder, but plans on being ready for Friday.

One of TaylorMade’s goals is to convert golfers – touring pros and amateurs – to higher lofts with the SLDR driver. The most recent example: Dustin Johnson won the WGC-HSBC Champions with a 10.5-degree SLDR driver. Previously, he had used a series of 9-degree TaylorMade drivers.

Why more loft? Because the low-spinning SLDR driver (with a low-forward center of gravity) knocks down the trajectory for virtually all golfers, according to TaylorMade. The official club survey showed a total of 28 TaylorMade drivers in play at the HSBC Champions, and 20 were the SLDR model. Of those 20, 12 had a loft of 10.5 degrees.

Another example of higher loft was provided by Fred Couples at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. He had used an 8-degree TaylorMade R9 460 driver. At the Champions Tour finale, he romped to a six-stroke victory with a 9.5-degree SLDR driver.

Here’s Johnson’s bag (all TaylorMade except putter): SLDR driver (10.5 degree, with Fujikura Fuel 2.0X graphite shaft), R9 3-wood (15 degree, with Aldila RIP 80X graphite shaft), R9 5-wood (19 degree, with Aldila RIP 90X graphite shaft), Tour Preferred MB irons (3-PW, with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue steel shafts), and TP xFT wedges (54 and 60 degree, with KBS Tour steel shafts). He used a Scotty Cameron by Titleist Newport 2 prototype putter. He played a TaylorMade Lethal golf ball.

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McIlroy sticks with new Nike driver, ball: Rory McIlroy played two 2014 products from Nike – a Covert 2.0 Tour driver and the RZN golf ball – at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He used both in a recent exhibition against Tiger Woods in China.

Francesco Molinari also used the Covert 2.0 driver and RZN ball. Another Nike staff member, Paul Casey, played the RZN ball.

The new driver, unlike the current VR_S Covert driver, has white paint in the back cavity and the word “TOUR” on the sole.

Take note of McIlroy’s wedge lineup (all Nike VR Pro) at the HSBC: 46-, 54- and 60-degree wedges. Eight degrees at the bottom of the wedge range is a huge gap for a touring pro. It requires plenty of expertise with three-quarter or less shots.

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Poulter goes light in driver shaft: More evidence that touring pros are playing lighter driver shafts: Ian Poulter, who tied for second at the HSBC, used Aldila’s RIP Phenom 50X shaft (50 grams) in his Cobra ZL Encore driver (8.5 degree).

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