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Every year the Open Championship throws up a number of different challenges to what the world’s best face on a weekly basis on tour. The Old Course is no different and that’s why we’re seeing a number of changes to the gear they’re using this week.
Rory McIlroy experienced success last year at Hoylake with a new Nike MM Proto 2-iron in the bag and it’s a trend that we’re seeing again this year as a number of players replace their 5-woods with a 2-iron.
With the often challenging wind faced while playing links golf, keeping a 5-wood low can prove tough due to the centre of gravity being placed so far down and back in the clubhead.
This is why we’ll see more 2- and 3-irons being played this week because they have a much higher centre of gravity that can be used to create a lower trajectory shot, particularly when it is put further back in the stance. This works to create a lower more penetrating trajectory that allows the ball to run more on the harder links turf.
Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are just two of the players to have made the swap and they feel it will benefit them, especially when the wind gets up.
“I’ve put a 2-iron in,” Rose told bunkered.co.uk. “I normally carry four wedges but I’ve reduced that down to three and put the 2-iron in. I think the 2-iron is the perfect club if it gets windy. You can still knock it down there.”
Johnson added: “I’m the same as Justin. I’ve put a 2-iron in. I like to use the same clubs that I always use because I know how far I’ll hit them, but to me, this week, I’ll get more use out of a 2-iron than having four wedges in the bag.”
Jordan Spieth is another who will be utilising the long irons at the Old Course. Expect to see him playing a Titleist 712U utility iron to get the distance with a lower trajectory.
2. Wedge bounce
Players have been making changes at the other end of the bag, too, most notably to the bounce on their wedges.
The bounce of a wedge is the area of the club that hits the turf, in effect, bouncing the club through the surface and under the ball at impact.
With the Old Course, and links turf in general, creating firmer conditions than are regularly seen on both the European and PGA Tours, players are putting lower bounce wedges – generally between four and six degrees – into the bag. This allows them to sweep the ball off the ground, taking a shallower divot.
Stephen Gallacher has done some work on his wedge set-up for the week and he feels it will give him more confidence over his shot.
“I’ve changed the bounce on a couple of my wedges because the ground is so tight and hard. I’ve knocked about six-degrees off my lob wedge and a couple off my sand wedge just so I can get tighter into the ball.”
3. Stronger drivers
The final most common change of the week, players want to lower their launch angle a bit to stay lower in the wind, leading to some decreasing the loft of their driver for the Old Course test. Two-time Open champ Ernie Els is one such player, decreasing his TaylorMade AeroBurner driver in loft from 9.5º to 8.5º, a move he believes will also give him more run out from the tee.
…and then there’s Sergio
Of course not all players will want to make a change and Sergio Garcia falls firmly into that category as he goes in search of his first major title at the ‘best tournament of the year’.
He told bunkered.co.uk: “I’m a bit different to most of the guys in that I like to keep my bag as similar as possible throughout the year because that’s what I know and what I’m used to. I can hit the ball quite low if I want to so that kind of gives me a bit of an advantage.
“If I want to chase a 3-iron down the fairway, I can almost hit it like a 2-iron. I still like to keep the 5-wood in the bag, too, even at the Open, because I think some shots into par-5s and even from the rough, you can still hit some with a 5-wood there that you can’t hit with a 2-, 3-, or 4-iron, so I like to have that option.”
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