The Open Championship is always a fun week for players and fans because it’s different than any other major championship. Links golf allows for more shot-making creativity and requires more of a ground game than what we usually see from the three other majors. To adjust, players often put equipment in the bag they wouldn’t typically use throughout their usual tour schedule.
There was plenty of fine play at The Open, namely from now three-time major champion Rory McIlroy, but there were also some equipment stories that stole show as well. Below, I’ve highlighted our favorite equipment changes, adjustments and mishaps from The 2014 Open Championship: Driving irons, Justin Rose’s missing driver, Stenson’s anger issues, cellphones, long drives, equipment changes and of course, drinking from the Claret Jug.
Nike MM Prototype Driving Iron
The driving iron craze is never stronger than the week of The Open Championship. Driving irons can be powerful weapons that are longer and easier to hit off the tee than the long irons they replace. A number of players also switched out their fairway woods and hybrids for driving irons that launch the ball lower and with less spin, helping them scoot the ball farther down Royal Liverpool’s fairways.
Rory McIlroy was one of those golfers, opting for a yet-to-be-announced Nike MM Prototype 2 iron this week instead of his usual VRS Covert 19-degree 5 wood.
GolfWRX: Why did you switch to the MM Prototype 2 iron this week? How is it different than your old 2 iron?
Rory McIlroy: I had seen and tested versions of the MM PROTO 2-iron for the past few months and worked with Nike to perfect this club for me. They brought me this 2-iron to try out at the Nike Performance Fitting Centre at Archerfield on Monday July 7th and I loved it. It was an instant hit and I immediately put it in the bag. I find the MMPROTO easy to shape and I can also flight it higher, which is huge for a 2-iron.
Here are more equipment updates from Nike’s Athletes at The Open
Tiger Woods replaced his Nike VRS Covert 5-wood with a VRS Forged 2-iron that had Project X’s ultralight PXi 6.5 shaft. He finished in 69th place.
Other Nike staffers who put the MM Proto in the bag included David Duval, Ross Fisher, Russell Henley, Francesco Molinari, Charl Schwartzel and Nick Watney.
Callaway’s Apex UT Driving Iron
Callaway’s Apex UT Driving Iron is rumored to be even longer and straighter than the company’s previous driving iron, the X Utility Prototype, making it an even more useful replacement to long irons.
Based on all the Callaway staffers who put it in the bag this week at The Open — Gary Woodland, Thomas Bjorn, Branden Grace, Ryo Ishikawa, Danny Willett, Kristoffer Broberg and Kiradech Aphibarnrat — it must be.
TaylorMade UDI (Ultimate Driving Iron)
Ever since Justin Rose put TaylorMade’s UDI (Ultimate Driving Iron) in the bag at the Quicken Loans Invitational, he’s been a winning machine, racking up victories that week and at the Scottish Open two weeks later.
While Rose couldn’t make The Open his third victory in as many events, the UDI continued to thrive with Ryan Moore (2 and 3 iron), Edoardo Molinari (2 iron), Jason Day (1 iron), Roberto Castro (1 iron), John Daly (1 iron), D.A. Points (2 iron), Justin Leonard (1 iron) and Dawie Van Der Walt (1 iron) all putting it in play at Hoylake.
Rose’s caddie, Mark Fulcher, arranged to send two drivers as gifts to a few of his friends, according to reports. One of the drivers he gave away was Rose’s game-day driver! It was eventually returned, but only after he started the first round of the championship.
“It was a bit of a comedic start to the day, no doubt,” Rose said.
Stenson calmly snaps wedge
“I slipped,” Stenson said. “Let’s just leave it at that … They will fix it and knowing that makes it easier for us to break clubs. It will need a bit of love after lunch.”
There’s something to be said for how calmly he snapped that wedge, almost with a sense of class. Is that possible? A classy club snap? Stenson redefined how to break a club over your knee, with the emphasis on “-fined.”
Fans and spectators had a rough Open Championship. Tiger smacked this marshal in the face with his drive, and Ernie Els hit someone in the face on his opening tee shot, which opened up a flood of blood from the victim. Els was clearly shaken up and four-putted the first green on his way to a missed cut.
Jason Day also made the injury report by seeking medical attention for his thumb, which was clearly in pain after a shot out of the thick rough during his first round. He can’t seem to shake off this thumb injury that won’t go away. He finished T58, but wasn’t in top form physically.
I won’t make the obligatory joke asking “who said golf isn’t a contact sport?” because that would be so predictable. Or did I just make it?
Most interactive Major ever
With the players’ least favorite equipment story, but the spectators’ favorite, the championship this week is being reported as the most interactive major golf event to date. Wireless Internet was offered in every grandstand, so fans with a mobile phone and/or tablets were able to watch the BBC coverage, track players with GPS and receive scoring updates immediately. The Open Championship hasn’t always been phone-friendly. Just a few years ago, cell phones were banned from the premises by fans, but now the tournament is embracing the interactivity.
“The experience for our spectators will, I believe, be the best they have ever received,” said Peter Unsworth, chairman of the R&A’s championship committee. “Using their own smartphones and tablets, and our groundbreaking Wi-Fi network which is available in every grandstand, they will be able to enjoy live BBC television and radio coverage, live scoring and get news and updates without leaving their seat…The information available to our spectators has never been so readily available.”
The wireless signals were installed as an experiment last year, but the positive results led the R&A to begin installing its own fiber optic network in most of The Open Championships moving forward, with Hoylake being the first. This didn’t make Tiger happy…
…to say the least.
Official Long-Drive Contest
Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson unleashed on their drives at No. 17 during Friday’s second round, where The Open Championship’s official long-drive contest was being held (and by official I mean I made it up). Dustin had the longest drive of the week at 397 yards, with McIlroy finishing one yard short of him, but I’m sure Dustin would trade his long drive title in for the Claret Jug.
McIlroy drove it 327.8 yards off the tee for the week; I don’t think he used Tiger’s formula from 2006. Dustin averaged 310.3 yards off the tee, which was good for 4th in driving distance, but only managed to finish T12 for the championship after failing to make a run on Sunday.
Driving stats were taken on holes Nos. 5 and 16 where a majority of the players were hitting driver, but Rory was fearless all week, hitting driver on holes that most played more conservatively from the tee. He finally backed off by hitting 2 iron off the tee on the 72nd hole of the championship in order to protect his lead and keep from going out of bounds, but I don’t think anyone can hold that against him.
GolfWRX: What was the most important club in the bag this week and why?
Rory: My VRS Covert 2.0 Tour driver. I played the Par 5’s in 12 under for the week and my driver was essential to this performance. The driver enabled me to play aggressively and take on the Par 5’s.
Rory’s driver: Nike Covert 2.0 (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver TiNi 70TX
The R&A made a decision to use split tee’s on Saturday for the first time in the Championship’s history to avoid a severe storm in the area. The decision allowed players to stay dry throughout the week; no windbreakers, no umbrellas and a relatively calm week at The Open. Royal Liverpool saw about an inch of rain in an hour on Saturday, according to reports, after play was finished for the day. The R&A was catching a lot of flack from the players and media for their decision, but it turned out to be the right one.
Spieth Putter Switch
Jordan Spieth, after a slow start to the championship over the first two rounds, switched from a Scotty Cameron 009 prototype to a Scotty Cameron Futura X5R halfway through the tournament. He shot a Saturday 67, but failed to keep momentum going with a Sunday 73, and ended the championship T36, 15 shots back of fellow young-gun Rory McIlroy.
Ping’s G30 and its “turbulators” were packed into the bags of several more players this week for the jump over the pond, or maybe they flew by themselves?
Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jiminez were the most notable names to put the G30 in the bag this week, but they didn’t seem to help much. Matt Kuchar put a G30 3 wood in play during the second round, also to little avail.
Kuchar finished T54, while Westwood and Jiminez both missed the cut. The best finish from a turbulator was on the driver of Angel Cabrera who finished in the top 20 despite a disastrous opening-round 76.
The Claret Jug
It’s really the only meaningful equipment story. Rory McIlroy brought home the Claret Jug, his third different major trophy, at the age of 25. But maybe he would’t have if it wasn’t for his driver and trusty MM Proto 2 iron.
And according to reports, Rory stayed true to his youth by gracing the inside of the Claret Jug with Jagermeister, drink of champions (maybe “champions” needs not be plural, maybe just this one particular champion).
GolfWRX:Which one of your three major championship wins are you most proud of at this moment?
Rory: Winning any major is a huge thrill. Each one is very special to me so it is hard to choose a favourite. Growing up and playing links golf as an amateur, The Open Championship was always a favourite of mine. So, it’s not only special to win this major, but to also reach my third leg in the career grand slam.
He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.
At its core, Tiger Woods’ equipment hasn’t changed by much over the better part of the last two decades. However, Tiger Woods’ equipment is constantly evolving, and there is no better tournament to witness that evolution than to take a peek into the equipment he used to win all five of his Masters Tournaments.
A couple of major notes to consider is Tiger used a steel-shafted driver playing less than 45 inches all the way up until the 2004 season when he finally made the move from his trusted Titleist 975D long after the rest of the PGA Tour had swapped in newer technology. It was still another two years before Tiger made the move to a 460cc driver head in the pursuit of greater ball speed and forgiveness.
Tiger also held onto his 2-iron for a long time, and up until a few years ago would rotate it in and out of the bag with a 5-wood. 2019 was the first major tournament Tiger won using a 5-wood instead of his trusted 2-iron.
Masters Winning Gear from 1997 – 2019
Tiger Woods WITB 1997 Masters
Winning Score: -18 bested his next closest competitor Tom Kite by 12 shots!
Driver: King Cobra Deep Face (9 degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.
tangojay: “Ping G-700, Alta CB graphite shafts, hitting them long, high and straight. Hitting them same distance and higher than my seven-year-old G-25’s with steel shafts, am 58.”
SouthLand: “Right now it’s a set of Cobra Amp Cells (~2013 GI), but I am in the process of upgrading. Need more spin on the ball, as I’m way below the desired range for spin metrics mainly. Pro thinks I could pick up some distance with improvement there. Driver too.”
Twinsgroupie: “Coming from Cobra Tour Forged and just ordered a set of PXG 0211’s. I tend to like a little bit more of a players iron than game improvement. Ball striking of the irons is better than my handicap would lead you to believe – let please not talk about my short game and putting…”
pat_kato: “Was playing Nike Vapor Pro Combos then went with the Mizuno MP-20 MMC, and I love them.”
BPetry: “Just got a set of Cobra Forged Tec players distance irons and so far I really like them. I came from hitting Callaway Razr X MB’s or a set of MP-54’s that I still hit well when I swing well but needed the extra distance with a bit slower swing speeds as I get older.”
In our forums, our members have been talking about Ping’s classic Eye 2 Berylliums after WRXer ‘mywong23’ kicked off a discussion on the irons. ‘Mywong23’, who refuses to replace them with newer technology, reaches out to fellow members who give their thoughts on the vintage clubs.
Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.
Old Tom Morris: “I never liked the way they looked. The shape was funny, and the lack of ferrules turned me off. However, they were and still are an excellent iron that are as good as many models out now. Nothing wrong with gaming that set, not hurting you at all.”
need2golf: “The rich kids had the Eye 2’s back in the late ’80s, nothing wrong w/ that. I had Wilson 1200 GE’s. Years ago, I bought my very own Eye 2’s, loved them, but sold them. Just bought BeCu Eye 2’s a little while back, can’t play golf yet but dying to game them. I shot some great scores w/ the Eye 2’s several years ago, can’t go wrong.”
scruffynick: “No but they’re my dream irons. Used the stainless for best on two decades… They were the greatest irons ever made for me. But I’d love a set of BeCu…. Had a look while on lockdown as there’s a 6-PW in red dot and I’m so tempted but… Mrs not having it considering I’ve got brand new Mizunos in my locker.”
14max: “I’ve always been partial to the steel EYE2s, but the nickel and copper ISIs have made their way into my bag on more than one occasion. The copper EYE2s are pretty special and just seeing them sitting in a bag makes me wax nostalgic…”
BobV56: “I played mine until 2018. Sometimes I still miss hitting them.”