With his win at the RSM Classic, all golf fans by now well know that Charles Howell III ended an 11-year victory drought.
What may be equally as interesting for GolfWRX Members, however, is that the Georgia native did so just a month after totally overhauling his golf bag, switching to 13 Titleist clubs and a prototype 2019 Pro V1 ball.
The presumptive 2019 Titleist signee talked to our Johnny Wunder about the switch and what it was like to go winless for so long.
JW: Charlie, welcome back to the winner’s circle, my friend.
CH III: I appreciate it…I made it as hard as I could, but fortunately, I found a way there.
JW: There was a transition that happened before this — we’ll call it a month ago — into a whole new bag of Titleist equipment. So, the first quest I have is, “What prompted the change, and how difficult was that process for you?”
CH III: When I look at my career, and where I’m at in my career, I thought that, the most important thing for me going forward is my driver and 3-wood. Where, the way that the game is changing, I’ve got to find something that I can hit as far as possible, but also straight…I know that I’m not going to drive the bar as far as Cameron Champ, but I need to maximize whatever I can do. So going through the process of testing a lot of things, it was very clear that the TS drivers really did that for me. My ball speed went up. My overall dispersion pattern became closer together. Really, it was a home run.
Now, we spent a bit of time testing. I know that I wore J.J. [VanWezenbeeck, Titleist Tour Rep] out. But, by the end of the process, I had a TS2 and a TS3 that I could have played in a golf tournament, and it was a flip of a coin really on which one to use. Not a lot of guys can say that about companies, where you can play either model, but for sure, that was the case there.
JW: Well, let’s talk a little bit about the TS2 and the TS3. You had both drivers ready to cook for the tournament, but what was the deciding factor?
CH III: The TS2 is a driver where you can just tee it up and hammer it. It’s going to go very straight, and the ball isn’t going to curve a whole lot. It’s very easy to launch. The TS3 was a driver where, if I get a hole where I need to work it a little bit left to right, or a little right to left to go with the slope of the fairway, or a crosswind, for me, it was a little bit easier to do that with the TS3, and that’s why I ultimately ended up there.
If I’m playing everyday golf at home with my buddies, and I want a driver with which I can just swing as hard as I can and hammer it, then I’m going to go to that TS2 all day.
JW: I noticed in the driver you have the [Mitsubishi] Tensei AV Blue . Is that personal preference, or is that what tested out?
CH III: That’s just what tested out. We were having this conversation earlier about driver shafts; there’s so many of them out there, and there’s so many companies, and it’s really difficult to know what’s what. What we wanted to do is start with something that’s familiar, and it ended up actually testing out fantastic — we were getting the launch and the spin numbers that we were after, so there was no reason to…go down a rabbit hole.
JW: You have a very interesting set makeup now. You have a T-MB 4-iron, but then you go AP2 in 5, 6, 7, and then the CB in your shorter irons…talk to me about the strategy.
CH III: I grew up playing cavity back clubs my whole life. I’ve always been a proponent of some forgiveness down there and some help down there. The big reason for the  CB in the short irons had to do with offset, and that’s strictly a personal preference. I wanted some help down there…but I didn’t want a lot of offset, so the CB…fit that perfectly.
The T-MB 4-iron, that thing is so easy to get up in the air, it’s incredible. That, for me, and for every golfer out there, they need a T-MB 3, 4, and 5-iron, because they are so easy to get up in the air. It really is awesome, the technology of that club.
JW: Let’s talk about the golf ball. You go from a 2017 Pro V1x and you transition into the new Pro V1 proto…
CH III: I loved everything about the Pro V1x ball off the driver and the 3-wood. Now, when the [2019 Pro V1] came out, what I found out was that I gave up no ball speed whatsoever, but I picked up a little bit of a softer feel and a little more spin around the greens. So for me, right away that was a home run.
Now, I say that knowing that touch and feel around the green is highly player dependent. For me, I prefer a bit of a softer feel…I could find you 10 guys who prefer a firmer Pro V1x feel around the greens…but the cool thing was that I didn’t give up any ball speed with the driver whatsoever.
JW: Let’s talk a little bit about the last 11 years. We talked a little bit on the podcast with you about expectations and what you went through to get back to the winner’s circle. Just kind of man to man, how difficult was it at times. — knowing how good you are and being such an amazing player and then going on a drought like that — how difficult was that?
CH III: You know, there were a lot of times where I questioned everything I did from how I practiced, to how I prepared, to who I worked with…just everything. And eventually, I got to a point where I sat down with Grant Waite and Dana Dahlquist who I work with, and John Graham on short game, and I said, “OK, guys, do we really think that I’m doing this the right way?” And through some discussions…the answer was, “yes.” And [I said] let’s just stay the course. Let’s just keep doing this.
Golf’s a funny game. In Mexico, I missed the cut there, and I thought I played close to every bit as good as I did at Sea Island. I just didn’t quite score as well. That shows you how razor thin-edged this game is. You miss a cut, then you win a golf tournament.
I think the most challenging part of the game is staying the course with stuff that you truly believe in and giving it time to work out, because it’s such a results driven game, and you want results yesterday. Between social media and the way golf is covered now, it’s “results, results, results.” I think the challenge is to stay patient amongst all that.
JW: For you, as I mentioned a while back, getting that first one, it’s almost like winning for the first time again in a weird way. Once that first one inspires the confidence, you’re off to the races. Now that you’ve got that behind you…are you looking at your schedule in a different way or is it just week to week?
CH III: A little bit of both. I’ve got the tournaments that I like. I’ll still play a bunch on the West Coast because I like the West Coast…I’ll tell you the one thing I hope comes out of this is that if I get in position to win a tournament on Sunday, I’ll be that much more comfortable, and I’ll be that much more trusting in what I do. I’ll just play normal golf, and I won’t try to do more of anything, and hopefully that continues to evolve, etc.
But that to me is what I’m most curious to find out: When and if I get into that position again, will I feel a little bit more, let’s say, comfortable or different?
JW: Cool. Last question: You’re with Titleist. Big company. Historic company. But now you kind of have access to Vokey, Aaron Dill, Scotty Cameron, what’s it like walking into that scenario where you have access to those clubmakers and designers? Was that an attraction? Was that part of the decision to go to Titleist?
CH III: Well it is, right? I have a leading expert in every field. I can lean on their experience. I can aggravate the daylights out of them. I’m at a point in my career where I want to play good golf, and if these guys are able to help me find a half-of-a-percent advantage, well then…over the course of a year, it matters.
[For example] Aaron Dill’s expertise and changing bounce on wedges in different situations and conditions. Those things I’m really looking forward to…and I’m going to learn a lot in this process too. These guys have been around a long time, and they’ve helped a lot of world-class players, so I’m going to learn a bit.
JW: I’ve got to ask this question or the GolfWRX Members will kill me. When’s that 14th Titleist club going to pop in there…a Scotty Cameron?
CH III: Now this off season, I’ll have more time work with different things…we’ll continue to work on that, and we’ll get that part handled.
JW: Well, Charlie, on behalf of GolfWRX and everybody else, that was a really, really, ridiculously popular win. You’re good for the game, I’m so happy that you won. Go kick some butt and have a great holiday, and we’ll look forward to watching you in 2019.
CH III: You guys, as well, have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I do appreciate it. I know that all the GolfWRX Members understand the difficulty of the game and the challenges of it it. I hope I carry myself in a way where people understand that I know the difficulty of the game, and I can appreciate the ups and downs. I thank everyone and hope everybody has a great holiday.
Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (04/14/21): Callaway Apex TCB irons
At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.
We are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways. It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buy and selling equipment.
Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a set of rare, limited edition, you need to know who to ask, Callaway TCB irons – the same ones being used by Jon Rahm on the PGA Tour
To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Callaway TCB irons
Interesting photos from Tuesday at the RBC Heritage – Part 1: The putting green
This week, the PGA Tour is decompressing in Hilton Head for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, and GolfWRX was on-site Tuesday to spy a glimpse into the bags of some of the world’s top golfers. The field of 134 is getting ready to battle starting Thursday on the tight treeline Pete Dye designed course, for the $7.1 million purse with $1.28 million going to the winner.
Don’t forget you can check out all our image galleries in the GolfWRX Tour Equipment forum.
Armlock is building momentum on tour
We spotted both Henrik Norlander and, in a stunning twist, Kevin Kisner working with an armlock putter on the practice green at the RBC Heritage. Kisner is generally not one to switch, but it looks like based on the sideways grip, flat part aligned with the face, he’s taking a big cue from Bryson.
Fleetwood working with a new wand
Coming off a disappointing week at the Masters, it looks like Tommy is ready to try something new on the greens and by the looks of it, it’s shafted with an LA Golf graphite putter shaft.
Equipment free-agent Chris Kirk’s raw finished Odyssey prototype looks spectacular as its oilcan finish takes on a deeper patina.
It’s all about those drills
Practice is an important part of building consistency, and this drill sure does a lot for keeping everything locked in place.
On the level
There is no better way to work on hitting straight putts than making sure you are actually working on a level surface. This digital level proves that some of the best training devices can be found at your local hardware store.
That alignment is a ten out of ten
We spotted Callaway staffer Chase Seiffert working with an Odyssey Stroke Lab Ten with a very unique set of sightline dots—the more the merrier.
Scotty Cameron appreciation
Sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the classics, and this “bullet soled” blade is a thing of beauty. The closest thing to this in the retail market is the Coronado released in 2010—maybe we’ll see an updated version in the future?
Kentucky native John Augenstein must be a big fan of Chicago, not the band, but golf companies that originate in the land of the Cubbies and da Bears. Not only is he sponsored by Wilson Staff, but he also has this lovely Bettinardi DASS (double aged stainless steel) custom in the bag with a LAGP graphite shaft (Bryson sure is rubbing off on people).
From Chicago to Texas
Speaking of custom putters, we also spotted this Edel blade being used along with one of the most simple training devices you will probably ever see—who said putting had to be hard?
Don’t forget you can check out all our image galleries in the GolfWRX Tour Equipment forum.
Hello, Hideki! Japan receives its second Augusta champion in eight days
Hideki Matsuyama expressed great respect for the victory achieved last week by his countrywoman, Tsubasa Kajitani. Matsuyama understands well the bright-hot spotlight under which golfers from their country operate, and he has both benefitted from its warmth and felt its burn. Unlike Kajitani, Matsuyama entered the final round of this week’s Masters with a sizable lead, every reason to win and every opportunity to lose. Although he lost three of his four shots of advantage, Matsuyama held on to the one that mattered and became the first male major champion from Japan.
He did five things very well on Sunday, and we’re going to run them down for you in this summary of Masters Sunday, golf’s high holy day.
1. From Z to Z: In the beginning and the end, there was Zalatoris
By the time Hideki teed off, he had lost half of his lead. By the time he tapped in for bogey on the first green, he had given back one more shot. Young Will Zalatoris, Dallas native and former Wake Forest golfer, had started day four with a pair of birdies and had reached nine deep. Matsuyama addressed his ball on the second tee, knowing that momentum usually chose the chasers. He fearlessly ripped driver down the left-center of the fairway, giving him a look at the green in two. His approach was shy, in the sand, but his recovery was exquisite, and he converted the putt for a momentum-altering birdie. Zalatoris would play wise beyond his years, as he had all week, and would compel Matsuyama to make bogey at the last to preserve his margin of victory.
2. Make early birdies—and bounce back
Matsuyama followed his birdie at the second with a pair at eight and nine. He turned in 2 under par and opened up a needed gap as Zalatoris stabilized, and no others gave chase. Jon Rahm was making a move, and would ultimately shoot 66 to tie for fifth position. It wasn’t until he reached Golden Bell, the beguiling par-3 12th hole, that Matsuyama made another mistake. Fooled by the wind, he airmailed the green, landing in the rear bunker on the fly. He wisely played to the fringe, rather than risk a shot into Rae’s Creek. He took two putts for bogey but diverted the big number from his scorecard.
As he had done at the second, Matsuyama made a bounce-back birdie at the 13th. His drive was a bit right, and his approach went safely long and left. His surgical precision with a wedge brought his recovery pitch to a stop 18 inches from the hole. The birdie steadied his nerves, and he narrowly missed another birdie at the 14th. Although he would bogey three of his final four holes, double bogey or worse was never a possibility.
3. Hit greens and make putts—and avoid the sand
Over the course of four days, Hideki Matsuyama hit 13, 14, 12, and 11 greens in regulation. He saved his best putting for the weekend. averaging under 1.5 putts per green from Saturday morning to Sunday evening. When he missed a green, Matsuyama found a way to get the ball close for a saving putt, unless he found the sand. On the week, he was three of seven for sand saves. Granted, the miss at the 72nd hole wasn’t critical, but that still made him 50 percent. Given the size of Augusta National’s bunkers, and their placement, had he found more sand, Matsuyama might not be responsible for planning a dinner menu next April.
4. Ignore your playing partner (or, from X to X)
Did you think that Zalatoris was the only, late-alphabet challenger to Matsuyama? Playing partner Xander Schauffele made the day’s strongest run at the overnight leader. After moving from 7 under to 8 under at the second, the new X-Man imploded with bogey-bogey-double from the third to the fifth. As attention turned to other challengers, Schauffele regrouped and made birdies at seven and eight to re-enter the top 10.
As the back nine dawned for the final group, the Californian still wasn’t in the mix, until he chopped four more strokes off his score. Birdies at 12 through 15 brought him to 10-under par. Had he stayed there, he would have joined Matsuyama in a playoff. Alas, the winds of Berckman’s farm surged at the worst possible time, and Schaufele’s tee ball at the 16th ended up in Jones’ pond. Triple bogey ensued, and Schauffele finished in a tie for the third spot.
While the Xander firework show took place, Matsuyama persevered. In a hilarious video with Tiger, Jason Day, and Rory, teacher Hideki comments that “Japan is a modest culture, showing emotion and celebrating is not common.” Neither, it seems, is losing your cool and choking. Hideki simply didn’t choke.
5. When it’s your week, seize it
Unlike Justin Rose, who opened with 65 and never again broke par at the 2021 Masters, Matsuyama played his first three rounds under par, culminating with a pure 65 of his own. His third round was the only bogey-free round of the tournament until Jon Rahm matched him on Sunday. Matsuyama was on pace to join Zalatoris as the only golfers with four rounds under par until his late-round struggles resigned him to a closing 73.
What does all of that mean? It means that Hideki Matsuyama arrived in Georgia playing well. He parlayed his experience and his current form into a shot at the title, and then he simply out-played and out-witted the competition. Augusta National rarely reveals why a certain player won and a certain player did not. The results are what the history book says, so when your chance arrives, seize it. Like Tsubasa Kajitani had done eight days before, Hideki Matsuyama did on the second Sunday of April.
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