PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL – MAY 13: Webb Simpson of the United States plays his shot from the fifth tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
By E. Michael Johnson
Webb Simpson won the Players Championship in dominating fashion and did so with a set of makeup that everyday players should take note of. Simpson, who hit 76.4 percent of his greens in regulation, plays with five metalwoods in his bag and starts the iron set at the 5-iron—something of an anomaly for a PGA Tour player as utility irons have found favour in recent years.
According to Titleist tour rep J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “The biggest thing for Webb is that he doesn’t mind how many headcovers are in his bag. He knows his ball flight and hitting his number matters most. … One of the most important things was finding a shaft and head combination that maximized distance and control. The Titleist 917D2 driver and Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 5X shaft allowed him to get a little longer and still have the control he was seeking.”
Indeed, Simpson has been searching for a driver shaft since the start of the season when he had a Mitsubishi Kurokage Dual Tini 60 TX in a Titleist 917D3 driver. He then switched to the 917D2 head with a Graphite Design Tour AD 125 TX at the Honda Classic. The following week, at the WGC-Mexico Championship, he stayed with the 917D2 head but with the Tour AD IZ 5 X shaft, which he has played ever since.
The driver combination along with a pair of fairway woods and two hybrids worked well at TPC Sawgrass as Simpson used a variety of metalwoods off the tee to hitting over 80 percent of his fairways, setting him up for aggressive approach shots that led to a host of birdies (and a pair of eagles), including six in a row at one point in the second round—the most consecutive birdies Simpson has made in his PGA Tour career.
Simpson, who used to putt anchor-style and actually snapped his old belly putter over his knee one off-season (he kept the parts, however, for posterity), putted like a fiend using an Arm-Lock style at TPC Sawgrass. Simpson picked up nearly 10 strokes on the field in strokes gained/putting this week using an Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line Long (40.5 inches) putter with 7 degrees of loft to accommodate the forward press in the Arm-Lock method. The head is 385 grams and features a White Hot Pro insert while the shaft features a single-bend into the hosel. Simpson spoke about his hot stretch on the greens after the second round.
“Confidence is so big, and it can change the way you think,” said Simpson. “And I think even more so maybe with putting. Putting there’s so much—there’s read, there’s grain, there’s speed, and then there’s you. … Even with the short putter, I had tournaments where I putted well, but I never had stretches three months, six months, eight months where consistently I was a lot better. So I think once that kind of four, five, six months of really good putting hit, I started to believe again that I’m a great putter. It had been a long time since I’ve really felt that and believed it.”
What Webb Simpson had in the bag at the Players Championship
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Driver: Titleist 917D2 (Graphite Design Tour AD IZ 5X), 9.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M2 2017, 15 degrees
5-wood: Titleist 913Fd, 18 degrees
Hybrids: Titleist 913Hd (20 degrees); Titleist 915Hd (23.5 degrees)
Irons (5-PW): Titleist 718 MB
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (54 degrees); Titleist Vokey prototype (60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line Long