Golf: Last-minute driver switch

Jordan Spieth checking out his ball position during a practice round at August National on Wednesday.The American was forced into an equipment change, after his Titleist 915D2 driver cracked.
Jordan Spieth checking out his ball position during a practice round at August National on Wednesday.The American was forced into an equipment change, after his Titleist 915D2 driver cracked.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Masters holder Spieth confident replacement is better than the one he used last year to win two Major titles

AUGUSTA (Georgia) • Jordan Spieth was forced to begin his Masters title defence yesterday with a new driver in his bag.

On the eve of the year's first Major, the American golfer cracked the face on his Titleist 915D2 driver, forcing an equipment change.

Titleist sent the world No. 2 a back-up. And, according to various American media, Spieth was seen on Wednesday afternoon at Augusta National's practice range working with coach Cameron McCormick, caddie Michael Greller and a TrackMan launch monitor.

Spieth then accepted an award at the Golf Writers Association of America annual dinner as its player of the year and joked: "I thought last night was intimidating."

He was referring to the Champions Dinner held at Augusta on Tuesday, when the 22-year-old was the youngest player in the room.

But, according to Golf Channel, Spieth said the new driver was better than the one he used last year to win two Major titles.

That model saw him move from 146th in total driving in 2014 to 52nd last year and to 24th this year.

Spieth has previously revealed that he typically takes time to get used to a new club .

"I'm very picky with my driver and my putter," he said at last year's PGA Merchandise Show.

"They have to look and feel right, so that when I'm in a big tournament and everything is on the line, all I have to do is hit the shot.

"It is rare for me to trust anything right away. I usually need to hit 2,000 or 3,000 balls (to get comfortable with a new club)."

While Spieth's quest to become only the fourth player to win back-to- back titles at Augusta might have just become that bit harder, Jimmy Walker risked the Masters curse by winning the Par-3 Contest in record fashion on Wednesday.

Walker fired an eight-under 19 on the 1,060-yard layout, smashing a record that had stood for half a century and risking the jinx of no Par-3 winner having ever captured that year's Masters title.

"I think we'll do it," he said of ending the hoodoo.

"I've been playing really well. I've been feeling good and I feel good coming into this week."

The American fired six birdies and added a hole-in-one to break the old nine-hole mark of 20 set by Art Wall in 1965 and matched by Gay Brewer in 1973.

It was a record-shattering day, when nine aces were fired.

South African legend Gary Player, 80, became the oldest golfer in Par-3 history to hit an ace, breaking the age mark of 75 set last year by playing partner Jack Nicklaus.

"I played with Jack last year and he did it so this year he said it's my turn," Player said.

His fourth Par-3 hole-in-one, and the 31st of his career, rolled 35 feet down a slope into the cup to establish a new career mark for the contest, eclipsing the one he shared with Ben Crenshaw.

The former record total of Par-3 Contest aces was five in 2002 and last year.

Yesterday's first-round result was not available by press time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 08, 2016, with the headline 'LAST-MINUTE DRIVER SWITCH'. Print Edition | Subscribe