Will Bubba's gear change help him challenge again at Augusta?
Bubba Watson, remember him? The two-time Masters champion had drifted out of many a golf fan’s consciousness, slipping down to 117th in the rankings.
But a victory at the Genesis Open – his third at the Riviera venue – has catapulted him back into the top 50.
Watson won at Riviera in 2014 before going on to triumph at Augusta later that spring.
So what’s changed?
Titleist will tell you his switch back to the Pro V1x ball at the start of 2018 has played a huge role.
And it’s hard to argue with the timing of his return to form.
The Pro V1x is the ball Watson had used previously and is the same model Tommy Fleetwood switched to at the start of 2017 ahead of his rise to Europe’s number one golfer.
So we caught up with Titleist golf ball product specialist Anthony Williams who had some behind the scenes insight into Watson’s latest ball fitting.
“Bubba would have been happy playing either the Pro V1 or the Pro V1x golf ball,” Williams said.
“But with his desire to shape the ball, the X is a higher spinning ball and he can shape it a bit easier.
“Also, he had played the Pro V1x previously so it was a ball he was familiar with already.
“I think what we’ve seen with Bubba is important for all golfers. The golf ball is the only piece of equipment you use for every shot.
“So it needs to be able to perform on every shot. Whether that’s one of Bubba’s high 70-yard slices or a little chip and run shot.
“The golf ball needs to do all the right things at the right time. So getting the right golf ball is important to all golfers.
“With Bubba we’ve seen what some people might think to be a small change make a big difference.”
So is the golf ball the most important piece of equipment we use?
“The ball might not be the most important piece of equipment for everyone. If someone really struggles to hit their driver well then the driver might be more important for them. But the right golf ball can certainly help all players shoot lower scores.”
But is this message getting though to club golfers?
“I see it every day in pro shops,” Williams added.
“It can be like a light bulb moment when you start explaining the differences between the balls. And when a golfer thinks they might be able to shave a few shots off each round, their eyes light up.
“The ball is not just a white thing with dimples.
“The most common thing I get asked is the difference between the Pro V1 and Pro V1x. Elite players have an understanding. But many still say they can’t tell the difference.
“But once you get a bit more information about what you are supposed to be looking for – that really helps to notice the differences.
“You need to get golfers to ask themselves questions like does it feel softer? Does it stop quicker?”
How do you do a ball fitting?
“The good thing about a ball-fitting is it’s the same for a tour player and a 20-handicapper. We get them to hit wedge, 7-iron and driver.
“The better the golfer, the better the data you will get from Trackman.
“Trackman is great but it doesn’t tell you want the player wants to see and feel. When you have the data and information about what the player wants, then you can make the recommendation.
“You can only really test balls out on the golf course too – that is the key thing. You learn to trust what your golf ball is going to do.
“And that’s why you should always stick with the same ball. Stick with the same ball until your needs change.”
To find a ball-fitting event visit the Titleist website.