AUGUSTA, Ga. – The most famous hybrid club in golf history is Todd Hamilton's Sonartec MD, which he used all over Royal Troon en route to winning the 2004 British Open. A close second would be Y.E. Yang's TaylorMade Rescue TP, the club he used to stiff his approach shot on the 72nd hole at Hazeltine and win the 2009 PGA Championship.
This week at Augusta National, there are plenty of hybrids in K.J. Choi's bag that could become just as famous if he can win the Masters. Choi, who finished third in the 2004 Masters, used four in the opening round on Thursday.
"Three weeks ago, I felt that to contend at major championships, I had to be able to get the ball up in the air, higher, and to stop the ball on the greens better," Choi said through his interpreter Friday afternoon. "That's why I put the hybrids in the bag. When I tried it, it made playing the par 3s much easier. I still don't feel that I'm 100-percent comfortable with those hybrids, but I still plan to continue using them."
The longest iron in Choi's bag Thursday was a 7-iron, but on Friday he put his 6-iron back in the bag and went with only three hybrids.
Yang, who shot an even-par 72 Friday to finish at five under par, carries four hybrid clubs all the time. The longest iron in his bag is a 6-iron.
Yang's coach, Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Brian Mogg, said Yang had a lot of confidence in the clubs after his PGA Championship win, adding a 4-hybrid to the 2- and 3-hybrids he already carried. Then, at last season's Byron Nelson Championship, a 5-hybrid was added.
"We started calling him grandpa," Mogg said Friday, "because his bag looked like something an old man would carry."
But Mogg quickly pointed out that Yang grew up on Jeju-do Island, South Korea, which is a really windy place. His inclination is to keep the ball low. The hybrids, along with the hard work Yang and Mogg have put in on the range over the last few seasons, have helped him develop a higher ball flight that is helpful on the PGA Tour.
When I asked Yang if he thought about using an iron instead of a hybrid this week because the course is playing firm and fast, he said no.
"I've tried it a few times, especially when it's dry," Yang told me through his interpreter. "But even if it's a logical decision, sometimes it's a confidence issue. I'm just more confident with a hybrid than an iron right now. I've thought about it, but in the end I think I hit my shots very well with my 5-hybrid rather than my 5-iron, which would have been the logical choice if I was going to take one out. So, I'm going to stick with the hybrids for now."
Mogg said that while he can't think of any other pros that carry more than four hybrids, no one is snickering or laughing about Yang's set make-up behind his back.
And if Yang or Choi makes another hybrid famous en route to winning a green jacket, they never will.
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(Photos: Choi, John Mabanglo/Getty Images; Yang, Harry How/Getty Images)