PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — After working for three days last week with swing coach Butch Harmon in Las Vegas, Ernie Els is in contention at the Players Championship after shooting a two-under 70 Friday.
Els started using Callaway equipment in 2007 after having previously played with Titleist and TaylorMade clubs. He has been experimenting with several drivers this season, including the square-headed FT-i and the new FT-i Tour Low CG, which features interchangeable shafts.
However, after talking with his caddie and taking a peek into Els's bag, I learned that he's using an original version of Callaway's FT-5 (8.5˚) this week, not the new i-Mix version.
When asked why he'd chosen this particular driver, Els said, "The FT-5 launches the ball a little higher. I started playing the softer ball Callaway makes — the Tour i ball* — and that ball launches lower. I needed something to get the ball up in the air, and it didn't quite work for me with the FT-i driver, the square driver, so I went to the FT-5."
In extremely windy conditions, Els used his work-in-progress swing and the FT-5 to officially hit eight of 14 fairways for the second day in a row at TPC Sawgrass. However, today's number is deceiving because Els hit just two poor drives Friday — his opening shot of the day went well right on the 10th hole, and his drive on the fifth hole went straight right and into the pond. Els missed the fairway by less than two paces on three holes.
But if the winds continue to blow, will Els switch drivers? "No, I'm hitting good with this one," he said.
(Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
*According to Callaway's Web site, a new Tour i ball will be available in July.