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Custom Fit

 Chris DiMarco This three-time PGA Tour winner tries to affect a "What, these old things?" attitude toward his clubs, as if before heading out to tournaments he just grabs a few sticks from the garage. But don't believe it, not from a player who consistently ranks among the best in both putting and long-iron play. In fact, most of the clubs in DiMarco's bag are new this season and custom fitted to a fare-thee-well. Shortly before the Buick Classic at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, New York (where these photos were taken), he replaced the shafts in his Ping i3+ irons with slightly heavier versions. "I was starting to hit the ball left," he explained, possibly due to added strength from his new push-up regimen. He has a new driver and lob wedge and a putter bent four degrees upright to accommodate his unorthodox claw grip. ("The putter is the moneymaker. Anyone on Tour who tells you different is lying.") The most distinctive custom-fitting touch on DiMarco's clubs, however, are the P-I-N-G letters on the backs of his irons. They are alternately painted blue and orange to honor his beloved University of Florida Gators.

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 Jay Haas At fifty, Haas is having one of his best years ever on the PGA Tour and gives some of the credit to his equipment. "I'm hitting the ball as long as before because of modern technology, so really I don't think about my age," he said. The driver is the hardest and most important club to get right, according to Haas. "Guys who struggle usually switch drivers first, because it sets up the rest of the game, and confidence is such a big deal out here." To get the best one, the pros look for the trajectory that gives them the optimum combination of distance and control. Haas said computer launch monitors only confirm what top pros can see for themselves: "We, meaning PGA Tour players, are still the best testing medium there is." Haas himself must be happy with how he's hitting the ball—he hasn't budged from his Titleist 983K driver in two years.

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 Thomas Bjorn You know a pro is serious about getting the right driver when his manufacturer dispatches a custom fitter from the United States to his winter home in Dubai. "It's a big step from liking the idea of a club to making it work," said Bjorn. After testing many shafts in his preferred clubhead, a M.A.C. Powersphere, Bjorn and the fitter found the ideal combination. Bjorn also worked hard to perfect his wedges, experimenting with lofts and grinding metal off the sole. "Now I've got them just right," the Dane said. As for his putter, Bjorn admits he got lucky. Two days before the 2002 British Open, he pulled a Rossa prototype from a sample bag, and he has used it ever since: "Normally a new putter is the most difficult club to get used to."

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 Stuart Appleby Back in his native Australia, Appleby used to custom-fit clubs at a pro shop and also worked in a club-assembly factory. "It isn't rocket science, but I know my way around," he said. As for his own set, Appleby spends a lot of time customizing his wedges. "Those are the most creative clubs," he said, "but most amateurs don't know how to use all their capabilities." Appleby's lob wedge, a sixty-degree Titleist Vokey bent to fifty-eight degrees, looks like a bad science project, with lead tape across the back and a chunk of metal ground off the heel. "When you finally get it working, you hate to give it up," he said. "But I have to at least once a year when the grooves wear out." For amateurs, Appleby has this advice: "You'd probably be better off spending $500 on quality lessons than on a new driver."

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 Zach Johnson Tour rookie Johnson initially used his SeeMore putter for training only (it has built-in alignment features). But three years ago he put it in play at a Hooters Tour event and shot sixty-one. It's been in his bag since, through last year's Nationwide Tour romp and his first PGA Tour victory this year at the BellSouth Classic. Looks matter to Tour pros more than you might think. Johnson hates chrome, for instance, and likes irons with sharp angles and classic shapes. "If the topline is too thick," he said, "I can't line up as well. I don't know why."

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Styled by Vicky McGarry | Photographed by Michael Lavine


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