Q&A: RSM Classic Winner Tyler Duncan on Playing The Same Golf Ball, Switching to 14 Titleist Clubs, and the New Vokey SM8 Wedges

Less than 24 hours after hoisting his first PGA Tour trophy at the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Tyler Duncan gave Team Titleist a call from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., to talk about the Pro V1 golf ball and 14 Titleist clubs – including brand-new Vokey SM8 wedges – he took to the winner's circle:

Team TItleist: Congratulations on your first career PGA TOUR win Tyler. Very impressive. You joined Titleist as a full product line ambassador at the beginning of 2019. How did that come about?

Tyler Duncan: The golf ball was a big part of it. I have always played the Titleist golf ball for as long as I can remember. I think it’s the best ball in golf and it’s important because you use it on every single shot. My previous golf club sponsor was making a push to get me and their other staff players to play its golf ball.  So that was a big part of it. I was not comfortable switching to their golf ball and, to be honest, the driver was a big part of it as well. I usually like to play a left-to-right shot off the tee most of the time. But when I tried the Titleist TS2 it also gave me the option to be able to draw it off the tee as well. That was something I wasn’t confident in doing before.

TT: You mentioned you’ve been playing the Titleist golf ball your entire competitive life. Why the Pro V1 versus the Pro V1x for you?

TD: I played the Pro V1x several years ago, but I’ve been playing the Pro V1 for at least four years. At the time, I noticed that the Pro V1 was allowing me to launch it a little bit lower and spin it a little bit less, especially with the irons. I’m a pretty high spin player, so being able to launch it a little bit lower with a little less spin was something that I needed. It is the perfect ball for me. I feel so comfortable with it and am so confident that I know what it is going to do every time. The Titleist Golf Ball R&D team asks me every now and then what I would change about the golf ball if I could do anything?  And I don’t have an answer for them. Based on how it performs for me, I honestly tell them that I wouldn’t change a thing.

TT: Are there any performance characteristics you prioritize over another when choosing your golf ball?

TD: Playability in the wind is very important to me. When the wind blows, golf’s that much more challenging. So I think when you find the ball that can perform in the wind, that’s one of the most important things. The Pro V1 is great downwind, but I also feel I can flight it into the wind when necessary. It is so consistent and I have total confidence.

You can just look at No. 18. I played 18 three times on Sunday. I hit 7-iron twice and a 6-iron the last time. The wind was mostly off the right the whole day, and if you look at my three approach shots into the green, all three of them were, I would say within a yard past pin high to a yard short of pin high. And those were three of the most important shots I’ve probably ever hit in my life.

TT: How superstitious are you about your golf ball? How many will use during a round?

TD: Well, I only used one on Friday at RSM when I shot my 61. That was actually pretty funny because I took a sleeve of balls out on the putting green and gave them to my caddie. And I had forgotten that we had already stocked the bag up the night before. And I was like, perfect, we have way more balls than we need today so hopefully that means we just go through one. And I used the same ball the whole day. That was the lowest round I’ve ever shot, so I still have the ball. On Sunday, I made bogey on the first hole and that ball lasted one hole.  I guess it’s kind of almost a superstitious thing. If I have a good vibe I’m going to keep rolling with it and if not, then I’m not afraid to switch.

TT: Do you have a special place where you save certain golf balls?

TD: I do. So at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am a couple of years ago they gave us some crystal. I happened to hole a shot out from the fairway and I saved the ball. I wrote down the event and hole and tossed it in there. And now it’s kind of become a tradition. Every time I hole out from the fairway, I just write on it and toss it in that crystal. And I’ll do that same thing with the 61. And I have two other balls from yesterday – the one from regulation and the playoff – as well, that I’ll toss in there.


TT: How do you mark your Titleist?

TD: I’ve always used a black Sharpie and drawn a line through the Pro V1 sidestamp. I like to have a line on there to line up putts. But then at Riviera this year I took an orange Sharpie out of the locker room and just filled in a dimple with an orange dot on the blank side, opposite of the Pro V1. I use it as a mental reminder to be confident and aggressive on the putting green. I figured it was bright and would stand out. Maybe it would catch my eye and spark my memory a little bit. And so I’ve been doing that since then.

TT: So you kept playing the same Titleist golf ball, but you switched all 14 clubs to Titleist.  What was that process like?

TD: Well, it made it much easier because I was not switching golf balls. Like I said, the transition to the TS2 driver was critical. So when I knew that passed the test, and I was confident that was an even better fit for me than what I had been playing, I could move on to the rest of the bag.  I knew where my baseline was with each club and what I wanted to see when it came off each club. That made testing and the transition much easier. I put in a TS3 3-wood at the Travelers that is probably the best club in my bag right now. I love it.

TT: You put two new Vokey Design SM8 wedges in the bag at The RSM Classic – the first week they became available to players. What did you put in play and how did they compare to your SM7’s?

TD: I like the new wedges a lot. I love the way they are designed and the clean look and overall feel. I felt like the ball reacted to more of what I was trying to do than before. So if I was trying to launch it lower, it really launched noticeably lower. They also feel unbelievable. I love the way the wedges go through the turf and the ball comes off the face. Another thing that stood out was chipping with the 58 degree. It felt like night and day. It seemed so much better. And I led the field in scrambling – so they must have been working!

TT: What is it like working with Aaron Dill and Bob Vokey on wedges?:

TD: Yeah, I worked with both of them at RSM. When Bob’s around he’s always a great person to talk to and learn from. He has so much experience and some great stories of the players he’s worked with in the past. I see Aaron about every week. He is one of the hardest workers out here and checks in and makes sure we have everything that we need. The SM8s are awesome – obviously they went straight in the bag that pretty much speaks for itself. So it’s awesome to have access - not only to Aaron and Bob - but to the entire Titleist Tour team.

TT: How about your Scotty Cameron 009M putter.  Is there a story behind that?

TD: When I first got on the PGA TOUR a couple of years ago, I actually putted with a mallet. I switched to the 009 during a week off just a couple months ago. My putting stats hadn’t been great and I spoke to (Cameron putter rep) Drew Page at Wyndham.  I was on the Titleist Tour trailer and saw the 009 and asked Drew if I could bring this home to practice with it.  I really liked the look but hadn’t putted with a blade for a while. I happened to be practicing out at TPC Sawgrass, and one of my buddies saw me putting with it and said ‘hey, that looks good on you.’ I gave it a try and have been putting with it ever since.  Now that I won with it about two months later, I think it’s safe to say it will be in the bag for a while.

TT: You played your college golf at Purdue. How did that choice come about?

TD:  I grew up in southern Indiana. I wasn’t really recruited that much nationally. I didn’t grow up playing a ton of AJGA events or that kind of stuff. I played a lot of local tournaments and a couple AJGA events if we could drive to them. And when I visited Purdue, the facilities were awesome, some of the best around, especially in the North. We had the indoor facility and a great golf course. They already had a couple guys from Indiana there and they offered me some scholarship money, so I felt like it was a great fit. I have the ‘P’ logo on the belly of my Titleist staff bag.