From The Titleist Winner's Circle: Lanto Griffin

Lanto Griffin Raises his arms in triumph after winning the 2019 Houston Open
Lanto Griffin: Pro V1 golf ball, 917D2 driver (10.5°), TS2 fairway metal (16.5°), U510 utility iron (2), T100 (4-9) irons, Vokey Design SM7 Raw Finish pitching (46.10 F Grind), gap (50.12 F Grind @ 51°), sand (54.10 S Grind @ 55°) and lob (60.08 M Grind) wedges.

You could see this coming since the dawn of the new PGA TOUR season. Just a few short weeks after earning a return trip to the TOUR, Titleist Brand Ambassador Lanto Griffin played four solid rounds at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, finishing 13th at the season-opener. He followed that up with a T-11 performance at the Sanderson Farms Championship and two additional top-20 finishes at the Safeway Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

If you followed the Korn Ferry Tour last year, you'd recognize the consistent play as nothing more than a continuation of the steady excellence that Lanto exhibited throughout 2019 – a year that saw him post 11 top-25 finishes including a win at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, and finish 5th in the Korn Ferry Total Points Standings. It seems that every week he has been knocking at the door, as he is the only player to post 5 top-20 finishes or better. This past Sunday, Lanto kicked it in, capturing his first PGA TOUR victory at the Houston Open.

His one-shot win was a doubly happy occasion for Griffin because the runners-up in Houston were two of his good friends (and fellow Korn Ferry graduates), Mark Hubbard (Pro V1, TS2 9.5° driver , 915Fd 15.0° fairway metal, 816H2 19.0° hybrid, 716 T-MB 4-iron and 716 MB 5-9 irons, Vokey Design SM6 46° pitching and 50° gap wedges, SM7 56° sand and prototype 60° lob wedges) and Scott Harrington (Pro V1x). Their joint performances validated for each of them that they belong on golf's biggest stage.

The day after his breakthrough win, Lanto was kind enough to phone home to Team Titleist and we've shared some excerpts from the conversation below:

Lanto Griffin Reflects after winning his first PGA TOUR event at the 2019 Houston Open

Q: On Sunday, Mark Hubbard was actually your playing partner. What was it like coming down the stretch with him?

Lanto: It was huge. Mark and I have been good friends for a couple of years, but we haven't played a ton of golf together. And we were walking up 13 and we were tied for the lead. It kept us both kind of pushing each other. So I don't think I could've got a better pairing. His caddie's a really good friend of my caddie, and so we just had a really good time. It almost felt like a practice round. We were out there just feeding off each other, and we talked the whole day, and it was cool.

Q: And how about Scott Harrington? He was also right there.

Lanto: Yeah. Scotty's also a really good friend of mine. Obviously we've played on the Korn Ferry Tour together, and I think it was walking up either 17 or right after I hit the tee shot on the 18, I asked my caddie where we stood – I don't like to look at scoreboards, just because my mind's pretty analytical. And if I knew exactly where I was, every position, I'd be thinking about it. But I wanted to know if there was anybody behind me or in front of us that had already finished that we had to worry about – so I asked my caddie, "Do I need to worry about anybody else other than Mark?" And he said, "Scott Harrington is at 13-under on 18." And I was like, "Oh my God. Let's go."

I was so happy for him and I was lucky, too. Watching his putt on 18, it looked like he buried it, but it burned the edge. But that still gave him a two-way tie for second and for where he's been, 38 years old and a rookie, I couldn't have been more happy for Scotty. And for Mark. You know, we all wanted to beat each other, but we're also very happy for each other's success. It was pretty cool that the three of us finished 1-2-2 and we all should be on tour together again next season.

Q: After making it to the PGA TOUR in 2017-18, you lost your card, but then earned it back this season. Now you're exempt on TOUR through 2021/22. How would you describe the last couple years?

It was all about perseverance. I remember I made the last eight cuts of the PGA TOUR season in 2018, and I played a lot of tournaments in a row, and I didn't keep my card at the Korn Ferry final. So I had three months off last winter, and I really wasn't beating myself up over my game. I knew that kind of lit a fire under me going into the Korn Ferry season this past year, and so I actually took two or three months off last fall.

I didn't want to make swing changes. I didn't want to tinker, I didn't want to... I didn't change anything. So coming into this year I was fresh, I was hungry. And when you get a taste of the PGA TOUR, it's hard to go back because it's such a dream playing out there every week. So I had all the motivation I needed internally to have a good year and get back on TOUR, and now to be a PGA TOUR winner and have a job out here for the next three years is an absolute dream come true.

Q: What was it like coming down the stretch in Houston?

Lanto: On 18, I'm really proud that I stuck to my plan. I know a lot of guys will just aim left at the edge of the water and hit a cut back into the fairway. Well, a couple years ago I was struggling with a two-way miss off the tee. And so I started cutting my driver pretty much religiously. And I'm comfortable now, but I'm not quite ready to trust it under big pressure. So instead of taking a risky line, I talked to my caddie about aiming at the left edge of the bunker out in the middle of the fairway. My line was actually 10 yards right of that, further right than what I told him, and I hit it dead straight. It was actually a really good tee shot. I wasn't going to take water left into play. So the rough was my fairway there and I knew by playing the hole that way the worst I would do is bogey, which still gets me in a playoff.

When I first played on the PGA TOUR, I was way too aggressive. I was convinced that I had to make a ton of birdies and so there weren't many pins that I wasn't aiming at. But it's part of the learning process, when to be aggressive, when to play smart.

LAnto Grifin Salutes the crowd with his Pro V1 golf ball after holing a birdie putt at the 2019 Houston Open

Q: Let's talk a little bit about your equipment. You play Pro V1. What's your process for choosing the right ball?

Lanto: I rely a lot on the Titleist guys when making changes. Their opinions matter a ton to me. Obviously, at the end of the day it's my decision whether I want to play it, but I've never hit a Pro V1 that I didn't like. And when a guy like Jeff (Jeff Beyers, Tour Consultant for Golf Ball Performance) tells me, "This is a perfect ball for you, for your spin numbers, and your launch, and everything with the driver through the wedge and putter", I'm going to try it. And if it feels good, I'm going to stick with it. Working with Jeff I know that the Pro V is the perfect ball for me from a launch and spin perspective. If I'm not playing well, I've never once been like, "Eh, this golf ball just doesn't fit me." I usually take it on myself that I need to get better on my end. I know it's not the golf ball's fault.

I don't really think about the golf ball, which is probably the best thing you can have – not having to worry about your equipment. You just worry about what you're doing.

Q: Do you have any superstitions around your golf ball? Do you mark it certain way?

Lanto: Yeah, last year, before the Robert Trent Jones, I asked my girlfriend, Maya, to mark some Pro V1s for me. She put an "M" over the Titleist script. I won the tournament, so that's my mark now. I have the "M" and a line through the sidestamp. I also put two small lines perpendicular to that line for putting. I use a line on every putt.

Funny story from Houston, though. So anytime a ball gets scuffed up a little bit, I like to give it to a kid. I remember growing up at my home course, when you'd find a Pro V it felt like Christmas morning. So anytime I see a kid and I'm switching balls, I give it out. And walking off the 11 green, I made a bogey. And so I marked up a new ball and put it in my pocket, and I saw a kid by the roadside. I tossed him a ball, and when I went to tee up on 12, I noticed my ball had a little scuff on it. So I gave the kid the brand new one I just marked up. I didn't want to back off and get a new one, so I just played it. Mark and I laughed about it walking off the tee, but I hit two great shots in there on 12. Hit it to nine feet and had a good look at birdie.

Lanto Griffin's marked Pro V1 golf ball

Q: How important is it to play a ball that performs consistently?

Lanto: Consistency is the number one thing for us. If we have a constant, we don't have to worry about a shot reacting differently from one day to the next. I've talked to a lot of the product developers. We sat down. We had an hour conversation at the Travelers two years ago with all the guys from R&D. And just hearing how much love and time... and technology goes into the golf ball. The quality control is incredible. So you never grab a sleeve of balls and feel like, "Man, this feels different than the last sleeve I had." It feels the same every single shot. That's what every professional golfer and every amateur should be looking for.

Q: You recently made the switch to T100 irons. How did that transition go?

Lanto: If you're comfortable looking down at an iron or a club in general, that gives you confidence to begin with. So that's the first thing I look at. If I like looking down at it, I'm going to try it. They brought out the T100s in Omaha at the Pinnacle Bank on the Korn Ferry Tour and so a couple of the Titleist guys were there. They brought the irons out and I hit – and this is true – I hit four balls with it and I was like, "All right, they're going in."

So I hit four balls with them on the range and I went out and played with them and I haven't thought about it since. That should tell you how good they are. The thing with Titleist is they're not going to bring out a club until they've tested it thousands of times. That gives players a lot of confidence knowing that the changes they make... it's not a gimmick to sell clubs. The technology is actually going to help you play better. We know that if we like the way it looks, it's going to do what we want it to do.

Lanto Grifin plays an approach shot with his Titleist T100 8-iron during action at the 2019 Houston Open

Q: You have a unique finish on your T100s. How did you get your hands on them?

Lanto: When I saw the launch for the T100s I immediately... I mean, they looked awesome. And on Instagram I saw Cameron Smith had a set of the black irons so I reached out to the guys at Titleist and I asked them, "Am I eligible for those?" And they said "Right now we're very early in the process with the black irons and they're only available to PGA TOUR players." So, I worked on them enough to where Dino (Dino Antenucci, Titleist Golf Club Representative on the Korn Ferry Tour) talked to the right person and got me a set of them and they immediately went into play.

Looking down, the black irons just fit my eye. And obviously, my iron play has been great the last five, six weeks with them.

Q: We spoke with Dino Antenucci recently about our Korn Ferry graduates and he told us that 'Lanto's just got to hug. He's not going to shake your hand. He wants to hug.' What's your relationship like with the guys out on the Titleist Tour Van?

Lanto: My relationship with the Titleist guys is pretty special. They're like family to me. (Korn Ferry Tour Representative) Jim Ohlsen. He gave me a shot in 2008 when I was in college. And you know, me and Jimbo, we still talk all the time. I'd go in the Tour Van mainly just to take a break from the range and go hang out with the guys. I'd go in there every once in a while to check my lies and lofts to make sure that the gaps are the right or if I need some fresh wedges, but usually it was just going in and catching up. I'd be on the road five, six weeks in a row, so it was nice having that family.

The Titleist family, we're all friends. We're not talking golf the whole time. We're in there talking about, where'd you eat? Where are you staying this week? You want to grab dinner? You have to check out this movie I saw. That type of deal. It kind of feels like you are at home when the guys are there.

The players out there, we have our family and our team, but the Titleist guys are there every single week and anything we need, they're ready to help. It's a cool atmosphere. It's really special to be part of.

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Thank you, Lanto and congratulations on your maiden PGA TOUR victory. Wishing you continued success throughout the 2019 season!