[PHOTO: Anadulo]

It’s the time of year when some players make tweaks to their bag with Augusta National and the Masters on their mind. At the Valero Texas Open, Rory McIlroy didn’t say if the equipment tweak he made was specifically for that reason, but it’s not a stretch to think that if it’s in the bag this week, it’ll be in play next week in Georgia.

McIlroy swapped his 4-iron, going from TaylorMade’s P760 model to a prototype with a muscle cavity after a visit to TaylorMade’s test centre in Carlsbad, California.

“After I went to Vegas I went out to the Kingdom [TaylorMade’s test centre] for two days,” McIlroy said. “I needed to get into a fresh set of irons. My irons were, like, two years old maybe, so they were getting a little worn. I went out, spent a couple of days with the TaylorMade guys [and] they just produced these couple of proto [irons]. They performed really well. It’s just as fast as the 760 I was using. Launch is a little higher, actually, which was surprising, and it’s just sometimes I felt like when I hit my 5-iron in the blade and then the 4-iron in the 760 it was such a different feel. To go from a 5-iron now to that 4-iron, it feels a little closer to what I feel in the 5-iron. So just a little bit more responsive, but didn’t lose any performance from it, which is great. It will be in the bag this week.”

It would not be the first time McIlroy made a change to his 4-iron with the Masters coming up. During practice rounds a few weeks before the 2011 Masters, McIlroy noted he was struggling to clear the front-right bunker on the par-3 fourth hole from the back tee with his 4-iron. McIlroy didn’t carry a 3-iron at the time, opting for a four-wedge setup that he wanted to continue to use during the Masters. So, what to do? McIlroy had the loft of his 4-iron strengthened a mere 1 degree to produce the extra distance needed.

So, is this club swap with that shot in mind? It’s unclear, but odds are it will be in the bag for the Masters.