Equipment

February 2, 2013 - 8:35pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Mizuno MP-T4 wedge
Courtesy of Mizuno Golf
The MP-T4 wedges were engineered to enhance playability and turf interaction, as is evident by their new sole design, which provides more toe and heel relief.

Designed with insight from short-game superstar Luke Donald, the MP-T4 wedges from Mizuno are among the most versatile high-spin wedges on the market. Created with Mizuno's patented Grain Flow Forging process and 1025E "Pure Select" mild carbon steel, these new wedges provide a soft yet solid feel.

The MP-T4 wedges were engineered to enhance playability and turf interaction, as is evident by their new sole design, which provides more toe and heel relief. These new wedges also feature a CNC milled face along with Mizuno's exclusive Quad Cut Groove technology, which enables precise control of the width, depth, draft angle and shoulder radius of each groove to enhance spin control and ball-stopping ability in all playing conditions.

These new wedges are available in two exotic finishes – White Satin and Black Nickel. And combined with a True Temper DG Spinner shaft, they deliver increased spin and a lower launch at impact with an average of 250+ RPM as compared to True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts.

"Nobody knows how a wedge should perform better than Luke Donald, and he was instrumental in the design of this wedge," said Dick Lyons, vice president and general manager of the Golf Division, Mizuno USA. "With Luke's help, we have designed the MP-T4 to optimize every facet of wedge play. From feel to spin to shot versatility, no wedge can do more for your short game than the MP-T4."

The MP-T4s come in right-handed models with lofts of 50, 52, 54, 56, 58 and 60 degrees, as well as left-handed models in lofts of 52, 56 and 60 degrees. And for the first time, Mizuno is offering golfers the ability to personalize their MP-T4 and MP-R12 wedges with up to six characters, letters and/or numbers, in 12 different colors. This customization is free, and requires only a two-week wait after an order is placed.

They carry a suggested retail price of $129.99 per club.

February 1, 2013 - 6:55pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Titleist 913D2 and 913D3 drivers
Courtesy of Titleist
The 913D2 driver (l) features a 460cc full-pear shaped head with a slight draw bias, while the 913D3 has a slightly smaller 445cc classic pear shape that is forgiving with no flight bias.

Titleist calls its 913D2 and 913D3 drivers the fastest, most consistent the company has ever designed. They are also Titleist's most playable and forgiving drivers, primarily as a result of improved launch conditions from a lower, more optimal Center of Gravity position, a new rear SureFit Tour weight and the fitting precision provided by the SureFit Tour adjustable hosel.

"The new 913D2 and 913D3 drivers offer the highest performance of any adjustable drivers on the market, particularly when it comes to speed and forgiveness," said Titleist Vice Preisdent of Research and Development Dan Stone. "Every serious golfer, from tour players to amateurs of all skill levels, will experience more distance potential and better driving performance with 913."

The 913D2 driver features a 460cc full-pear shaped head designed for maximum forgiveness and a slight draw bias, while the 913D3 has a slightly smaller 445cc classic pear shape that is forgiving with extra workability. Unlike the 910 series, both D2 and D3 models now offer the same launch and spin characteristics to provide maximum fitting flexibility.

"Golfers can now choose their 913 model based on size or shape preference, amount of forgiveness or workability, and amount of draw bias," said Stone. "They can then dial-in their launch and spin settings precisely using the SureFit Tour hosel."

The 913D2 and 913D3 drivers deliver faster, more consistent ball speeds across the face due to a new forged, variable thickness face insert that is the fastest face insert ever designed by Titleist.

The 913's 6-4 Titanium face insert has a thick central portion that mirrors the outer face profile. As you move out from the center, however, the insert is thinner and tapered so that it matches up with the body thickness at the edge of the face. It is also 2 grams lighter than the 910's face insert, and that mass is redistributed to the SureFit Tour weight low on the head.

"We are always engineering our center face ball speed to the maximum, but the new insert allows for a more consistent deflection across the whole face, which gives us more ball speed and more distance across a larger area of the face," Stone said. "The face insert is not a symmetric geometry, it's a complex structure and it required us to really think outside the box. We had to invent a new process just to produce it."

The new insert has increased the maximum ball speed area up to 11 percent from Titleist's previous 910 drivers. That, Titleist says, results in upwards of 2 mph of additional ball speed in certain hit locations, which translates to up to 4-6 additional yards.

While past generation D2 and D3 models each featured different launch and spin characteristics, the new 913D2 and 913D3 drivers have equivalent launch and spin because their Center of Gravity positions are equally low. To accomplish this, the Center of Gravity in the 913D2 was lowered to produce similar launch and spin to 913D3. To do this, Titleist engineers improved the casting and polishing process to produce an ultra-thin crown that allowed for more mass to be redistributed low and deep in the head.

The 913 drivers also feature a lower, flatter sole profile than the 910, and the new SureFit Tour weight on the rear sole further optimizes the Center of Gravity for speed and forgiveness. This weight has a new, flat geometry with a screw that holds the weight in place but doesn’t extend up into the driver head. Also, the standard SureFit Tour weight has increased from 7 grams to 9 grams, taking the 2 grams of weight saved from the new forged face insert and reapplying it in this lower, better position.

The SureFit Tour hosel, which debuted on the 910 drivers, allows golfers to set their loft and lie independently – higher or lower, and for more draw or fade – for improved shot control and maximum distance.

"We call it 'Tour Van-in a hosel' because that was our inspiration for designing SureFit Tour in that it provides all the power of a tour van – the ability to bend for loft and lie, and interchange shafts – right on the tee at the point of fitting," Stone said.

The dual angle SureFit Tour hosel features a sleeve and ring, each with four settings. The sleeve settings are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4 and the ring settings are lettered A, B, C, D. In total there are 16 settings, each creating a unique loft and lie combination.

The 913s featuring an improved toe profile, and the head retains its black PVD finish with a new black body paint.

The 913D2 drivers come in lofts of 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 12 degrees of loft in both right- and left-handed models, and a 7.5-degree right-handed model. The D3 also comes in a 7.5-degree right-handed model, along with right- and left-handed models in 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 degrees. They carry a suggested retail price of $449 per club.

Categories: 913D2 913D3
January 31, 2013 - 10:32pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme driver
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
Callaway debuted the RAZR Fit Xtreme driver in late November, billing it as the longest fully adjustable driver the company has ever measured.

Phil Mickelson came within a whisker of shooting a 59 on Thursday in the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a score even more impressive because it was the first competitive round he played with a new Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme driver in his bag.

Mickelson carded 11 birdies to no bogeys in his 60, and hit 16 of 18 greens on the day. He shot a 7-under 29 on his first nine (the back nine at TPC Scottsdale) before cooling off a bit on the back.

''I finally gave our new RAZR Fit Xtreme a chance,'' Mickelson said after his round. ''And I tell you what, on Tuesday, when I hit it, I kept looking up and I was almost in disbelief at how easy it was, how straight it was, and the misses weren't bad. I put it into play in the pro-am yesterday and I hit it great.

''I drove it phenomenal, and felt really good with it,'' he added. ''And the thing that's so great about it is I can make the same swing with my irons as I do with my driver and the ball goes very straight and easy. … So that was the big thing. I drove the ball much better here.''

Callaway debuted the RAZR Fit Xtreme driver in late November, billing it as the longest fully adjustable driver the company has ever measured, and it is now available at retail. The Xtreme is the second adjustable driver Callaway has developed in the past year or so, following the original RAZR Fit Driver, and company officials say this one advances distance and overall performance over its predecessor.

Speed Frame Face Technology is the headliner of the technological advances in the RAZR Fit Xtreme. It combines Callaway's Variable Face Technology and Hyperbolic Face Technology to enhance the stress distribution across the club's titanium face for more efficient energy transfer from clubhead to ball. It also makes for a larger, more consistent sweet spot and increased ball speed, even on off-center contact.

The Speed Frame Face also saves weight that is then redistributed in the clubhead to improve the Center of Gravity and maximize Moment of Inertia, which leads to improved ball flight, stability and forgiveness. In addition, the face features a tighter bulge radius than the original RAZR Fit Driver for a more preferred look at address, along with more consistent sidespin and dispersion.

The driver's crown features Forged Composite – an advanced carbon fiber material that Callaway has been working with for more than four years. Using this patented, lightweight material, which weighs only 12.1 grams – and gives the RAZR Fit Xtreme the lightest crown in golf – allows Callaway engineers to precisely position saved weight to achieve the lowest Center of Gravity in any fully adjustable driver. This promotes higher ball speed and less spin off the tee for more distance.

Two OptiFit Technology elements make up the RAZR Fit Xtreme's improved adjustability: the OptiFit Hosel and OptiFit Weights. The hosel adjusts the face angle to Open, Square or Closed positions to improve accuracy and trajectory while allowing golfers to dial in their preferred look at address. The 13- and 1-gram OptiFit Weights shift the clubhead's Center of Gravity to promote noticeable Draw or Neutral ball flights. The higher lofts have more draw bias than lower lofts.

And speaking of lofts, the RAZR Fit Xtreme comes in more lofts that incorporate a greater range of face angle options, Center of Gravity bias options and CG height differences than the RAZR Fit Driver. Callaway has optimized the performance in each loft to suit the needs of the players that will use it. For example, they said, the 8.5-, 9.5- and 10.5-degree clubheads are 440cc (versus 460cc for other lofts) and feature a more open face angle.

The RAZR Fit Xtreme features two tour-grade shafts as stock offerings. The primary shaft, the Aldila Trinity, combines Aldila's three patented design technologies (RIP, S-Core, Micro Laminate) into a single shaft design. A secondary offering, the Matrix 7M3 Black Tie, is a heavier, lower launching, lower spinning option for players who generate higher head speed and higher spin.

And for golfers wanting to personalize their clubs, Callaway's udesign option has been expanded for the RAZR Fit Xtreme. Both the crown and the sole of the clubhead are now separately customizable with eight different color choices. And for the first time, custom laser engraving will also be available on the sole.

January 31, 2013 - 1:04pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Wally Uihlein
Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein believes that adopting different equipment rules for professionals and amateurs wouldn't help grow the game.

Here in the Golf Buzz the other day, I posted an item in which TaylorMade CEO Mark King was quoted as predicting that bifurcation – separate equipment rules for tour pros and amateur players – is not only inevitable, but that it's also coming fast.

A few days before King made that statement, along with several other strong ones, another of golf's most powerful voices spoke out on the other side of the bifurcation issue. In a post on the Titleist tour blog, Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein, who runs both Titleist and FootJoy, doesn't argue for or against the proposed anchor ban, but very thoughtfully presents his case for why golf's equipment rules (and all rules, really) should remain unified.

''There are two fundamental forces driving this progression to unification,'' Uihlein wrote. ''The first is the essence of the game; the emotional allure that compels golfers to play and experience the same course or shot as one of the game's greats, even if just to aspire.

''The second impetus is the dysfunction and instability caused by multiple sets of rules. Prior history of multiple sets of rules created widespread confusion and prompted the need for clarification and unification,'' he added. ''The fact remains that the game's growth, and its globalisation, are inextricably linked to the idea that golfers – of all skill levels – play the same game.''

Further down in his post, Uihlein delineates the three primary arguments that some give in support of bifurcation, then presents his opposing view to each point.

The first argument for bifurcation, Uihlein says, is that today's pro game doesn't mirror today's amateur game. That, he argues, is ''more a commentary on the skill of the professional golfer than amateurs' desire to play a different game.'' The relationship between the game's elite and the rest of us has always been part of golf's fabric, he says, and notes that ''today's amateur golfers maintain the same appetite to emulate the swings of of the world's greatest players.''

The second pro-bifurcation argument he cites is that adopting different rules would help to grow the game. That's a false assumption, Uihlein believes, because ''1990 to 2000 was the most innovative decade in the game's history, yet during this period, golf participation in the U.S. and Europe flatlined.'' The game's growth, he says, is more of a demographic issue – golf is a game of the middle class, he believes, and in the Western world, today's middle class is the same size as in the early 1990s.

The final argument in favor of bifurcation is that most golfers just play for fun, and that formalizing different sets of rules is just sanctioning what is already reality. Again, Uihlein, offers a counter-argument.

''If golfers don't play by the one set of rules that exist today, why are two sets of rules required?,” he asks. “If the argument is that golfers don't play by the rules and bifurcation will help grow the game, then how will two sets of rules contribute to additional participation? The logic is flawed.''

Uihlein also offers up a lot of historical perspective that is as enlightening as it is suportive of his core belief, which is that the globalization of golf – 55 million people play golf in more than 150 different countries these days – requires that the rules and requirements remain unified. And he closes with a 1927 quote from C.B. Macdonald, an early British Open champion and leading Rules official, who said:

“Golf is a world encircling game. One of its charms is that no matter where you go, whether America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe or Scotland, the game is the same, with only such rules as are necessary to govern the local situation.”

Bifurcation is one of the most difficult questions facing golf today. You're obviously interested if you've read this far, so I encourage you to click on over and read Uihlein's piece from start to finish. I guarantee you'll learn something.

January 29, 2013 - 1:14pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King
TaylorMade CEO Mark King believes that actions like the proposed anchoring ban will hurt golf, and that golf's governing bodies run the risk of becoming irrelevant if they continue to pursue them.

We're about two months into the three-month comment period that the USGA and R&A instituted after they announced their proposed rule to ban the anchoring of long putters.

Mark King, the CEO of TaylorMade, has a comment. And, wow, what a comment it is.

In short, King told The Telegraph newspaper in England that the anchoring ban is nonsensical, urged the tours to break away from the USGA and even predicted that the USGA will become a non-factor within a decade.

"The anchoring ban makes no sense to me at all," said King, whose company owns TaylorMade, adidas Golf, Ashworth apparel, Adams Golf and puttermaker Yes! Golf. "If I were running the PGA of America, I would write my own set of rules. I'd do it with the PGA Tour. The industry needs to come together without the USGA. Leave them out."

PGA of America President Ted Bishop issued a statement expressing his concern with the proposed ban immediately after it was announced. The European Tour has indicated it will go along with the ban when it goes into effect in 2016, but the PGA Tour hasn't yet formally established its position.

It would be a drastic move for the PGA Tour to flout the USGA and R&A, which establish the Rules of Golf worldwide, Telegraph columnist James Corrigan wrote. But, he noted, King feels it could happen because such prominent players as Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els and Webb Simpson have expressed strong opposition to the ban.

"I'm still not convinced the PGA Tour is going to completely embrace the long putter rule," said King. "Here's a prediction: The USGA within 10 years will be a nonentity. They will be a non-factor in golf because they are choosing to be on the outside and no one is signing up for what they represent. The industry is going to move away from them and pass them. They're obsolete. I hate to say that but that's their behavior."

Bifurcation – having one set of rules for professional players and another for amateurs – is not only inevitable, King told the newspaper, it's coming fast. "If [PGA Tour Commissioner] Tim Finchem says he's going to use all the USGA rules except the long putter rule, there you go. You have two sets of rules."

Regardless of whether the ban is instituted or not, King says TaylorMade will continue to make long putters. And if the USGA ever acts to restrict ball flight, as has been rumored, the company will keep making hot balls. There's no reason to doubt him, either -- TaylorMade has enjoyed record-setting sales in each of the past two years, and is by far the dominant company in the golf equipment space these days.

"The whole world, not just golf, the whole world is about innovation and consumers only want what's new and exciting," he said. "They don't want last year, they want new, innovative cool stuff and if we're going to stop that or limit that, we're going to kill the industry not just equipment but the playing of the game.

"So if the USGA doesn't jump on board and lead this new way of golf, they're just going to be obsolete," he summarized. "And if Finchem goes ahead and leaves the long putter in, it's just the start. The USGA is going over the edge."

King is the first big-clubmaker CEO to come out so strongly against the anchor rule, and others might not follow. However, having the largest equipment company come out so strongly against them has got to at least furrow some brows at the USGA and R&A, and King's vocal opposition might encourage other opponents to speak out as well. It'll be very interesting to see what happens from here.

January 28, 2013 - 2:11pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Chris Wood
Getty Images
Chris Wood hit a Mizuno MP-69 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the final hole of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters en route to an eagle and a one-shot victory, his first triumph on the European Tour.

Golf's biggest equipment makers dominated the news last week at the PGA Merchandise Show down in Orlando, but Mizuno held its ground with the biggest of the big boys thanks to three noteworthy developments:

--Last Sunday, Charles Howell III finished second in the Humana Challenge.
--On Wednesday, Mizuno announced that it had renewed its agreement with world No. 3 Luke Donald.
--On Friday came the news that the company had re-upped its deal with reigning LPGA Tour Player of the Year Stacy Lewis.
--And on Saturday, Mizuno staff ambassador Chris Wood bagged his first European Tour victory at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Donald doesn't play an entire bag of Mizuno clubs, but he does use the company’s irons and wedges, and those clubs are the backbone of his steady short game. In fact, he provided feedback throughout the development of Mizuno's new MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges, to the point that Mizuno describes those clubs as being designed hand-in-hand with him.

Donald even visited the the plant in Hiroshima, Japan, where the clubs are forged, last November, and spent a little time with the man who grinds his clubs. While he was in Japan last fall, he won the Dunlop Phoenix, one of the biggest tournaments on the Japan Tour, and used those MP-64 irons and MP-T4 wedges in that victory.

Donald signed on with Mizuno back in 2003, and has earned 13 professional wins with that gear. He also played those Mizuno clubs during his red-hot 2011 and 2012 seasons, in which he held the world No. 1 position for a total of 56 weeks and topped the money lists on both the PGA Tour and European Tour in 2011.

"We've refined my Mizuno equipment in the last couple of seasons and I'm really happy with what I have in the bag right now, so it gives me great pleasure to extend this relationship," Donald said. "Mizuno is the most precise, incredible clubmaker out there, and I'm honored to represent this quality brand."

Donald's renewal never seemed to be seriously in doubt, but there was considerable speculation that Lewis might sign elsewhere. She began playing Mizuno gear in college, and last year led the LPGA Tour with four victories as she rose to No. 3 in the women's world rankings. She notched 16 top-10 finishes, more than any player on the 2012 LPGA Tour, and led the tour in birdies, eagles and rounds in the 60s.

"Since my freshman year at Arkansas, Mizuno has been my equipment manufacturer of choice," said Lewis. "Mizuno has helped me reach many of my goals thus far, and I'm looking forward to building on last year's momentum for another successful season."

Lewis hasn't unveiled her club set for 2013, but she ended 2012 with this configuration:

Driver: Mizuno JPX-800 (9 degrees of loft)
3-Wood: Mizuno MP (15 degrees)
17-Degree Hybrid: Mizuno MP CLK
4-9 Irons: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno JPX-800 Pro
52-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
56-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
60-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP T-11
Putter: TaylorMade Ghost TM-110 Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Wood jumped into the spotlight by tying for fifth as an amateur in the 2008 British Open and then coming in third in the 2009 British Open, and earned his spot on the European Tour at Q-School a few months later. He had struggled to win as a professional, though, before breaking through with a triumph in the Thailand Open last fall.

His victory in Qatar on Saturday was as dramatic as they come – he led after three rounds, then fell behind Sergio Garcia and George Coetzee before eagling the final hole to win by a shot. After a big drive on the par-5 18th hole, Wood hit a 6-iron 205 yards to within six feet of the hole, and drained the putt for the win. His set includes:

Driver: Mizuno MP-650 (8.5 degrees, Royal Precision Project X Black 7.0 shaft)
3-Wood: Ping G20 (15 degrees)
3-4 Irons: Mizuno MP-64 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
5-9 Irons: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shafts)
48-Degree Wedge: Mizuno MP-69 (Royal Precision Rifle 7.0 shaft)
52-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
56-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
60-Degree Wedge: MP-T4
Putter: Yes! Tracy Tour
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Other prominent players who use Mizuno gear include Jonathan Byrd, Marcel Siem, Mayu Hattori and Jiyai Shin.

And finally, if Tiger Woods closes out a win at the Farmers Insurance Open this afternoon as we all expect him to, the winners of the two big events worldwide this week will be Wood and Woods. That, obviously, has never happened before.

 

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