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.