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Are hybrids on the way out?

hybrids long-iron replacements utility woods utility irons

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#1 zakkozuchowski

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 04:17 PM

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Are hybrids on the way out?

By Chris Nickel

GolfWRX Contributor

Archilochus said "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." Sometimes you want a fox and sometimes you want a hedgehog. Sometimes you’re not sure, so you want them both!

Golfers of all levels have long struggled with what exactly to do with the long-iron conundrum. There is an inevitable transition from woods to irons, but for anyone not named Tiger, Rory or Jack, there has not been a consistent answer.

Even more limiting were the choices... It was basically a 2 iron or 5 wood; or the choice between looking like a “player” and looking like someone who couldn’t hit a 2 iron. Essentially, you did not bag a fairway wood beyond a 3 wood unless you did not have the ability to hit a long iron. If fact, during the Nicklaus and Palmer era, players carried 1 and 2 irons almost exclusively.

Tour pros of today, however, have the benefit of rotating multiple clubs in and out of their 14-club lineup depending on the set up of a particular course.  You’ve seen Tiger and Rory win majors with 5-woods in the bag and you’ve also seen Tiger dissect a British Open course relying heavily on long irons. Pros don’t need a “do everything” tool like a spork, when they can simply choose a spoon or a fork depending on the situation. However, for the average golfer, this golf club roulette is a cost prohibitive tactic.

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Even better for the touring professional is that all of the options cost exactly the same: nothing. Pros can add a club, drop a club, swap shafts, regrip and it’s all on the house. Some courses play firm and fast and place a premium of placing tee balls in the fairway (think Oakland Hills, Baltusrol and the Lake Course at Olympic Club). In this situation, a 2-iron makes it easier for a player to shape shots from right-to-left or left-to-right. But is very difficult to hit a long iron extremely high, and therefore hold firm greens. A tour player is more likely to find a long par-3 or a reachable par-5, both of which might call for a high, soft approach shot.  In this instance, a 5-wood with a thinner face (higher ball speeds and longer carry distance), and lower CG (higher trajectory) fits the bill.

Trevino’s famous quip that “not even God can hit a 1 iron” reminds us that even golf’s greatest players can struggle to hit their long irons consistently. Enter 1975 and Cobra’s baffler. With a patented railed sole-plate design, this club broached a new category and set the stage for future hybrids.

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In 2002, TaylorMade debuted its Rescue Series (with some guidance from TV analyst and former player Gary McCord), which offered both a hybrid and fairway model. Originally designed to replace the hard to hit long irons, these clubs offered a lower CG, higher MOI and more consistent ball speed than the irons they replaced. The lower CG (Center of Gravity) promoted a higher initial trajectory and a higher overall ball flight. For players who struggled to elevate the ball, it was a situation where physics was working in their favor!

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Moment of Inertia (MOI) is a measure of a club’s resistance to directional change at impact. The higher the MOI, the less a club will twist on off-center strikes and the straighter the shot will be. Unfortunately, for the better player, older hybrids also tended to have closed faces and heel weighting. Translation: Das ist ein hook machine.

Again, the industry adapted and one company in particular, Sonartec, received publicity money simply could not purchase. Todd Hamilton used the company’s 17-degree Sonartec Md hybrid (bent to 14 degrees) in several crucial situations to defeat Ernie Els in a four-hole playoff in the 2004 British Open. Unfortunately for Sonartec, the company didn’t have the infrastructure to capitalize on this newfound and unexpected onslaught of demand. They had the figured out the most difficult part of the equation: knowing how to make hybrids that worked for the best players in the world. However, through missteps big and small, they never again got the question just right.

The real validation for hybrids came when many touring pros decided to drop their 2 and 3 irons in favor of some type of hybrid/long iron replacement.  In 2004, Darrell Survey Company reported that 7 percent of consumer golfers used a hybrid. By 2007, over 65 percent of pros carried at least one hybrid during the season. In 2011 Mark Wilson routinely carried two hybrids (Ping i15 – 17-degree and 20-degree) and at the 2011 Transitions Championship there were 127 hybrids in play. Not bad for an event with 144 players.

Heck, even Tiger has played a more forgiving cavity back in 2012, a 3 iron that is bent to the loft of a 2 iron. In preparation for this year’s British Open, Tiger put a Nike VR_S Forged 3 iron in the bag to be his fairway-finding precision instrument at Royal Lytham.

It wasn’t long ago that Tiger was on the wrong side of hybrid history. The iconic shot of the 2009 PGA Championship victory was  Y.E. Yang’s approach on the 18th hole of the final round. The club -- 3-hybrid. Yang was 210 yards away in the left rough.  An ominous cluster of trees sat before him, but Yang pulled off the shot of his life. He knocked a towering shot stiff (6 feet to be exact), buried the birdie putt and went on to become the first Asian born player to win a major. In doing so, he also ended Tiger’s perfect record in majors when leading after 54 holes.

If you could hit a hybrid like that, what else could you possibly want? Or more importantly, what else could you possibly need?

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Between 2004 and 2011 this segment of the equipment market exploded and OEMs vied for market share. Hybrids had become the SUV of the golfing industry. Everyone and their mom had their version, and OEM’s continued to refine designs and aesthetics to attract different styles and types of players. And they were successful -- wildly successful. In the end, they were perhaps too successful. As more and more players put hybrids in their bags it became increasingly clear what these clubs could do, but more importantly what they couldn’t do.

Since its inception, the hybrid has suffered from an identity crisis -- not entirely a fairway wood and certainly not an iron. The hybrid, aptly named, was to fit somewhere along this continuum. It looks like a wood, but is supposed to be hit like an iron. Some hybrids were larger and more robust. Some were thinner and sleeker. Some were geared to higher handicap players (think Adams OS series) and some to competitive amateurs and pros (think Taylor Made Rescue TP and Titleist). Some performed a bit better if you hit down on it like an iron and some preferred a shallower sweeping impact. Regardless, a majority of offerings did exactly what they were designed to do: hit the ball higher, offer increased forgiveness and give players some better options out of the rough and awkward lies.

Now, they’re on their way out... or should I say, down. Better players and high-ball hitters have come to realize that while hybrids hit the ball higher and land softer, they don’t do a good job in windy conditions nor do they offer the ability to work the ball nearly as well as long-iron replacements.
An example of popular long-iron replacements that are finding their way into the bags of PGA Tour players are: the Callaway X Utility, the Bridgestone J33 Airmuscle, the Mizuno MP Fli-Hi (and the recently released MP-H4) and the “Tour Only” Titleist 712U.

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Moreover, the “long-iron replacement” category is quickly becoming the cool kid on the block. Trends move and as evidenced by recent OEM offerings, and consumers are talking and OEM’s are listening. Advanced Computer-aided design or CAD coupled with a focus on increased ball speed (thin face technology which approaches the .830 COR barrier) make these clubs immediately relevant in the bags of competitive amateurs and pros. When you analyze clubs like the X Utility and MP-H4, the COG is comparatively lower (thus promoting higher launch) than irons in the same class (Mizuno MP series, Callaway X Forged, etc.).  That is, an MP-H4 3 iron will have a lower COG (higher ball flight) than an MP-64 3 iron or similar players irons.

However the COG is higher than a standard hybrid, the result of which is a more penetrating trajectory and an increased ability to impart right-to-left or left-to-right curvature. For the same reasons a muscleback is easier to work than a game-improvement iron, these long-iron replacements offer more maneuverability than their hybrid counterparts. The COG location, in conjunction with minimal offset and optimal turf interaction, make these clubs an extremely viable option for the better player whom never got comfortable with the traditional hybrid.

Perhaps the starkest difference between the two is the look from address. Hybrids, for all intents and purposes, look like metal woods after being hit by the shrink ray. They are narrower from crown to rear and offer finishes which are in line metal woods.  Graphite shafts have become standard on hybrids and many shaft companies now have hybrid specific shaft offerings in a variety of launch, spin and weight profiles.

The long iron replacements, on the other hand, tend to look like swollen irons.  The toplines are generally thicker (although they continue to get thinner: see Titleist 712U, Callaway X Utility, Mizuno MP-H4), their soles are wider and cavities tend to be larger. Also, steel shafts come standard and finishes are largely polished chrome or satin (standard for irons).

If we really want to oversimplify the conversation, hybrids are metal-woods with a twist and long-iron replacements are irons with a twist. Hybrids are more forgiving, higher launching and on average, offer higher ball speeds and thus more distance.  Long-iron replacements exhibit increased workability, more forgiveness than typical long irons and ball speeds that are now approaching those of standard hybrids.

As the game and equipment continue to evolve, we’ll see more and more long-iron replacements in the 3 and 4 iron slots rather than traditional hybrids, especially in the bags of competitive amateurs and professionals. However, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see better players return to a traditional 5 wood or 17-to-18 degree hybrid.  Having a club, which consistently carries 230 to 245 yards  is a must if you are going to hit short par-5s in two or navigate long par-3s. Moreover, if you are going to use a 3 wood with less than 15 degrees of loft, you’ll probably find yourself relying quite a bit on a club to fill this gap.
That being said, the days of hybrids replacing 3 and 4 irons are going the way of where tight jeans and boy bands should have already gone. In the end, the demise of the hybrid will not be because of what it does well; rather because of what it was never designed to do well. More wolf... less hedgehog.


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#2 mr_divots

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:04 PM

Meh. These driving irons are not all that easy to hit. Plenty of players adding CB irons to their lesser forgiving set for the 3 and 4 irons.

5 wood flies higher than a hybrid, but hybrids are not good in the wind, and it won't be surprising to see more pros hitting 5 wood? Does that make any sense?

Once again, what's old is new again (again.) So I suppose its time to bring back driving irons since we haven't been marketed to with those for a few years.

I might suggest the BALL which is allowing people like Charlie Beljan to hit their 3 iron 260 off the tee is still the biggest "game changer."
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#3 bullie76

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:20 PM

No.
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#4 duffer987

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:25 PM

On the way out for pros (where there is the question to whether they were ever in) or amateurs?
For amateurs, no way. As long as folks struggle getting the ball in the air or hitting consistent shots beyond the length of their 6I, hybrids will be prevalent.
Not to segment or stereotype too much, but just the amount of older folks and women playing I see who seem to use a hybrid for 50% of their approach shots. How easy will they be to convince?

Edited by duffer987, 14 November 2012 - 05:26 PM.

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#5 Hybrid

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:34 PM

Heck no.  Hybrids are the old guy's revenge on long par 3s & par 4s.


#6 Son_of_Sahm

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:43 PM

View Postbullie76, on 14 November 2012 - 05:20 PM, said:

No.


#7 DrSchteeve

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 05:59 PM

more accurate than fairway woods, easier to hit than long irons....yea, right....going nowhere
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#8 Doc Mcstuffins

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:30 PM

712U's, X-utiities etc. are going to sit on the shelves collecting dust. Your talking about only a very small percentage of low HC players that can really use those clubs. Hybrids make the game much simpler for the average golfer.
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#9 Sean2

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:36 PM

I agree with Joe, plus the fact that as lofts get stronger longer irons get even harder to hit...even the utility irons won't be easy to get in the air for the average golfer.
Hey...be nice.

#10 PingDrv00

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:44 PM

I think I really like the option of adding a 3 iron back to the bag, that is especially if it has a bit of new tech in it.  I currently have a 3 hybrid, but I am no where near as consistent with I as I am with my 4 iron.  I may be one of the rare few, but I welcome the change.

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#11 HoosierHacker89

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:45 PM

its like that 503h had. Just a terrible club. Thing didn't get the ball off the ground. I really don't see the driving iron being very effective. The 585h was much more versitile and tons better out of the rough.
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#12 wrmiller

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 07:55 PM

I've tried about 6 or 7 hybrids over the years, and continually go back to my trusty long irons. Played recently with a gentleman who had a 1 iron in the bag, and asked if I could swing it on a short par 4. Loved it. I am hoping that Titleist brings the 712U to market, as that would make it's way into my bag on shorter courses as my driving iron.
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#13 inmens

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:36 PM

View PostDrSchteeve, on 14 November 2012 - 05:59 PM, said:

more accurate than fairway woods, easier to hit than long irons....yea, right....going nowhere

+1 for sure.
Try to steal my hybrids and i'll bite your jugular.

#14 Johnny

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:40 PM

got me 3 and 4 in the Mizuno H4 today... jeez they are huge... might as well be a hybrid  :)
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#15 dethman

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:45 PM

clubs like the fli-hi have been around for YEARS.  i have never seen anyone play one.

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#16 MtlJeff

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:58 PM

rumor is Ping is going away from the G15/G20 style hybrids. I'm disappointed about that. They were iron like hybrids that were super easy to hit. I felt like those would benefit a wide variety of players.
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#17 MPellow

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:07 PM

Hybrids are becoming stupid. I thought the whole point was to have the control of an iron (sohrt shaft) and the forgiveness of a wood (large head).

But the hybrids are all becoming long, some of the 17* ones are 41.5" or more, so it's only a bit shorter than the FW of the same loft. Plus it has a smaller head than the wood so it looks pretty intimidating.

Just picked up some old Nike CPR hybrids- the 18* is 38.5" long and it has a wood shaped head. To me, that's what a hybrid should be. Modern hybrids are getting ridiculous.
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#18 Son_of_Sahm

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:08 PM

Well, there's guys that like irons and guys that like hybrids....

I play a lot with my father-in-law, and our handicaps are about the same (high).  He carries 1-9, sw, 5w, 3w, driver, putter.  Of course he plays Ping Eye 2s with a Ping Karsten 1 iron, so the lofts on his clubs are different than the lofts on my jpx 800s.  I've tried to turn him on to hybrids, but he hates them.

On the other hand, I carry 4-9, pw, gw, sw, 20h, 23h, 3w, driver, putter.

So to address the original post, no, the hybrids aren't going anywhere.  They're versatile, and many golfers, mediocrr and great, rely on them.

#19 ILBrad`

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:09 PM

Hybrids are not going away.


#20 Son_of_Sahm

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:18 PM

View PostMtlJeff, on 14 November 2012 - 08:58 PM, said:

rumor is Ping is going away from the G15/G20 style hybrids. I'm disappointed about that. They were iron like hybrids that were super easy to hit. I felt like those would benefit a wide variety of players.

Hey Jeff, you've forgotten more about golf than I know about golf, so I read your posts carefully and try to learn something.

But I had a really hard time standing over the g15 hybrids.  All of that offset...  Wow.  

So I picked up i15 hybrids on the cheap and wow!  I've hit some of my best ever hybrid shots with these two clubs.  I don't know if they are easy to hit persay, but I know that clubs are hard to hit if they don't set up well to your eye.

Edited by Son_of_Sahm, 14 November 2012 - 09:19 PM.


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#21 MtlJeff

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 09:31 PM

View PostSon_of_Sahm, on 14 November 2012 - 09:18 PM, said:

View PostMtlJeff, on 14 November 2012 - 08:58 PM, said:

rumor is Ping is going away from the G15/G20 style hybrids. I'm disappointed about that. They were iron like hybrids that were super easy to hit. I felt like those would benefit a wide variety of players.

Hey Jeff, you've forgotten more about golf than I know about golf, so I read your posts carefully and try to learn something.

But I had a really hard time standing over the g15 hybrids.  All of that offset...  Wow.  

So I picked up i15 hybrids on the cheap and wow!  I've hit some of my best ever hybrid shots with these two clubs.  I don't know if they are easy to hit persay, but I know that clubs are hard to hit if they don't set up well to your eye.

i've used the G series irons for years so i could be a bit desensitized to the offset LOL. I feel like the G hybrids though are designed to be hit like irons which i guess was my point. I don't feel like i hit them well with a sweeper swing, but when i make an iron swing they are great.

Mpellow made a great point which i agree with, in that hybrids are becoming more like fairway woods and that isn't helping golfers. But that is what sells now...distance distance distance. But i also like clubs like the I15 or I20, or adams pro gold, A12, pro black etc...clubs that are true hybrids. Basically= easier to hit irons that behave like irons when you hit them
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#22 Son_of_Sahm

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:00 PM

I hear you man, but I'm having a tough time with off-set.  If you're a good enough golfer, I'm sure you stand over the ball and, without even knowing it, align the clubface to the target and to your swing and you're good.  

Nothing I play has as much offset as g15 hybrids, so it's hard for me to make the adjustment given the change in off-set.

#23 BallPincher

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:04 PM

View Postzakkozuchowski, on 14 November 2012 - 04:17 PM, said:

Posted Image

Are hybrids on the way out?

By Chris Nickel

GolfWRX Contributor

Heck, even Tiger has played a more forgiving cavity back in 2012, a 3 iron that is bent to the loft of a 2 iron. In preparation for this year’s British Open, Tiger put a Nike VR_S Forged 3 iron in the bag to be his fairway-finding precision instrument at Royal Lytham.

This is incorrect - Tiger's 3 iron would be around a standard 3 iron loft, to fit with his traditionally lofted blade 3 iron.
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#24 Becon

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:09 PM

I hope not. I just bought a 19* 910H.

#25 PreppySlapCut

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:10 PM

They didn't sell, and so regardless of how good they are, Ping is not going to keep making them.  Absolute shame...

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#26 callawayjay

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:14 PM

Actually went back to a 7 wood. Wow. For me ill stop with hybrids for a bit

#27 HackerVance

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:18 PM

I agree hybrids aren't going anywhere even though some are just small headed fairway woods.  It was Interesting when he was saying that it was cost prohibitive for amatuers to switch clubs depending on the conditions.  He must not know many club hos.  Most people on here could come up with infinite combinations with just what they have in their closets.

#28 somaplr

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:46 PM

I used to rail on my buddies for buying into the hype...then I picked up an i20 20*...I pure the hell out of the thing.

#29 flyinjoe13

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:51 PM

View PostMtlJeff, on 14 November 2012 - 08:58 PM, said:

rumor is Ping is going away from the G15/G20 style hybrids. I'm disappointed about that. They were iron like hybrids that were super easy to hit. I felt like those would benefit a wide variety of players.

If that's true, I better make up my mind on whether or not I want the 17* G20 hybrid pretty soon.  I have the 20* and love it and have been going back and forth on whether or not to get the 17* as well.  I'd hate to finally decide and then not be able to find one to buy.

#30 Sean2

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    Wait...what?

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 10:56 PM

View PostPreppySlapCut, on 14 November 2012 - 10:10 PM, said:

They didn't sell, and so regardless of how good they are, Ping is not going to keep making them.  Absolute shame...
I wonder what they would use as a replacement? I wouldn't mind seeing a 9-wood myself.

Hey...be nice.

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