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Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

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As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Cambo

    May 28, 2020 at 6:58 am

    Anyone else try to push play on the Lee Westwood image???

  2. Cody Reeder

    May 27, 2020 at 9:46 am

    I need those Rickie Fowler blades. It is a neck and neck race with me as to which brand has been in my bag more. Cobra, or Mizuno. They are wildly different but I have loved both.

    I was a huge Greg Norman fan back in the day, so I have always been drawn to Cobra.

  3. Radim

    May 27, 2020 at 1:13 am

    What about Mizuno?

    • Simon

      May 28, 2020 at 2:13 am

      Yeah I’m really excited about the new updates to the JPX919 Hot Metals. Thinking they should be due Q4 2020 unless any COVID related delays.

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Spotted: Custom Scotty Cameron putters at the Cognizant Classic

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Each week on the PGA Tour, we spot some pretty amazing Scotty Cameron Circle T putters that players are using or testing. This week is no exception as we have some great flatsticks that were built for players at the Congnizant Classic. Here are a few of the ones that stood out to us!

Jacob Bridgeman: Circle T Masterful+

The matte copper finish is something you don’t see a ton from Scotty Cameron, but it looks great on this putter. The Masterful+ is a version of the retail Newport+ with a slightly wider shape from face to back. A Teryllium face insert should offer a softer feel and sound, especially with the deeper milling on it.

Tom Kim: Circle T 5s

Kim’s putter might be the most unique here because of the center shaft, shaft alignment aid, and a sanded-down sole. When you look at the top of the putter, down near the heel, you can see an alignment aid that works with the shaft to make sure the putter face is square to the target. The sole also looks to have the center of it sanded down and that could be to ensure that the putter sits a certain way when it is resting on the turf.

Alejandro Tosti: Circle T Timeless+

This Timeless+ is a take on the retail Newport 2 Plus with a wider shape and a sole plate that moves more mass to the perimeter for added stability. Tosti went with a single site line on the topline of the putter, leaving the flange naked. We see another Teryllium face insert here for dialing in the sound and feel, but this time with shallower milling.

Ryo Hisatsune: Circle T F-3

We haven’t seen too many heel-shafted putters in the past couple of years, but recently they have made a slight comeback. Ryo’s F3 is based off the legendary Del Mar head shape with the larger shoulders surrounding the flange. This putter also has a unique “T” shaped alignment with a white line running from heel to toe on the top of the putter and a half line running from front to back on the flange. The face looks to have a pretty aggressive deep milling for a softer, quieter impact.

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Whats in the Bag

Shane Lowry WITB 2024 (March)

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  • Shane Lowry what’s in the bag accurate as of the Cognizant Classic.

Driver: Srixon ZX5 Mk II (8.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ White 70 TX

5-wood: TaylorMade M5 (19 degrees @ 18.25 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 X

Irons: Srixon ZX Utility (3, 20 degrees), Srixon ZX5 Mk II (4, 5), Srixon ZX7 Mk II (6-PW)
Shafts: Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 X (3), KBS Tour 130 X (4-PW)

Wedges: Cleveland RTX 6 ZipCore Tour Rack (50-10 MID, 54-10 MID), Cleveland RTX Full Face (58-8)
Shafts: KBS Tour Wedge X Black

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG 2-Ball
Grip: SuperStroke Pistol

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV

 

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Tua Tagovailoa’s WITB + 9 interesting equipment photos from the Cognizant Classic

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Welcome to the 2024 Cognizant Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, where the Florida Swing officially gets underway

Not to oversell the story below, but we spotted a surprising amount of interesting gear this week.

We got our first look at Maverick McNealy’s updated set (he’s mostly a free agent now, aside from the putter), Jake Knapp’s two-driver setup, Chris Kirk’s show-stopping new black irons, Tom Kim’s “new” custom Scotty Cameron, an oddly high-tech prototype driver headcover, and we even got a look at Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s set during the Wednesday Pro-Am.

There’s a lot to cover, and no time to waste. Let’s get right into the 9 interesting equipment photos below!

See all of our photos from the 2024 Cognizant Classic here

1) Our first look at Maverick McNealy’s setup in 2024

Now as an Odyssey putter staffer, McNealy is free to play any 13 full-shot clubs that he desires. McNealy has always preferred a blade iron style with a longer blade length – ala Tiger Woods – so it’s no shocker to see him switch into the TaylorMade P-7TW iron head, co-designed by Tiger himself. What’s cool about the photo above is you can see that he originally had lead tape across the top portion of the head, but removed it and added weight to the bottom portion; in all likelihood, he still wanted the extra head weight, but also wanted a bit of extra launch and height. After all, it is a thin blade 3-iron we’re talking about, so it makes sense.

As for the rest of McNealy’s bag, he’s using a TaylorMade Qi10 driver, two Stealth 2 fairway woods (3HL and 7), a set of P-7TW irons (3-9), Titleist Vokey SM10 wedges (46, 50, 54 and 58 degrees), and he’s testing between his longtime Odyssey Toulon “Stanford MM” putter, and a new Odyssey Ai-One Milled “Stanford” black-and-gold putter.

He’s also using a Titleist Pro V1x golf ball, where he uses the “dot” while putting for visual focus, and the line for alignment on his tee shot.

McNealy is the type of gearhead that GolfWRX.com is all about; attention to detail, with a flair for style. He’s a pilot, too, which explains the Top Gun-inspired “Maverick” headcovers, and “remove before flight” headcover tag.

Check out McNealy’s full 2024 WITB here from the Cognizant Classic

2) Shane Lowry’s two heartwarming headcovers

Shane Lowry has two daughters.

One is named Ivy…

And the other is named Iris…

See what golf clubs are underneath Lowry’s family-oriented headcovers here.

3) Brandt Snedeker still has the Odyssey White Hot Rossie XG putter in the bag

He’s still got it!

But, let’s not get too excited, because on Wednesday, we also spotted Sneds with a Bridgestone TD-02 putter in the bag, which looks quite similar to his longtime gamer Rossie XG.

Snedeker certainly has a type when it comes to how his putter looks, doesn’t he?

Check out the rest of Snedeker’s 2024 WITB here

4) A prototype Swag Golf headcover

 

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A post shared by GolfWRX (@golfwrx)

It’s rare that “prototype headcover testing” happens on the PGA Tour, but that exactly what’s happening with Nick Hardy this week.

According to Swag Golf founder and CEO Nick Venson, Swag Golf is in the creation process of what the company is calling “Headcover 3.0,” which uses TPU welding and a support structure to create a three-dimensional look, and greater durability.

The new age of headcovers could be developing right in front of our eyes.

5) Tom Kim’s custom putter

I wrote in-depth about Tom Kim’s new custom putter over on PGATOUR.com’s Equipment Report this week, but below is a few snippets of what he had to say about the customized Scotty Cameron Tour-Only T5S mallet that he switched to recently at the 2024 Genesis Invitational:

“No, [it’s not worn down], they actually milled it out (the black paint) to make me feel like there’s less loft on it. Because it was black, the color change was stronger. I told them my center shafts all look too lofty. They look too behind [the face]. So what they did was – I had no idea they did it – but they shaved off the color so I could see less loft on it. It’s the same thing, it’s just a different color. It doesn’t make me feel like there’s a lot of loft on it.

“It’s a very, very unique putter. The head has been used before, but there’s a lot of details that people don’t really know. It’s a cool putter they made for me. The team did a great job back at home.

“Right now, it’s just helping me feel more connected with my upper body. I’ve always used a blade. I went to the center shaft a little bit before, but I’ve putted my best with a hosel in the back, and I just feel like it started to feel like I just couldn’t really feel it through the release itself.

“And, the start lines were a little shaky, so that kind of made me feel like everything was in front of me. [The center shaft] helps me just feel like the ball was starting straight on my line.”

See what GolfWRX members are saying about the putter in our GolfWRX Forums

6) Chris Kirk’s black Callaway Apex CB irons

We saw Kirk switch into Callaway’s Apex CB irons – which were the stock silver/chrome color – at the 2023 FedEx St. Jude Classic last year, but, we also know that Kirk prefers the look of black irons because they make the head look slightly smaller.

Well, it looks like Kirk is testing out some new black-colored Apex CB irons, which combine the forgiveness of the Apex CB iron head, with the “smaller looking” black colorway that Kirk prefers. He still had his old chrome versions in the bag on Wednesday, to go along with the new black models, so we’ll keep an eye on what irons Kirk decides to put in the bag come competition time.

Don’t be surprised if he switches this week, or sometime in the near future.

See what GolfWRX members are saying Kirk’s new black Apex CB irons here

7) Knapp wins with two drivers in the bag

We already covered Knapp’s two-driver setup on GolfWRX.com and PGATOUR.com, but I wanted to re-emphasize how popular it’s becoming that PGA Tour players are using both a driver and a mini driver, rather than a driver and a 3-wood. Adam Scott and Tommy Fleetwood also come to mind.

I’m not saying you should switch to a setup like this for yourself, but even Knapp says that the BRNR Mini driver is significantly easier to hit than a three wood. When pros say things like that, it’s a cue to amateurs to at least test out its merits for themselves.

8) Make the forums go crazy, Jake!

We’ve already covered a few putters in this story, but still, the Custom Putter of the Week Award goes to Jacob Bridgeman, who showed off his Scotty Cameron putter with a “commando” finish and three white alignment lines.

GolfWRX Forums members weren’t ready for this type of heat, and some even slapped the “NSFW” tag on the putter photos.

Don’t hurt ’em, Jake!

See what else the forum members are saying about Bridgeman’s custom Scotty here

9) Left-handed NFL quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s right-handed golf clubs

Tua isn’t the first person ever to throw a football left-handed and play golf right-handed. Jordan Spieth is the same way. But, admittedly, it did throw me for a spiral when I first saw Tua swinging righty.

Too bad Tua can’t throw a spiral himself!

Sorry, that was a mean attempt at a pun. I’m a Giants fan, though, we can’t help it.

In terms of Tua’s WITB, he was gaming mostly PXG clubs, including a driver, fairway wood, irons, wedges, and a putter. He also had a Callaway Jaws lob wedge in the bag during the Wednesday Pro-Am, just to keep things interesting.

Something tells me the next time we see Tua on the golf course, he’ll be using a custom Miami Dolphins SuperStroke grip on his PXG putter.

And, with that cross-sport connection, we say goodbye to Palm Beach Gardens. We’ll see you next week in Orlando at Arnie’s Place for the 2024 Arnold Palmer Invitational. See you there!

Check out all of our photos from the 2024 Cognizant Classic here

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