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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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Equipment

TOUR REPORT: Collin Morikawa debuts new TaylorMade “P7CM” prototype irons

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Welcome to this week’s Tour Report from Albany in the Bahamas for the 2022 Hero World Challenge. The week started with an unfortunate update from tournament host Tiger Woods, who was forced to withdraw from the event due to pain caused by plantar fasciitis.

As reported by PGATour.com, Woods will not seek surgery, instead opting for a “stretch and relax” approach. He still plans on playing in the upcoming PNC Championship and The Match, however, and we also got a brief look at his current golf swing, as I’ll get into below.

Aside from Woods, there were a few notable gear updates from the Bahamas, including Collin Morikawa debuting two brand new iron models, Corey Conners finally switching drivers, and Tony Finau showing off one of the coolest custom staff bags I’ve ever seen. Justin Thomas made yet another putter change, as well.

Let’s dive into this week’s Tour Report from Nassau, Bahamas.

JT makes yet another putter change

After making several putter changes throughout 2022, the Justin Thomas putter saga ultimately came full circle, ending the year with the same putter that he started off the year with. Before moving into several different 1-of-1 long-neck Scotty Cameron T5 prototype putters, Thomas began the year with a Scotty Cameron X5 Tour Prototype with a short flow neck. And that’s what he had in the bag at the 2022 Hero World Challenge this week, as well.

Also, here’s your reminder that Thomas’ custom Titleist 621.JT Forged irons have zero offset, and they’re bone chillingly intimidating to look down at from address.

Shivers.

Justin Thomas’ full WITB from the Bahamas

Morikawa’s new TaylorMade prototype irons

Typically, Collin Morikawa doesn’t change irons unless he’s playing in extremely firm turf conditions over in Scotland. This week, however, he debuted an entirely new combo set, including TaylorMade “P7CM” prototype short irons (7-PW), and new “P7MC” long irons (5 and 6).

As we highlighted in our Equipment Report over on PGATour.com this week, Morikawa worked closely with TaylorMade to dial in his new P7CM irons, which are obviously named using his initials. While the irons have a similar look to the company’s previous P7MB blade irons, they appear to show a combination between chrome and raw finishes.

Here’s what Morikawa told GolfWRX on Tuesday about the irons, and why he switched out his 4.5-year-old TaylorMade P730 blade short irons:

“They’re brand new,” Morikawa told GolfWRX.com. “I’ve been using them for probably two weeks now. They’re not too far off from the P730’s that I’ve been using pretty much since I turned pro. I was fortunate enough to do some iron testing with TaylorMade – which I’ve never done – and go into the whole sole pattern, and bounce, and width of an iron. There’s nothing wrong with 730’s, I … love them, that’s why I played them for probably 4.5 years now. But there’s just certain shots here and there that come out of nowhere.”

In addition to the new blades, he also debuted new TaylorMade P-7MC irons, which have a different design in their back cavities compared to the previous iterations of P7MC irons. Morikawa said it was an “easy transition,” but we’re yet to hear more details from TaylorMade about specific technical information or possible release dates.

We’ll keep you up to date should we learn more about the TaylorMade P7MCs that Morikawa had in the bag at the Hero.

Collin Morikawa’s full WITB from the Bahamas

Tony Finau’s absolute HEATER of a golf bag

Whether you’re a Utah Jazz basketball fan or not, I simply refuse to believe anyone can say this 1-of-1 Vessel-made staff bag isn’t one of the coolest of all time. The all purple colorway, Jazz logo, and jersey-style “Finau 7” stitching on the front make this bag absolutely pop. The icy blue zipper colorway was a nice touch, too.

Finau teed it up in Wednesday’s Pro-Am alongside former NBA all-star and current Utah Jazz executive Danny Ainge, and Finau certainly did not disappoint.

@golfwrx Tursky says Tony Finau’s @Utah Jazz themed bag is the coolest bag he has ever seen. Do you agree? #golf #golftiktok #golfwrx #utahjazz ? original sound – golfwrx

According to Finau, he’s going to autograph and giveaway the golf bag at the upcoming Golden State Warriors vs. Utah Jazz game on Wednesday. If you have a chance to become the owner of this bag, I sincerely wish you good luck.

See what GolfWRX members are saying about the bag in our forums

Corey Conners finally ditches his driver from 5 years ago

Conners, who’s statistically one of the best drivers on the PGA Tour for the last several years, finally switched out his previous Ping G400 LST for a new Ping G430 LST. According to Conners, he started using the G400 LST at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and he hadn’t switched it out since, although he did go through about 10 different heads throughout the 5 year stretch.

He told GolfWRX.com on Tuesday that although he actually found his previous model to produce slightly more speed, the new G430 was significantly more forgiving on off-center hits, so he gave it the nod this week at the Hero. The new driver is also equipped with a 1-of-1 UST Mamiya Linq shaft.

For more information on his switch, head over to the PGATour.com Equipment Report by GolfWRX.

Tiger Woods competes in the “Hero Shot” challenge, despite foot injury 

No one would have blamed Tiger if he didn’t compete in the Hero Shot challenge this year, especially being that he withdrew from the actual event. As the tournament host, however, he sucked it up to help put on a great show for the fans (and for social media).

Although he failed to advance to the second round against the five other competitors, it was still great to see his swing and enjoy the festivities.

 

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For those curious, he used a TaylorMade MG3 56-degree wedge for the 87-yard shot, and he was wearing Nike Metacon 8 sneakers. I took a deep dive into Tiger Woods at the Hero Shot earlier this week, if you’re looking for further insight.

Caddies everywhere, take notes

As a former club caddie myself, I fully respect this move from an Albany caddie during the pro-am. Instead of writing down the players approximate yardages in a yardage book or on piece of paper, he writes them down on a square slab and velcros it to his caddie bib for instant visual access.

This is a true veteran move. I’m questioning the yardage gapping for that particular player, because something seems off, but the point is that it’s a great caddie trick regardless.

And with that, we say goodbye to the Bahamas. Legendary GolfWRX photographer Greg Moore will be on location at the PNC, so look out for more WITBs and inside-the-ropes photos soon.

Check out all of our photos from the 2022 Hero World Challenge

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Coolest thing for sale in the GolfWRX Classifieds (12/2/22): Ping i59 irons

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At GolfWRX, we are a community of like-minded individuals that all experience and express our enjoyment of the game in many ways.

It’s that sense of community that drives day-to-day interactions in the forums on topics that range from best driver to what marker you use to mark your ball. It even allows us to share another thing we all love – buying and selling equipment.

Currently, in our GolfWRX buy/sell/trade (BST) forum, there is a listing for a set of Ping i59 irons.

From the seller (@zacharya): “PING i59 4-PW with KBS 130X and GolfPride MCC +4 standard grips. +1/2” length, standard loft and lie. There is some rock damage on the 7 as pictured but doesn’t affect playability at all.  $800.”

To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: Ping i59 irons

This is the most impressive current listing from the GolfWRX BST, and if you are curious about the rules to participate in the BST Forum you can check them out here: GolfWRX BST Rules

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Whats in the Bag

Justin Thomas WITB 2022 (December)

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Driver: Titleist TSR3 (10 degrees @9.25)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana ZF 60 TX

3-wood: Titleist TS3 (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Raw Blue 85 TX

5-wood: Titleist 915 Fd (18 degrees @19.5)
Shaft: Fujikura Motore Speeder VC 9.2 X

Irons: Titleist T100 (4), Titleist 621.JT Forged (5-9)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM9 (46-10F, 52-12F @52.5, 56-14F @57), Titleist Vokey Design WedgeWorks Proto (60.5 T, 60.5 K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 (46), True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 (52-60)

Putter: Scotty Cameron X5 Proto
Grip: SuperStroke Traxion Pistol GT Tour

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

More Justin Thomas WITBs

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