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December 10 2013

11:12 AM

Year in Review: TaylorMade

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Justin Rose used a variety of new TaylorMade equipment to win the U.S. Open.

By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider

TaylorMade's season could be summed up in two words: Justin Rose. One staffer usually doesn't make or break a season but Rose's major championship victory at the U.S. Open turned 2013 into another successful PGA TOUR season for the equipment manufacturer.

Rose's win was big on a number of levels -- it was the first major win for a TaylorMade staffer since Darren Clarke's Open Championship triumph in 2011 -- the most important being that the 33-year-old was carrying a bag comprised mostly of equipment that was recently released.

From the R1 driver -- Rose eventually switched to SLDR later in the year -- to RBZ Stage 2, Spider Blade and Lethal, Rose put TaylorMade's latest gear on display at a major and validated each product with the biggest win of his career.

In this day and age, you can't put a price on that kind of exposure. Along with the near-instant success of SLDR and R1, 2013 was certainly one to remember for TaylorMade.

Equipment released on TOUR: R1 (driver); R1 Black (driver); RocketBallz Stage 2 (driver, fairway woods, hybrids); SLDR (driver, fairway woods, hybrids); RocketBladez (irons); RocketBladez Tour (irons); SpeedBlade (irons); Ghost Tour (putter); Spider Blade (putter); Spider Mallet (putter); Daddy Long Legs (putter); Lethal (ball).

PGA TOUR winners (2013): Dustin Johnson (Hyundai Tournament of Champions); Brian Gay (Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation); D.A. Points (Shell Houston Open); Martin Laird (Valero Texas Open); Boo Weekley (Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial); Justin Rose (U.S. Open); Ken Duke (Travelers Championship).

Rose goes long with Spider Blade: High MOI and counterbalance were the buzzwords for putters last season, as equipment manufacturers released new models following the USGA's decision to ban anchored putting methods in 2016.

TaylorMade's Spider Blade -- a high-MOI style blade putter with a 130-gram counterbalanced grip -- ended up being the only counterbalanced model to record a major championship win, as Rose used a custom 37-inch version to win the U.S. Open.

Rose started using a 34.5-inch Spider Blade at THE PLAYERS Championship that featured a TOUR-only black stepped steel shaft with a No. 1 hosel, Short L neck; Rose's name along the hosel and initials on the bottom of the putter; and custom weight ports on the heel and toe that brought the total head weight to 346 grams.

Following a missed cut at the event, Rose decided to switch to a 37-inch Spider Blade at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. The U.S. Open winner noted that he really liked the taller posture the longer model put him in. He also felt it allowed him to release the putter more easily and consistently than his traditional-length model.

Even though Rose finished the season 133rd in strokes gained-putting, the switch to Spider Blade paid off in a big way at Merion.

SLDR slides up the ranks: It's rare that a mid-season launch becomes one of the hottest equipment topics on TOUR. But that's exactly what happened when TaylorMade unveiled an SLDR prototype driver at the John Deere Classic, just one week prior to the Open Championship.

It didn't take long for SLDR to catch the attention of nearly every staffer in the field. TaylorMade ran out of driver heads on the first day of TOUR testing, and saw nine players put it in play that week.

Aside from the obvious buzz, the driver featured new technology -- low, forward CG and a sliding weight channel in the sole that allowed the clubhead's CG to be shifted horizontally -- and a glossy grey paint scheme on the crown that made it stand out from current TaylorMade driver models.

Following the TOUR-only release at the John Deere, it only took SLDR less than a month to become the No. 1 driver model on the PGA TOUR at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

Back to black: When an all-black TaylorMade R1 driver first showed up on the USGA's Conforming Driver List at the end of April, TaylorMade officials were quick to squash the rumors surrounding the smaller-headed 400cc, left-handed prototype.

Less than two months later, TaylorMade did an about-face, releasing the first driver with a black crown since 2010 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Six R1 Black drivers went in play the first week.

While R1 Black was a limited-run model, the driver marked the beginning of a color transition for TaylorMade, as the company shifted away from the distinctive white crown with R1 Black, and again with SLDR and the soon-to-be-released JetSpeed line.

Mickelson makes headlines with SLDR: The Presidents Cup is rarely the place for big equipment stories, but Phil Mickelson changed things on Day 2 of the event when he showed up at Muirfield Village with an SLDR driver that featured black paint on the crown to mask the glossy grey paint, and a black sole that made the driver almost unrecognizable to the model currently on retail shelves.

Mickelson, who's currently on Callaway's staff, used the driver on his opening tee shot of the day and kept it in the bag for the remainder of the event. As of the WGC-HSBC Champions -- Mickelson's last start -- he was still using an SLDR with a Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver shaft.

R1's big start: Dustin Johnson put TaylorMade's R1 on the map at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, becoming the first player to win with the new driver in the winners-only event.

Brian Gay followed up Johnson's feat with one of his own, winning the Humana Challenge the first week he used R1. Until the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, R1 was TaylorMade's most-used driver model during the season.

Laird notches first win for Lethal: TaylorMade's Lethal golf ball was in the bag for three PGA TOUR wins in 2013, including a major championship victory at the U.S. Open. By ball standards, last season was a major success for TaylorMade's latest creation.

Martin Laird was the first to notch a win with Lethal at the Valero Texas Open, coming from five shots back to win. The ball featured the company's 5-layer technology, which helped promote optimum spin and a penetrating ball flight.

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