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Equipment Report

December 23 2013

3:41 PM

Year in review: Notes and nuggets

By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider

KBS had three marquee names — Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson — using the company's iron shafts in 2013. Even more impressive was the fact that all three players used different KBS shaft models to win three of the season's four major championships.

Scott won the Masters using KBS's Tour shaft — a mid-launch, low-mid spin shaft — in his Titleist 712U utility iron and 710 MB irons, while Rose used the low launch, low spin C-Taper in his TaylorMade RocketBladez Tour and Tour Preferred MB irons.

Phil Mickelson had two different KBS shafts in his irons — KBS's Tour V1 in his Callaway X Forged 4-iron, and a Tour V2 prototype shaft in his 5-PW. In development and testing since 2012, the Tour V2 shaft (it was renamed the Tour-V in September) was similar to the company's popular Tour shaft in feel and trajectory (low-mid trajectory and spin). The difference between the two shafts was that the V2 came in a lightweight package that ranged between 100g-120g depending on flex.

Mickelson started using a Tour-only 125g version in 2012 at the Shell Houston Open and won three times last season, including the Open Championship, with the new shaft model.

Odyssey Versa putter gains following: Odyssey's Versa putter was one of the most talked about putters on TOUR last season. Used by Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson during the year, the putter gained an instant following for its distinctive alignment system.

The alternating black and white lines on the putter head accentuated the face angle at address and allowed players to tell if the putter head was open or closed through the stroke and at impact.

Even more impressive was the versatility of the design. A handful of players had the black and white paint scheme added to their current putter, including Keegan Bradley and Ernie Els. Bradley had the Versa design added to his Odyssey WhiteHot XG Sabertooth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, while Ernie Els tried out a custom Versa White Hot XG #7 belly putter at the Northern Trust Open.

Tiger Woods goes back to Diamana shaft: Tiger Woods turned back the clock at the THE PLAYERS Championship when he showed up for his Tuesday practice session with a Mitsubishi Diamana White Board 73X shaft in his Nike VR Tour driver.

Woods used the shaft with much success several years back before switching to a Graphite Design AD DI-6X prior to his return to competitive golf at the 2010 Masters.

With the White Board in his driver, Woods went on to win THE PLAYERS Championship and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The shaft stayed in bag until the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, where Woods put Mitsubishi Diamana's Blue Board 103X shaft — the same shaft he had been using in his fairway woods — in his new Nike's VRS Covert 2.0 prototype driver.

Woods said he made the switch to the heavier shaft because it gave him better feel of the club at impact.

Piretti in the spotlight: Henrik Stenson's dream season put a little-known putter manufacturer from Spring, Texas, on the map. The Swede's FedExCup-Race to Dubai double, which earned him more than $13 million, was accomplished using a Piretti Cottonwood II prototype — a putter that was co-designed by Stenson and founder Mike Johnson, and had less toe hang and a longer neck than the Piretti Cottonwood II PN.

True Temper's Project X prototype shaft: True Temper unveiled a new PX prototype driver shaft at the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind that featured a higher launch and moderately higher spin rate than the original Project X and Project X Black graphite driver shafts.

The shaft also included a weave pattern in the middle of the shaft that was significantly softer than previous Project X graphite models and acted as a loading zone on the downswing.

True Temper rolled out additional PX prototype shapes throughout the season, including a 6.5 prototype that Marcus Fraser used in his TaylorMade SLDR driver at the PGA Championship.

The company also unveiled the industry's first "progressive" iron shaft called DG Pro. The shaft featured Progressive Technology, which made the long irons easier to hit and the short irons more accurate.

DG Pro was created over 12-plus months following a significant increase in feedback from players who were unable to achieve the desired ball flight with longer irons (3-4 iron).

Rory McIlroy switches to new Kuro Kage shaft: After opening the season with a Mitsubishi Diamana prototype shaft in his Nike VRS Covert Tour driver, Rory McIlroy made a shaft change at the U.S. Open, swapping out his Mitsubishi prototype for another prototype — Mitsubishi's Kuro Kage Silver 70TX.

The Kuro Kage prototype McIlroy used at Merion had identical graphics and a similar bend profile — stiff tip and mid section, and softer butt — to the current Kuro Kage model, but the new version (released in August) had TiNi Fiber Technology in the tip section, a unique Titanium and Nickel alloy that was added to reinforce the graphite.

McIlroy kept the shaft in his driver when he switched to Nike's VRS Covert 2.0 last month.

Adams releases new hybrids, sets record: The Shell Houston Open was the site of Adam Golf's first Tour-only release of the season, as the Plano,Texas-based equipment company released the Super 9031 hybrid and Super Idea DHy driving iron.

The Super 9031 — a slimmer version of the Super LS and Super S hybrids that were released earlier this year — was used by U.S. Open winner Justin Rose at the PGA Championship and had one of the smallest heads on TOUR at just 80cc. The club also featured a sole with less camber, and a center of gravity that was also moved further right in the head to take out the left side of the course.

Both hybrids also includes a slot in the sole — the 9031 also had a slot in the crown — that boosted forgiveness and ball speeds. Super Idea DHy, a hollow body driving iron, was one of Adams' most popular hybrids on TOUR last season.

Tight Lies also made a comeback late in the year, as players put the updated fairway wood in play at the Greenbrier Classic. The low-profile head included a cut-thru slot design in the crown and sole that increased the club's spring-like effect.

Adams also set a new PGA TOUR record with 59 hybrids in play at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

K.J. Choi uses off-the-rack Mizuno irons: Tour players rarely spend their own hard-earned money on a set of clubs. So when K.J. Choi walked into a Golf Galaxy in Dublin, Ohio, on Monday of the Memorial, employees had to wonder what he was doing inside the local golf store.

With equipment trucks nowhere to be found at Muirfield Village — per Jack Nicklaus' request, equipment trucks aren't allowed on the grounds during the tournament — Choi did the next best thing and went to Golf Galaxy to test four new iron sets before purchasing a set of Mizuno MP-64’s with the company's stock grip and True Temper Dynamic Gold S300 shafts.

Why did he go with the MP-64's? Because he felt the swing weight was off in the other sets. According to a Golf Galaxy employee, the swing weights in the other sets ranged from D2 through D4, while the MP-64's were consistent at D2. Choi finished the week T-21 with the new irons.

Cleveland 588MT makes a splash: Cleveland Golf saw a big spike this season in mixed sets and utility iron use, thanks in large part to its 588 line. The 588 MT (Mid Trajectory) long irons, the company's game-improvement long irons, became a bag staple for a number of players last season — to the point that Cleveland found itself atop the utility iron category at the Zurich Classic and Wells Fargo Championship.

Graeme McDowell won with a 588MT 3-iron in the bag at the RBC Heritage; Keegan Bradley (Cleveland 588 MT 4-iron), Charlie Beljam (588 MT 2-, 3- and 4-iron) and Jerry Kelly (588 MT 3-iron) were just a few of the notable names that had at least one 588 MT long iron in play during the season.

Fujikura names prototype shaft line: Fujikura's prototype shafts were given an official name at the Greenbrier Classic: Precurser.

The equipment manufacturer debuted two shafts at the tournament -- Precurser Shiro and Precurser Kuro -- and confirmed that all prototype models wouldl have the "Precurser" label attached to them during the testing stage.

Fujikura used materials from the Motore Speeder shaft line to design Kuro and Shiro — two prototypes with completely different performance profiles.

The tip-stiff Shiro was a low-launch, low-spin shaft that closely resembled Fujikura's Motore Speeder Tour Spec, with a slightly higher bend profile. The second prototype, Precurser Kuro, was similar to Fujkura's Motore Speeder 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0 shafts that had a mid-to-high launch and mid-to-high spin with mid tip stiffness.

Fujikura continued to release prototypes under the Precurser name throughout the season in different color schemes.

Along with the Tour-only Precurser line, Fujikura also released an updated version of the original Speeder line in October that had two layers of Triax Core Technology and additional Nano Alloy resin for added stability.

Momentum for graphite-shafted irons: Steel was no longer the default iron shaft option on TOUR last season. Four players — Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Ken Duke and Boo Weekley — won PGA TOUR events with graphite-shafted irons designed by Aldila and Aerotech.

Better players, especially those with high swing speeds, used to shy away from graphite because it produced inconsistent distances and didn't flight nearly as well as steel.

But with the introduction of improved materials and designs, companies, such as Aldila (RIP graphite), Aerotech (SteelFiber) and UST Mamiya (Recoil), were able able to create shafts that had the benefits of graphite with the playability and consistency of low torque steel.

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