May 23, 2018
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Grayson Murray's three Srixon U65 utility irons. (Jonathan Wall/PGATOUR.COM)
FORT WORTH, Texas — It was about this time last year that Rob Waters, the Tour manager for Cleveland, Srixon and XXIO, started to notice a growing equipment trend with his staff on the PGA TOUR.
Only it wasn't a trend many saw coming.
Srixon has made a name for itself in the forged iron category, but for the first time Waters could recall, the equipment manufacturer's utility iron usage started to take off — in particular, the Z U65.
"We had about four or five guys playing it at the time," Waters said. "But each week we'd have guys coming in saying, 'I watched Keegan [Bradley] hit these shots with those utility clubs and I want to get some.
"We had a stretch for about 8 or 9 weeks last year where we were getting a couple new guys playing it each week."
Last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, there were 21 Z U65 and Z U45 utility irons in play — the only difference between Z U65 and Z U45 is updated badging — compared to just 12 from the previous competitor.
That's become the norm over the last 12 months with Z U65 consistently winning the utility iron count most weeks on TOUR.
"Getting staffers to play it was never a problem," Waters said. "When it really changed for us was when non-staffers started asking to have a couple built. These are people who try stuff but usually, once they find something they like, it's staying in the bag."
A majority of the players using Z U65 have a 2- or 3-iron in the bag, but a few have extended it to the 4- and 5-iron. Ernie Els has even requested a 6-iron to test.
Like most utility irons on TOUR, players are removing traditional long irons for Z U65, preferring the improved feel, higher launch angle and additional spin it provides from a variety of lies.
According to Waters, the launch angle is roughly plus two or three degrees higher for most players during testing, meaning it's easier for them to hold firm greens.
From a design standpoint, the hollow-construction Z U65 is forged from S20C carbon steel and features a thin, high-strength SUP10 face that improves ball speeds, and a low, deep CG promotes the higher launch angle. A thick muscle pad in the lower portion of the head adds additional forgiveness and improved turf interaction.
"They feel like they can control it better than a hybrid," Waters noted. "It's easy to get in the air. We're building most with steel shafts and the same length as their iron set. Length isn't the goal here. Guys are looking for more forgiveness and height.
"I still remember Ernie [Els] telling me that when he has the 5-iron in his hand, it's like having an 80-yard wedge shot. He has that kind of control and confidence with that club in his hands."