TaylorMade sent me a photograph of Dustin Johnson's golf bag last night. It appears that the big-hitting South Carolinian has switched to the company's new Tour Preferred Forged MB irons.
As we head into the homestretch of the holiday season, golf equipment makers are continuing to produce and release videos on YouTube. The rule here in The Shop is, "No commercials allowed," but a little chest-thumping is allowed.
In the video below, TaylorMade staff players show their first reactions after hitting the just-released Tour Preferred Forged irons. This video was shot in August at Firestone Country Club, but made available to the public about a week ago.
Next, a video produced by Ping that shows you how a new putter is assembled, gripped, tagged and shipped before it lands on the wall at a pro shop near you.
Six major championships and a reputation for being one of the most detail-oriented golfers in history give Sir Nick Faldo's words weight when it comes to golf equipment. The guy was so fastidious that during his playing career, Faldo admits he trimmed his fingernails on Mondays so he'd have the perfect feel in his hands on Sundays.
So imagine how TaylorMade representatives must have felt at the 2008 Open Championship when they showed Faldo, their newest endorser, the company's first attempt to at a new forged iron and he promptly called it "crap."
After taking Faldo's feedback and heading back to the drawing board (several times), TaylorMade finally presented Faldo with an iron that pleased his eyes. The way the hosel blended into the face, the look of the topline, the shape of the toe, the sole ... to the nitpicky Faldo, TaylorMade had nailed it.
The fruit of the company's hard work is now being released in the form of three new forged irons, the Tour Preferred Forged CB, MC, and MB irons.
All three clubs feature a new groove pattern that TaylorMade says goes right up to the USGA's limitations on volume and sharpness. Each club also has a weight in the back that allows TaylorMade to adjust the location of the sweet spot. Contrary to what some equipment blogs and message boards pondered, while the weight is affixed using a screw, it's not adjustable. The faces of the new forged irons are not replaceable like the faces of TaylorMade xFT wedges.
None of the new forged irons are designed with the high-handicap players in mind. TaylorMade has clubs like the Burner 2.0 for them. Instead, think of these clubs as tools for The Good, The Better and The Best.
For The Good
The new Tour Preferred Forged CB irons (CB stands for Cavity Back) are created by plasma-welding a 8620 carbon steel cast body and a slightly firmer, forged, carbon steel face. This construction allowed TaylorMade to incorporate an undercut in the back of the club, which in turn let designers move more weight lower and deeper to increase forgiveness.
The face also features TaylorMade's Inverted Cone Technology, which varies the thickness of the face itself so shots that are slightly mis-hit create nearly the same ball speed as shots hit in the sweet spot.
A carbon composite badge on the back of the face helps to dampen the impact sound and further enhance feel.
The TP CB irons have a thin topline, but the widest sole of the three new forged irons, as well as the most offset and slightly stronger lofts. Still, at their friendliest, the clubs would be classified as game-improvement irons.
Watch the video below to see Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's Creation Manager for Irons and Woods, talk about the Tour Preferred Forged CB:
For The Better
The Tour Preferred Forged MC irons (MC stands of Muscle Cavity) are made from 1025 carbon steel and have a slightly smaller head and less offset than the TP CB irons. And like the TP CB irons, the weight screw has been placed in a carbon composite badge to dampen the impact sound and enhance feel.
But instead of a game-improving undercut, these irons simply offer perimeter weighting to assist golfers on mis-hits.
There is less offset here, which should help better players shape shots more easily, as well as a slightly-thinner sole.
Watch the video below to see Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's Creation Manager for Irons and Woods, talk about the Tour Preferred Forged MC:
There is no carbon composite badge here to alter the feel created at impact, although to make the TP MB irons appeal to more players, a touch of offset has been added to the hosel.
The heads of the TP MBs are slightly smaller from heel to toe than the TP MC, but the par area, where the face meets the hosel, has been made much smaller. The reason for this is that most accomplished players want to see the face coming right out of the hosel.
Watch the video below to see Brian Bazzel, TaylorMade's Creation Manager for Irons and Woods, talk about the Tour Preferred Forged MB:
Through custom ordering, you will be able to build your own eight-iron set from the different offerings. For example, you could choose to play TP CBs in your 3-6 irons and TP MCs in your 7-PW.
Each of the new Tour Preferred Forged irons will come standard with True Temper Dynamic Gold shafts in three shaft flexes (R, S, X) for $899 starting in March of 2011. The TP CB will also be available with graphite shafts for $1,099. Custom shaft options will also be available. Players choosing to go with the MC or MB irons can also separately purchase a 2-iron. You know, just in case your swing is better than Sir Nick Faldo's
Paul Casey does it. So does Stewart Cink. In fact, if you look inside the bags of many of golf's best players you'll see they blend a few game-improving cavity back long irons with blade-style short irons to create their set.
Nike wants to help you get the benefits of a multi-club set, and to make the process a little easier, the company is releasing the Victory Red Pro Combo irons.
All eight irons in the VR Pro Combo set are forged using the same 1025 carbon steel and feature the same dye-stamped USGA conforming grooves, but they are designed with different goals in mind.
The 3- and 4-irons feature a pocket behind the face that shifts more weight lower and deeper in the head. This drops the center of gravity and makes the clubs higher-launching and more forgiving.
In sharp contrast, the 8- and 9-irons, as well as the pitching wedge, are traditional muscleback blades. Their center of gravity is higher to help players work the ball more effectively for greater accuracy and control.
Sandwiched between, the 5- thru 7-irons feature perimeter weighting—without the channel of the long irons—to bridge the whole set together.
The Nike VR Pro Combo irons will be available starting Nov. 26 with True Temper Dynamic Gold steel shafts for about $1,080.
CARLSBAD, Calif. — For more than a year, TaylorMade's Burner irons have been among the best selling irons in the game. The combination of distance and ease of use made them especially popular with mid- and higher-handicap players.
Tinkering with that success was not without risk, but Brett Wahl, TaylorMade's senior director of product development for irons, says that the new Burner 2.0 irons are simply better than their predecessors — for several reasons.
"In a way, we took the concept of developing eight individual clubs a little more seriously this time," Wahl says. "Each of these clubheads have more beneficial features built into them than the previous Burner irons."
For example, the faces of the Burner 2.0 long-irons are thinner than the faces of the original Burner long-irons, which should help golfers create more ball speed and distance. The weight saved by making the faces thinner has been redistributed to the lower section of the clubs, near the heel and toe areas, which Wahl says should make them more forgiving too.
At the same time, the faces of the short irons are thicker than the original Burner's, and the heads are smaller and feature thinner top lines. Doing this puts a greater emphasis on accuracy and control at address, but also puts more weight directly behind the ball to enhance feel.
The multi-material badge on the back of the Burner 2.0 is also an upgrade over the original Burner's. "It has a softer material integrated with the aluminum which gives it better dampening, in terms of managing vibration," Wahl says. "And in the long-irons, there is a stiff nylon layer of material that you can't see that really helps to improve the sound."
Wahl says that the sound-enhancing layer was not used in the mid- and short-irons, and the badge used is thinner because their heads have thicker faces. They naturally create a more-pleasing sound.
"The ICT has been re-shaped and re-positioned slightly in the long-irons in order to ensure the clubs deliver faster ball speeds, but also have consistency on mis-hits," Wahl says.
The soles of the short irons, like the 9-iron, are also thinner than the long irons because golfers swing a 9-iron more vertically into the ball. In contrast, most players sweep the ball using a flatter swing when hitting a 4-iron, so a wide sole is beneficial.
Each of the eight iron shafts flexes in a slightly different area, or kick point. The long irons have a lower kick point to help players get shots higher; the short irons have a higher kick point to encourage a slightly lower trajectory; and the mid-irons' kick point is in between.
Brett Wahl explains the technologies that went into the Burner 2.0 irons in the video below:
The Burner 2.0 irons should start arriving in pro shops on Oct. 8 and will sell for about $700 with steel shafts and $900 with graphite shafts.
TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO Mark King unveiled the new TaylorMade 2.0 Burner irons during a live Webcast on Thursday. Watch the video to learn about the new irons, and check back for more information on the event from Golf.com's David Dusek.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Despite being ranked No. 4 in the world, Steve Stricker still doesn't get much attention at major championships. But with a solid iron game and a great putting touch, a lot of people think he has the game to conquer Pebble Beach and contend at the 110th U.S. Open.
If he is going to win this week, Stricker will do it using a new set of Titleist 710 CB irons. He had been playing Titleist's Forged 755, and planned to make the change earlier this season, but a win at Riviera in February convinced him to keep the old clubs in the bag a little longer.
However, while at home resting in Wisconsin and recovering from a shoulder injury, Stricker finally made the change. In the video below, he explains the difference in feel between the two sets.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — During the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, several Ping staff players had a chance to see and try clubs the company plans to release later this year.
Hunter Mahan liked the company's yet-to-be-released S56 irons so much he said that he'd put them in his bag that week. Unfortunately, the S56 irons hadn't been approved for play by the USGA at that time, and Ping was not ready to release the clubs to the world, so Mahan (who won that week at TPC Scottsdale) and other Ping pros had to wait ... until now.
Ping brought several sets of S56 irons to Pebble Beach this week; the clubs are an updated-version of Mahan's beloved Ping S57 irons and feature several of the same design features.
The S56 irons have a compact head, minimal offset and only a touch of perimeter weighting. A weight cartridge nestled behind the face absorbs vibrations and allows Ping to adjust the swing weight of each club to match a golfer's preferences.
And like the S57, the S56 irons also feature a tungsten weight in the toe area to extend the sweet spot that direction. To help maintain balance, Ping lengthened the hosel of the S56 (thereby adding weight to the heel area), which also broadens the sweet spot in that direction too. The result is a slightly more forgiving blade that will still allow better golfers to carve and shape their shots.
According to Matt Rollins, a PGA Tour rep for Ping golf, the sole of the S56 has been designed to work more effectively through the turf -- a feature that tour players who hit the irons in February all noticed and liked.
Don't look for the S56 to add yards to your game. Like other iron sets designed with accomplished players in mind, they were built with an emphasis on consistency and accuracy instead of power.
Look for the clubs to arrive in pro shops in mid-September for a cost of $127 per club.
FORT WORTH, Texas — On Sunday evening, when TaylorMade reps sent me a list of the clubs Jason Day used to win the Byron Nelson Championship, I thought they'd made a mistake. The list said that Day had both a TaylorMade R9 TP pitching wedge AND a 48° TP wedge with xFT.
Typically, a pitching wedge has about 47° of loft, and while pros sometimes have unique clubs in their bags, I couldn't think of a reason why a player would want two clubs with almost exactly the same loft—especially now that pros have to play the new USGA-conforming grooves. The clubs should produce almost the same shots.
On Monday I went to TaylorMade's Tour van here at Colonial Country Club to ask the men who build Day's clubs if I'd been sent incorrect information.
Nope, it turns out that Day does carry both clubs in his bag. However, I was told that Day's pitching wedge has been de-lofted to 46°, creating a 2° gap between the two clubs.
My next stop was the media center where Day was talking to reporters. I began our conversation by asking him why he chooses to play a split set of irons, going with TaylorMade Tour Preferred long-irons (3-5) and R9 TP mid- and short-irons.
Watch the video below for Day's thoughtful answer.
Next I asked him about the wedges.
"I hit my pitching wedge 140-145 yards, my 48° 130-135 yards, my sand wedge (54°) 110-115 yards and my lob wedge (60°) 90-95 yards," Day said. "I like to play two shots with every wedge. If I have 130 yards I'll usually hit a 48° wedge shot to the pin because it goes higher, but I could hit a half-shot with my pitching wedge if I want to hit it lower."
Rather than creating uniform distance gaps with his four-wedge setup, Day thinks more of trajectory options, visualizing the ideal shot and then picking the right club and swing-length combination.
"If the pin is at the front of the green and there is a bunker there, then I will want to bring the ball in high with the 48°," he told me. "But if the pin is in the back, then I can hit it lower and let the ball release to the pin with the pitching wedge."
Crafty stuff from a guy who's just 22.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Callaway Golf has announced the release of the new X-24 Hot irons. The company is touting them as the longest and most accurate irons the company has ever made.
In a media release, Dr. Alan Hocknell, Callaway's senior vice president of research and development said, "We recognize there are golfers looking for distance gains throughout their entire bag, and thus employed our core technologies and faster ball speeds into the design of X-24 Hot, a longer, more accurate set than any of their predecessors."
Like previous X Series irons, Callaway designed the faces of the X-24 Hot to progress from thick on the bottom to thin along the topline. According to Callaway, this lowers the center of gravity and makes getting the ball into the air a lot easier.
Like its predecessors (the X-22, X-20), the X-24 Hot irons also feature an undercut channel behind the face. The material and weight removed from that area are redistributed to the heel and toe areas to help create more stability.
Where the X-24 Hot irons differ greatly is in the finish. Instead of bright, shiny chrome the clubs come standard in a glare-reducing rusty brown finish.
The X-24 Hot irons will retail for $699 with steel shafts and $899 with graphite and should start arriving in pro shops on May 28.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The original asking price of the Titleist irons currently for sale on eBay that were supposedly used by Tiger Woods in 2000-2001 was $250,000. After what Tiger Woods said in his press conference Tuesday, don't be surprised to see that price drop considerably.
"He may have my set of irons, but they are not from those tournaments," Woods said. "They are in my garage."
Woods said that he didn't know where the clubs that are for sale came from, but, "The sets that I won all four major championships with are in my house."
Woods later clarified his comment by saying that he changes iron sets every nine months, and that he has both sets of Titleist irons he used to win the 'Tiger Slam.'
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Before getting on a plane this morning and flying from New York to Jacksonville, Fla., for the Players Championship, I bought a Mega Millions ticket. The grand prize is up to $266 million, and if I my numbers hits, I'm going to quite my job (sorry boss) and buy a Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California like the one Ferris Bueller wrecked.
But even if I won all that money, there is no way I would place bid on the Titleist 681 Forged irons currently available on eBay which Tiger Woods supposedly used to win his Tiger Slam in 2000-2001.
The seller, aphotoshop1, says Woods gave him the clubs and that they are still in their original condition. Each club (2-PW, plus a 56 and 60 Vokey Wedge) has a True Temper Dynamic Gold X-100 shaft and Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord grips. He is starting the bidding at $250,000.
Here's why I seriously doubt they are authentic:
1. Tiger Woods has an endorsement relationship with Upper Deck. On Woods' Web site, he Upper Deck logo appears as one of his sponsors, and he is listed as one of the company's official autograph signers. On Upper Deck's Web site you can buy Woods-autographed prints, golf flag and golf shoes. During last season's U.S. Open at Bethpage, Upper Deck sold the Nike Golf shirts worn by Woods during the first four rounds of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
True, the clubs are not autographed, but why would Tiger Woods risk angering a sponsor and allow a company or person other than Upper Deck—which supported Woods throughout his recent sex scandal—to make money selling his memorabilia?
2. Players save clubs. Many Tour pros like to collect clubs, golf bags and other things they use over the years. Paul Casey recently told me that he's saved every set of irons he's used as a professional and has them in boxes at his home. Other guys have told me they collect putter headcovers.
While I'm sure that Tiger has given friends and associates golf-related gifts and mementos over the years, it's hard to believe that he'd part with THAT set of irons.
I asked an official from Nike if he thought the irons on eBay might be authentic, he laughed out loud. "No way," he said. When asked if he knew where the Titleist irons Woods used in 2000 might be, he said, "No, but I can tell you those aren't them."
Hey, is it possible that the irons for sale on eBay are actually Woods' old clubs? It's possible. I tried to ask Tiger today after his practice round but he walked away from the reporters on the ninth green and walked to the back practice range at TPC Sawgrass after his practice round with Jay Haas and Rod Pampling.
It's also possible that I'll hit the Mega Millions jackpot too.
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For years, Adams Golf has quietly been making hybrid clubs enjoyed by some of golf's best players. Anthony Kim, Vijay Singh, and Jim Furyk, as well as other top pros, have all used one in recent years.
Now, with the release of the Idea Pro Black CB1s, Adams is hoping that accomplished players will also consider its irons, too.
Forged from 8620 carbon steel, the Pro Black CB1 irons have subtle perimeter weighting, but a thin topline and sole, which should be pleasing to the eye for golfers who like to shape the ball.
In a release, Chip Brewer, CEO and President of Adams Golf, said:
"Originally developed exclusively for our professional staff players like Tom Watson, the overwhelmingly positive comments about the feel and performance of the CB1s from the tour inevitably led us to make this set an integral part of the successful Idea family of irons. This stealth-looking set has already received high marks from golf enthusiasts plugged into the online community so we look forward to bringing the CB1s to low-handicap golfers everywhere who appreciate the control and workability of this forged set of irons."
The standard set of CB1s will come with eight clubs (4-GW), and all will have grooves that conform to the new USGA standard for competition. Players can choose between two stock shaft options, Rifle Project X Flighted ($899, suggested retail) or Mitsubishi Rayon Javin FX i95 graphite shafts ($1,099, suggested retail).
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(Photo by Adams Golf)
They are ... sort of.
I asked him at the U.S. Open why he made the switch and he said, "I went back to an old set that I had played before and had some success with, so I went back to that."
But this week, the Victory Red Blades are back in the bag.
I asked Rick Nichols, Nike Golf's field tour manager, about the clubs.
"Some players have a custom grind, and he is playing a custom-grind VR Blade," Nichols told me shortly after Tiger teed off Thursday. "The topline, the sole, we do some custom grinding for some of the guys."
Nichols wouldn't get more specific than that, but Woods hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation on Thursday, so Nike has to think this set of irons may stay in his bag for a while.
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MIAMI — Two weeks ago in Phoenix, before the start of the PGA Tour's Waste Management Open at TPC Scottsdale, several Ping staff players had a chance to see, hit and learn about the new Anser irons.
Matt Rollins, a Ping tour representative, said Monday, "The clubs are as forgiving as our i15 irons, but they are a little sleeker looking and they've got the word 'Forged' on the back, which we've never had."
For gearheads and Ping fans, that single word, forged, will raise eyebrows.
Ping has always made cast irons, a process that involves creating extremely-detailed molds and then filling them with liquid metal to create the clubheads. (Click here to see a video showing how Ping casts clubs.)
To make forged irons, a piece of metal is heated and then hammered or pressed into shape.
"We've been talking about making a forged iron for while," Rollins said. "But for our guys, it's kind of funny. Once we put chrome on a cast club, people thought it was forged.
"They are only available in Japan right now," Rollins said. "They might release it in the United States later, but I don't know." He explained that in the Japanese market, irons need to be forged in order to be perceived as high quality. Irons that are not forged simply don't sell well.
While not a super game-improvement iron, the Anser irons feature plenty of perimeter weighting and tungsten in the sole to help players get the ball into the air more easily. The PING badge on the back of the club is a weight that can be changed as part of the fitting process.
As more information about the Ping Anser irons becomes available, we'll pass it on.Scroll down for more images of the clubs.
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(Photos by David Dusek)