NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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With several high-profile players getting their 2021 campaigns underway last week in Palm Springs and Abu Dhabi, the consistent drumbeat of January equipment news continued.
Brooks Koepka, an equipment free agent and user of Mizuno irons for all four of his major championship triumphs, showed up to the American Express with a bag full of Srixon ZX7 irons. Shane Lowry and Harold Varner III also play the same irons, which have a thin topline and narrow sole. While there are a few notable players who play Srixon irons – world No. 20 Hideki Matsuyama is the most prominent – it’s been a rarity for a player of Koepka’s level to switch to the brand.
Perhaps an even bigger surprise is that he was spotted testing the Srixon ZX driving iron against his vaunted Nike Vapor Fly Pro that has played a significant role in his major wins. The Fly Pro stayed in the bag for the tournament, as Koepka missed the cut by three strokes.
Out on the European Tour, the leaderboard was full of players having success in the wake of gear news. Tyrrell Hatton signed a multiyear equipment extension with Ping, the terms of which were not disclosed. Rory McIlroy officially put the new TaylorMade SIM2 driver and fairway woods into the bag. And, in what was the worst-kept secret of the new year, Tommy Fleetwood officially became a TaylorMade staffer.
“I think the thing is, it’s TaylorMade; I’ve used their stuff for a long time,” Fleetwood said in his first public comments since signing the deal. “Since Nike stopped making clubs, they were the first set of irons I went to, first set of woods I went to from Nike. So I’ve been with them a while and then flipping and changing different stuff.”
Rickie Fowler, who came into the American Express without a top-10 in his past 18 events as he drifts well outside the top 50 in the world, decided to give the Cobra RF Proto Rev33 irons another try, this time with Mitsubishi MMT 125 TX taper graphite shafts. Fowler had the irons specifically made for him – in fact, the 33 in the name references how many revisions it took in the building process to get the irons to what he wanted – but he replaced them after a two-month experiment last summer. Fowler instead used seven-year-old Cobra AMP Cell Pro irons but struggled to find a shaft combination that led to a tight dispersion pattern.
John Augenstein, the former Vanderbilt standout and runner-up at the 2019 U.S. Amateur, signed a multiyear staff deal with Wilson as he made his pro debut in Palm Springs, missing the cut by four strokes. The 23-year-old was on a sponsor exemption at PGA West and will hope to follow the path of former teammate Will Gordon by earning special temporary membership on the PGA Tour.
At the American Express, 60 percent of the competitors wore FootJoy shoes compared to 16 percent for the next closest brand.
In the Abu
Dhabi HSBC Championship, Titleist won the ball count at 65 percent and FootJoy led
the shoe count at 52 percent. Callaway won the driver count at 37 percent and
Titleist led the iron count at 44 percent.