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Equipment

Winner's bag: What Ben Martin used to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

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Seeking his first win on the PGA Tour, Ben Martin needed a fast finish at TPC Summerlin as Kevin Streelman had snuck ahead during the final round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. That's when Martin's Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo Tour putter came alive.

Related: Ben Martin rallies in Vegas for first win

After a three-foot tap-in for birdie on the par-4 15th, Martin put his approach from 196 yards on the par-5 16th on the green but 46 feet, 5 inches away and made the bomb for an eagle to take a one-shot lead. Needing just two putts at the last from 19 feet, Martin and his heel-shafted GoLo Tour holed one final putt to secure victory.

Here's the rest of Martin's clubs, which were all Titleist except for a Ping i25 3-wood.

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
Driver: Titleist 910D3 (Graphite Design Tour AD-DI 7X), 8.5 degrees
3-wood: Ping i25, 14 degrees
Hybrid: Titleist 913H, 17 degrees
Irons (3, 5-PW): Titleist CB 712
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM5 (50, 54 degrees); Titleist Vokey TVD-K Grind (58 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron by Titleist GoLo Tour

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Equipment

Ian Poulter's next equipment company might surprise you

In a move that's kind of like breaking up with your girlfriend via text message, Ian Poulter last night announced via Twitter he no longer was affiliated with Cobra-Puma Golf.
 
So let the guessing games begin.
 
Educated guesses are often better when they start by eliminating possibilities, so here is where Poulter is unlikely to go. Given the money he may want, Mizuno (which already has Luke Donald to appease its European market) is unlikely. Adams is in transition so rule them out, too.
 
Two companies that would appear to be a good fit have circumstances that would make a Poulter signing prohibitive. Nike would certainly seem to be a good cultural match, but Nike requires its athletes be head to toe and Poulter, who has his own apparel line, isn't going to don Nike's threads. Ping, which doesn't manufacture golf balls, would allow the Englishman to continue playing Titleist balls (Poulter tweeted his thumbs up of the new prototype Pro V1x), but the Phoenix-based company already has plenty of global strength with players such as Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jimenez, making the addition of another Euro with a big contract in the low probability range.

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Callaway certainly has an affinity for star players, but in recent years has taken more of a "Moneyball" approach to its staff (outside of Phil Mickelson), preferring younger and (hopefully) up-and-coming players to round out its roster. The 38-year-old Poulter doesn't appear to fit that bill, either.
 
So where might he end up? Titleist, because of the ball, is a possibility. In fact, Poulter began his stint with Cobra when the company was owned by the Acushnet Co. But the guess here is Titleist/FootJoy would offer a ball, shoe, glove deal as opposed to a full-line contract.
 
TaylorMade always is seeking to bolster its tour staff and adding Poulter would be a nice get. But again, any deal there likely would have to include the ball and Poulter might not be willing to make that switch at this stage of his career.
 
To me the two most intriguing possibilities are Srixon and Wilson. Srixon is making a big effort in clubs in the U.S. in 2015 and needs attention to make those launches successful. They also have money. If they would be willing to let Poulter not play their ball, it would appear a solid route to go.
 
Wilson is another fascinating option. The company has slowly, but successfully re-built its brand and might be looking to make a splash on tour, especially since its flagship player, Padraig Harrington, hasn't played well in recent years. Add in the global component (Wilson is a highly successful golf brand in Europe) as well as the likelihood they would allow Poulter a ball, shoe, glove deal from Titleist and on the surface this deal works very well for both sides.
 
Of course, as Poulter tweeted, he'll let us know soon enough.
 

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Equipment

Nike's Vapor drivers move in new direction

Vapor_Flex_Driver1.jpgThe adjustable driver is not new. It’s been around in the mass marketplace for the better part of a decade. While the vast majority recently have focused on changing loft, face and lie angles through rotating hosels, the cool trend from the beginning has been about repositioning center of gravity. 

There have been movable and sliding weights that shifted the CG horizontally toward the heel or toe to produce shots that, respectively, tone down a slice or calm a hook. There even have been drivers that independently from other settings can adjust the vertical center of gravity from high to low, an effort to either better match a player’s specific impact position or effectively let a player choose between low spin or mid-spin.

Now, Nike is offering the option to control CG location in a front-to-back dimension. It's an idea we've seen in some sense with the first TaylorMade r7 driver where the heavier movable weights could be put in the forward position or the rearward position, and most recently with Mizuno's JPX 850 driver that was put in play earlier this year by Luke Donald. The new Vapor Flex driver ($500, available Jan. 30) features a weight cylinder housed flush with the sole that can be flipped so the heavier end is toward the face or toward the back of the driver. The weighting change lets a golfer alter launch angle and spin rate independent of the driver's other loft and face angle settings.

“Often in the fitting process, there’s an opportunity for a final adjustment to develop the shot shape and ball flight the athlete is looking for,” said Nate Radcliffe, Nike’s director of engineering. “As the last step in the fitting process, that can be the difference between the athlete being comfortable with the fitting and really being able to compete with it on the golf course.”

According to Radcliffe, there’s about a two-millimeter difference in the CG location front to back. He says the change from front to back can increase launch angle by a degree, while the change from back to front can reduce spin by 300 rpm. The CG movement also affects the clubhead’s moment of inertia, which is a measurement of its resistance to twisting on off-center hits. On the Vapor Flex, this means the back CG position has about a 300-point higher MOI. Theoretically, some better players may prefer a club with slightly lower MOI, since off-center hits are not as large a concern and because they might find it easier to manipulate the clubhead. 

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Radcliffe says the weight cylinder system is made possible by the use of the company’s lightweight RZN polymer resin material found in its golf balls and also in the new Vapor irons. “The power of RZN is that it allows us to remove and relocate mass within a club head.” said Radcliffe.

The Vapor Flex (left) is built on the same technology platform as Nike’s Vapor Pro driver that Rory McIlroy recently put in play, as well as the Vapor Speed driver (below right, $300, available Jan. 30), which was also launched today. All three new Nike drivers include a redesigned sole cavity found previously in the Nike Covert and Covert 2.0 drivers. Radcliffe said the redesign included lowering and stiffening the back portion of the cavity to concentrate the flexing toward the front of the crown to improve ballspeeds. 

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Like the Vapor Pro, Vapor Flex also features the return of a sole channel toward the front of the club to improve the way the face flexes, particularly on low impacts. The channel, which was first part of Nike’s VR drivers in 2010, has been completely redesigned, including some 37 iterations before a final version was settled on. It’s designed to vary in flexibility (it's shallower in the center and deeper towards the heel and toe) to improve the way the face flexes on both on-and off-center impacts.
 
"This is a completely new channel," said Radcliffe. "It does not have a uniform depth."

The drivers also feature a rotating hosel adapter that allows players to independently adjust face angle and loft. The head adjusts between 8.5 and 12.5 degrees with one of three face angles for a total of 15 unique settings. The new hosel is 30 percent lighter than previous versions.

The Vapor Speed features a larger footprint and a slightly higher moment of inertia than McIlroy’s previously debuted Vapor Pro. The crown also slopes down more from front to back compared to last year’s Covert 2.0 to yield a larger face area.   
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Equipment

Scotty Cameron wings it with new Futura X5

Futura_X5_1.jpgAlthough Titleist is testing its new Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls with its tour staff in Las Vegas this week, those spheres won’t be available to the public for some time. That’s no longer true of the company’s Scotty Cameron Futura X5 and X5R putters -- a pair of flat sticks that have been on tour in prototype stage but will now be available at retail starting Oct. 31.
 
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The Futura X5 is a mallet that features “wings.” The head is made with a 303 stainless-steel body and a high-grade 6061 aluminum soleplate. A lighter aluminum center area also extends down the wings. By using aluminum, Cameron was able to hollow the area under the soleplate, moving the weight to the wings to create additional moment of inertia, which adds stability and increases performance on mis-hits. It also allowed for a thicker face and topline that helped improve sound. The shaft is a single bend with a higher bend point that helps create a face-balanced putter. Each of the putters are available in 33, 34 and 35 inches. The X5R is similar in construction but with a more rounded shape than the X5. Both models will sell for $349.
 
“The X5 basically started from the original Futura 10 years ago,” said Scotty Cameron, Titleist’s master craftsman for putters. “We’ve learned from where we’ve been, taken parts of the past and moved it toward the future with performance, feel and sound. But the concept has always been about moving the weight back and out. When we do that, the putter becomes more stable and the resistance to twist becomes a lot better. So with X5 we’re using different materials like aluminum and stainless steel and getting that weight where it’s needed most. But you also have to remember the feel, the shaft bend, the grip—all of these things have to come together, and they do with the new X5.”

Both putters come in Dual Balance ($399) options with 50 grams of weight under the sole plate to counterbalance the additional 50 grams of weight in the 15-inch grip. The standard length is 38 inches, but also is available in custom lengths ranging from 36 to 40 inches in half-inch increments.

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Equipment

TaylorMade's new irons have slots--on the face

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Right away, the new RSi family of irons from TaylorMade look different. With vertical slots framing the hitting area of the face, TaylorMade is suggesting the thinking about iron design needs to change.

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“Gone are the days in irons when you worry about just moving the center of gravity or raising the moment of inertia five percent,” says Bret Wahl, vice president of R&D for irons at TaylorMade. “There are a lot of other complex variables that you’re considering, and they all factor in getting faster ball speeds across the face of an iron.” 

What Wahl is talking about, and what he and his team at TaylorMade have been talking about since the early days of the r7 CGB Max irons nearly a decade ago, is the idea of creating an iron face that flexes at impact the way a driver does. Specifically, it’s about creating a larger area of the face that’s “unsupported.” 

To that end, it’s not just about building a deeper or larger cavity, Wahl says. Instead, it’s using a cut-through opening in the sole and now similar openings on the heel and toe side of the face in an effort to make it flex more not just on center shots but on mis-hits. TaylorMade says their research shows 78 percent of iron-shot impacts occur low on the face (heel and toe) and 61 percent are towards the toe (both low and high).

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To combat these mis-hits, TaylorMade built the RSi line with face slots in the 3- through 8-iron and sole slots in the 3- through 7-iron. Each opening is cut fully through the iron, and each slot is filled with compounds designed to allow the metal to flex. 

The RSi line (available for demo today, for purchase Nov. 14) includes RSi 1 (a game-improvement iron designed as TaylorMade’s longest iron); RSi 2 (an iron shaped like a cavity-back players iron but with enhanced distance capability); and RSi TP (the most compact iron, but still featuring a cavity back and face and sole slot technologies). 

RSi 1 ($800) features the thinnest face ever on a TaylorMade iron, just 1.5 millimeters thick at the extremes. It has the widest sole and the deepest undercut cavity of the three new irons, but like each it features TaylorMade’s proprietary variable face thickness design known as “inverted cone”.

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The more compact RSi 2 ($900) is cast of a high-strength steel alloy (Carpenter 450) in the 3- through 7-irons, while the short irons feature forged faces and the gap wedge is forged entirely. The 3- through 5-irons also utilize tungsten in the toe to lower the center of gravity for help in launching shots higher. 

The RSi TP ($1,200, available Jan. 15) mixes one-piece forged short irons with a two-piece design in the 3- through 7-irons. The two-piece middle and long irons use a forged 1025 carbon steel face and neck that is plasma welded to a 431 stainless steel piece that forms the back cavity and sole slot. 

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Equipment

Winner's bag: What Sang-Moon Bae used to win the Frys.com Open

Sang-Moon Bae had a couple of key clubs during his win at the season-opening Frys.com Open -- his driver and his putter.

The driver is Callaway's Big Bertha V Series and Bae's win was the sixth for the club worldwide since it was introduced at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in August. The 9-degree club is 45 inches in length with the OptiFit hosel set to minus 1 degree of loft with a neutral directional setting. The shaft is Graphite Design's MJ7 x-flex.

Related: A frame-by-frame look at Sang-Moon Bae's swing

The putter, however, is truly intriguing. Bae put the Odyssey Damascus Grand in play to start the year after picking it up in Japan during his off-season. The 345-gram club is made from Damascus steel, which is the same type of steel used to make samurai swords. The limited edition putter -- only 350 were produced and were available only in Japan -- features a striped pattern head.

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BALL: Callaway Speed Regime 3
DRIVER: Callaway Big Bertha V Series (Graphite Design MJ7), 9 degrees
3-WOOD: Callaway Diablo Octane Tour, 15 degrees
HYBRID: Callaway X Hot Pro, 18 degrees
IRONS (4-PW): Callaway Razr X MB
WEDGES: Callaway X Forged (52, 56, 60 degrees)
PUTTER: Odyssey Damascus Grand

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Equipment

You need these (or not): Playboy golf clubs

Finally, after all these years, we learn that Playboy was good for something other than the articles.

Here, via eBay is proof: Playboy golf clubs.

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The seller claims this is one of only two sets ever made, hence his asking price. Bidding starts at $1,999. It might end there, too. There hasn’t been a single bid yet and bidding ends Sunday.

Anyway, here’s the story of the clubs, according to the seller:

“A widow sold them to me at a garage sale. Her husband was the golf pro at the playboy mansion. A different company wanted to produce and sell clubs with the PLAYBOY LOGO and produced 2 prototype sets. According to the widow, when Heffner [sic] saw them he shut them down for using the logo. The pro got to keep the clubs. The six iron was removed many years ago and lost. The rest of the set is in Mint Condition though the box is aged. I unwrapped the sand wedge for pictures but the rest, as far as I know has never been unwrapped from the original plastic. For a video visit you tube and search ultra rare playboy golf clubs.”

(H/T TheGolfNewsNet.com)

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Equipment

Wilson Staff pushing lightweight limits

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The theory about making clubs lighter is less weight should make the club easier to swing faster. But it’s not that simple. “Lightweight is fairly easy to do,” says Michael Vrska, director of innovation for golf clubs at Wilson Staff. “The key is to how you use the limited available mass.” 

Still, the company is pushing the limits of lighter weight. Fueled by ultralight shafts and grips and an adjustable driver head that is the lightest in the industry, Wilson unveiled its D200 line of woods and irons this week by talking about how to make lightweight clubs work for more golfers. The D200 line includes a driver with a total weight less than 270 grams, fairway woods and hybrids that use 49- and 54-gram shafts and a superlight super game-improvement iron that redistributes 48 grams to the heel and toe to improve stability on off-center hits.

Vrska says the most important aspect of the company’s new D200 driver is not just its lighter overall weight-just 268 grams-but something called club moment of inertia. While the MOI most golfers think of has to do with how stable the club is on an off-center hit (higher is generally better), the thinking on club MOI is just the opposite. Club MOI has to do with how resistant an object is to some force causing it to move (like say a golfer trying to swing it). A lower club MOI, theoretically, might mean a club is easier to swing faster. Vrska says the club MOI on the D200 is the lowest on the market. The D200, which also features a thinner, webbed, variable thickness crown through the use of a chemical etching process, also is the lightest adjustable driver in the game with a head weight of just 189 grams or about 15 grams lighter than most adjustable driver heads today. Each of the three lofts (9, 10.5, 13; $300) can be adjusted up or down one degree, and put in a draw setting.

The face size on the D200 also has been increased by 9 percent and redesigned compared to the D100. The thickness of the lower perimeter of the face has been decreased by 12 percent to further improve face deflection on off-center hits. 

Also fueling the lightweight design is a special 25-gram Golf Pride grip and a 44-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome shaft. 

The line includes fairway woods and hybrids with Carpenter 455 steel face inserts. Vrska says the high-strength Carpenter 455 is able to made 20 percent thinner than traditional 17-4 steel and 13 percent thinner than some Chines steels labeled “455.” The thinner face helps create the highest spring-like effect readings for Wilson’s fairway woods and hybrids in its history. Both the fairway woods and hybrids have extended low heel and toe regions for a 5 percent larger face area. The fairway woods (15, 18, 21 degrees; $250) use a 49-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome shaft, while the hybrids (17, 19, 212, 25, 28, 31 degrees; $180) feature a 54-gram version. Both use the 25-gram Golf Pride grip found on the driver.


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The D200 irons continue the lightweight theme, but while the saved weight is repositioned in the heel and toe, it’s how the weight is saved in the head that is especially interesting. The design features extending the same thickness of the already thin face around the leading edge and into the front part of the sole. The sole is thinnest on the longer irons and the weight is moved farther back in the cavity. As the lofts progress higher, the face-to-sole transition area isn’t as thin and the weight moves forward to control trajectory and feel. The saved weight, almost 50 percent of the club’s total mass in the 4-iron, is repositioned to the heel and toe to lower the center of gravity and to raise the head’s MOI by 9 percent, compared to the D100.

The D200 irons ($600 steel, $700 graphite) come with an 85-gram steel option and a 59-gram UST Mamiya Elements Chrome graphite option. 

All of Wilson’s D200 clubs will be in stores Jan. 16.
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Equipment

Kronos Golf uses CNC technology and tears to land deal on ABC's "Shark Tank"

Kronos Golf is still trying to make it big in the putter manufacturing business. But the company has already struck a chord with people around the world.

Related: The funniest golf commercials

Last Friday, co-founders Phillip Lapuz and Eric Williams appeared on the ABC show, "Shark Tank," a program on which entrepreneurs pitch their businesses or ideas in the hopes of striking deals with the show's host. Seeking $150,000 for a 15-percent stake in Kronos Golf, Lapuz got very emotional during the presentation when he talked about needing financial security with his company so he can bring his fiancee to the U.S. from Japan. Check it out:

Kronos Golf is based in San Diego and mills its putters from one piece of metal with a computer numeric control (CNC) machine. Putters take six months to two years to be completed and they are made in small batches (from 70-200 at a time).

The sales pitch had even the show's toughest customer, Kevin O'Leary, tearing up. It was also strong enough to procure a deal from another one of "the Sharks," Robert Herjavec.

Of course, Lapuz's tears could only go so far. Herjavec invested the $150,000 being asked, but for a 30-percent stake of the company.

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Equipment

Callaway bolsters Big Bertha driver line

big-bertha-alpha-815.jpg“There’s really no one recipe for distance, there’s no one driver type that fits all,” said Alan Hocknell, Callaway’s R&D chief. “In fact, we found that there are three.” 

Those words herald today's introduction of two new Big Bertha drivers. The two new clubs complete a trio of fitting options with last month’s Big Bertha V-Series. While the lightweight, aerodynamic V-Series is aimed at enhancing clubhead speed, the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond (in stores Nov. 14) focus on spin reduction and forgiveness. The new introductions, each of which features two settings of vertical center of gravity positions come 10 months after the company unveiled the Big Bertha Alpha, its first driver to feature independent adjustability of vertical center of gravity, as well as loft and lie.

Both Big Bertha Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 DD feature lightweight composite crowns, the central core weight that can be flipped in a low or mid center of gravity position (the "gravity core"), heel and toe adjustable weights, an adjustable hosel and a revised face design that saves additional weight. In the Alpha 815 ($450; 9, 10.5 12 degrees), the weight is saved to provide lower spin and improved off-center hit stability compared to last December’s Big Bertha Alpha. 

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"We wanted this driver to get into the space where it's capable of delivering low spin but play with the character of being forgiving, as well," Hocknell said. "We don't think there's currently another driver in the marketplace that really accomplishes those two objectives."

When Callaway introduced its Big Bertha driver last December, it stressed forgiveness with a movable weight that slid to various degrees of draw and fade bias. It also debuted the Big Bertha Alpha, whose adjustable vertical center of gravity could alter spin rate by some 300 revolutions per minute depending on whether the core was positioned with its heavy end in the top or bottom position. But it was somewhat less forgiving, featuring a lower moment of inertia, or stability on off-center hits.
 
Fast forward to today and the new Big Bertha Alpha 815 promises to do both. Meanwhile, the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond, as its name implies, is geared to more elite, higher swing speed golfers. Its emphasis is on extreme spin reduction.
 
The Alpha 815 utilizes eight materials (including titanium, stainless steel, tungsten, aluminum, ABS thermoplastic, and the company's trademark "forged composite" carbon fiber material) and has a lighter swingweight and overall club weight than the original Alpha along with slightly more draw bias. Also different is the head size—460cc compared to 430cc on last year’s model. The gravity core (which produces more spin in the “up” position and less when the end with more weight is in the “down” position) is identical to the original.
 
The most intriguing parts of the club, however, are the rib structures that connect from the face to the sole and the crown. “The combination of those ribs plus a thinner overall structure in the area around the face in addition to the composite crown makes the club lighter than it was before,” says Hocknell. “We have used that weight [between 5 and 6 grams] elsewhere to stretch the body in order to improve the forgiveness of the club.”
 
Hocknell went on to say that the face (which is .005 to .006 of an inch thinner on average) was designed to improve specific areas, noting that the center of the face already was at the limit and that the area near the sole of the driver is already flexible so there was no need to make it more so. Instead, Callaway engineers used internal ribs in the crown and sole to better control the flexibility of the boundary areas of the face while creating more ball speed by boosting face deflection. The company calls it RMOTO for "rib motion control"—in short, a more efficient transfer of energy to the ball while using up less weight in the face. That weight is then redistributed for more off-center hit stability than last year's Big Bertha Alpha.
 
The adjustability of the Alpha 815 expands beyond the gravity core with adjustable heel and toe weights (1 gram and 7 grams) as well as an adjustable hosel with settings ranging from minus 1 degree loft to plus 2 degrees loft, as well as draw and neutral lie angle settings. There’s also been an upgrade in the area of shaft selection as well. In addition to the stock Fujikura Speeder Motore 565, there are 13 additional premium shafts available at no upcharge from the $450 street price.
 
The Alphja 815 DD ($500, with two lofts: 9 and 10.5 degrees) version boasts most of the same attributes as the Alpha 815, but with a smaller clubhead footprint with a deeper, more open face angle and a taller gravity core that provides a larger spin difference. Furthering Callaway’s claim of a “extreme low spin driver” is that weight savings of 3 grams from the face were used to lower the CG to further lessen spin. The adjustable hosel is the same as the Alpha 815, with the movable weights of 1 gram and 5 grams.
 
Both drivers will be available in golf stores in November.
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