The last day of December was "Black Monday" for a number of NFL coaches, and it set the "coaching carousel" in full swing. On the following day, however, the golf world had a different kind of carousel set in motion -- the one where players change equipment companies.
Stanley tested his new Nike equipment extensively to avoid any "question marks." (Photo: J.D. Cuban)
The switches for 2013 were plentiful and the activity swift. In all more than a dozen players either changed companies or re-upped with their current equipment maker. And that's not counting Rory McIlroy and his long-rumored move to Nike (although Nike has confirmed a "major announcement" for Jan. 14 in Abu Dhabi). Although McIlroy is, theoretically, in equipment limbo as his deal with Titleist expired at year's end, recognizable names, such as Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley (Nike), Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover and Ryan Moore (TaylorMade) and Gary Woodland (Callaway) all signed new deals.
A quick rundown of the scorecard to date shows that in addition to the above, John Huh and J.J. Henry also signed with TaylorMade (which also re-upped Sergio Garcia and Sean O'Hair). Elsewhere, Callaway inked Nicolas Colsaerts and Chris Kirk, and Nike added the European Tour's Thorbjÿrn Olesen. Adams, meanwhile, signed Jeff Overton.
Although in the past some marquee players have struggled after switching companies, that's less likely now. First, manufacturers are better at customizing clubs. Second, players are better about due diligence before signing a deal.
Consider defending Phoenix champ Stanley, who not only found that the Nike 20XI-X ball spun less -- much to his liking -- but did extensive testing with the clubs as well. "My season ended Dec. 9, so I was using my old equipment right until then," Stanley said. "I don't think I've ever overhauled my set like this. But I worked out with the equipment some before [season's end] and a lot since then. I didn't want to come into the season with any question marks."
Woodland also did his homework, taking time to speak with Callaway staffer Phil Mickelson about the company and its clubs. "Phil had nothing but good things to say," said Woodland. "They wanted a staff that was younger and more athletic. It seemed like a very good fit."
Ryo Ishikawa, who recently left Yonex for Callaway, also fits that bill. Then there's McIlroy, whose deal should be confirmed imminently. After that announcement perhaps the carousel will finally come to a stop.
CALLAWAY X HOT
PRICE: $299 (Lofts: 9.5, 10.5, 11.5, 13)
Each loft model on this driver has a different bulge radius and draw bias based on the impact pattern of golfers most likely to play that loft. A smaller Pro version also is available.
PRICE: $399 (Adjustable loft)
This driver offers the ability to change loft from 8 to 12 degrees while an adjustable sole plate can alter face angle. Two movable weights allow for further customization.
PRICE: $349 (Lofts: 8.5, 9.5, 10.5, 12 degrees)
Each loft can be adjusted half a degree up or down. A high-balance-point shaft is designed to help golfers swing the slightly heavier clubhead faster.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions victor Dustin Johnson made some changes to his equipment prior to the start of play. Using TaylorMade's new R1 driver for the first time in competition, Johnson had the adjustable loft set at 10 degrees (instead of his normal 10.5 degrees) due to the blustery conditions at Kapalua's Plantation Course. Johnson also altered his new TaylorMade RocketBladez Tour irons. Feeling they were a bit too upright, Johnson had the irons bent 1 degree flatter at a small workshop on the driving range at Kapalua. ... Another player using the R1 was Johnson Wagner, who also took advantage of the adjustable-loft head by going from his normal 8.5 degree loft to 8 degrees. ... Tommy Gainey put Callaway's new X Hot metal woods into play right away, using a 10.5-degree X Hot driver and X Hot 3-wood (with Aldila RIP NV 65 shafts) in Hawaii. ... Webb Simpson conducted an overhaul of his bag this off season, saying goodbye to his four-year-old woods and muscleback blade Titleist irons in favor of a Titleist 913D3 driver (10.5 degrees), 913F.d 3- and 5-wood, 913H hybrid (20 degrees) and Titleist AP2 irons (4-PW). Simpson also used the new Titleist Pro V1x -- one of 10 players using the new Pro V1/V1x in Hawaii. ... Last fall Hunter Mahan switched to Ping's G25 driver, and in Hawaii he added the company's new Anser irons. Another Ping staffer, Mark Wilson, had a pair of the company's new Anser hybrids (17, 20 degrees) in play at Kapalua. ... Rickie Fowler had three orange-colored Cobra AMP Cell woods (driver, 3-wood, hybrid) in his bag at the Hyundai.