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Nike Mizuno Hope to Energize Market with Irons

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NIKE TO LAUNCH NEW IRONS: Breaking news on COR regulation stole a little of the thunder, but Nike Golf officials smiled through it all as they introduced golf media and retailers to the new Pro Combo irons this week at company headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
 
NikeVeteran club designer Tom Stites and world No. 9 David Duval sat on a stage as guests of the Jay Leno-like Mike Kelly, Nikes category business director for golf clubs, and explained that many players ' including Duval ' like game-improvement irons in the longer clubs and forged blades in the shorter sticks. Duval refers to it as a broken set.
 
High handicappers sometimes dont realize it, but they can hit forged wedges very well, Stites said. The loft and other factors make it easier.
 
Hence the progressive concept of the Pro Combo. The 2-, 3- and 4-irons have the weight moved back and down for the usual reason of getting the ball up. As the irons progress through the set, the clubs get more blade-like until the pitching wedge, which looks pretty much like the one from the original set of Nike forged irons.
 
The progressive concept isnt entirely new, and neither is the broken-set concept. (Its easy to hit a 2-iron ' low, Duval said with his usual arid wit.) Whats new is Stites involvement. Nike has a lot of faith in him, so much that theyre building him a new headquarters right next to his testing facility in Fort Worth, Texas. As for the sticks, theyll be in the shops Dec. 1 with steel shafts (suggested retail $999) and March 1, 2003 with graphite (suggested retail $1,099).
 
Mizuno MP30 ironsMIZUNO EXTENDS MP FAMILY: Fans of Mizuno irons will be glad the wait for the latest MPs is over. The new MP30 forged irons offer soft, solid feel, says the company, as well as a half-cavity design that gives forgiveness benefits but with a blade look. Suggested retail will be $1,099 for 3-PW; shipping will begin in mid-August.
 
BATTLE FOR SOFT SHARE: In that $20-$25 per dozen range of soft-cored golf balls, certain companies have been fighting for narrow slices of a tough market. Maxfli claims that its Noodle ball surpassed Precepts Lady in off-course golf shop market share, rising to 5.5 percent. The Noodle commands 4.3 percent in combined on-course/off-course share, but Precepts soft-ball one-two punch ' the Lady and the Laddie ' hold 5.9 percent of that market (3.5 percent plus 2.4 percent, respectively), say figures provided by the companies from reports of industry metrics leader Golf Datatech.
 
THIS WEEKS FUN GOLF FACT: The International Rose Test Garden, a beautiful spot up the hill from downtown Portland, Ore. and a mecca for rose fans (and those with time to kill before the redeye to Atlanta) contains a rose hybrid named for two-time major champion Tony Jacklin.