They have dominated the driver category on tour for a number of years but TaylorMade Golf has a new target – the short game. Specifically, putters.
The popular Rossa franchise is getting a boost this year in several ways, via new Kia Ma crafted tour models and the evolution of the Rossa Monza Spider putter line – the Vicino.
Set to hit retail on March 25, the Vicino had its first full week on the PGA Tour at the Transitions Championship with a wide number of models ready for player testing and use.
“A lot of people look at it (the Vicino) and the original Spider and says there’s not much difference,” TaylorMadePGA Tour representative Shawn Mullin told said last week on the practice putting green at Innisbrook. “But that’s hardly the case; within the putter there is quite a bit of difference.”
Mullin says the new mallet model is a true evolution based on a lot of study and research. “We’ve spent a lot of time studying things like loft, shaft pitch, and face angle, and so on. One of things we have focused on is having enough loft (the standard loft of the Vicino is 3.75 degrees) with the correct face angle.”
According to Mullin, having enough loft and the right shaft pitch can be hard to maintain when players look to vary the face angle of their putter but they have solved that issue in the Vicino. “In years gone by when we changed the face angle or the loft the shaft pitch would become negative and putter shaft would end up pointing back at your right shoulder, which was not a good thing.” The solution to that was what TaylorMade calls “90 degree shaft angle.”
Using this development they are able to maintain proper loft whether you choose to have the putter sit square, 1 degree open, or 2 degrees open – whatever fits your eye. Adds Mullin, a former PGA Professional, “you will be able to get a fit for your stroke and the look you want with the right shaft pitch and effective loft.”
In a move to create even more options so the golfer can get the putter that fits them rather than having to conform to the putter, TaylorMade is also offering three face options for the Vicino. On top of the regular Titallium AGSI insert there is also an AGSI S insert made of Surlynthat is firmer while a Carbon AGSI insert, the AGSI C, is slightly less reactive. “They each provide a different feel and a different sound, which some players prefer. We have a lot of options to help get players into a putter that fits them.”
As successful as the original Rossa Monza Spider was Mullin feels the Vicino will have an even bigger impact. “We learned a lot from that putter and the process of developing it. We’ve listened to the players and it’s much like NASCAR. As you are developing new product you must listen to the people that are driving it or using it – and the best players in the world, specifically. They are telling us what they see and feel and hear and I think we have been able to do a good job with taking that feedback and getting it in line with the product we deliver to them.”
Accompanying the Vicino with a March 25 retail launch date will be three Kia Ma designs. Kia Ma crafted putters are slightly more traditional in shape and the result has been very positive. “Kia Ma has been doing very well. We have some of the best players in the world playing his product right now. Kia does a fantastic job. He’s been in the putter business forever; frankly he’s one of the best fabricators there is. We have guys like Sean O’Hair and Sergio Garcia – some of our bigger name players using the product so we expect it to continue to be successful; on tour and at retail.”
As for how far TaylorMade-adidas expects the Vicino and Kia Ma putter designs to take them on tour they have some well-defined goals. “I think our beginning goal is to try and take over that #3 on tour and slowly close the gap on 1 and 2,” Mullin proclaims with confidence. “Obviously it is going to take time. There are player contracts involved; there are a lot of factors, but the immediate goal is to try and jump into that No. 3 spot.”
He concludes, “I think with this and some other new product; we have another new launch coming out soon, we should be able to make an impact on tour.”