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Pro Shop: 2004 Preview

DRIVERS

NIKE IGNITE
When Tiger Woods abandoned his Nike driver last summer in favor of his old Titleist club, Team Swoosh scrambled to get its latest R&D version into his hands—and he has been using it since October. The Ignite ($469), with a splashy soleplate and other familiar Nike design cues, will be available in April for public consumption. Its clubface extends over the topline into the crown and is made of a new, thinner and stronger proprietary titanium alloy called NexTi. The result is a sturdier structure and, according to the company, a dramatically larger sweet spot. The 460-cubic-centimeter club we tested felt powerful and was palpably forgiving of off-center hits. Also available in a 410-cc size, closer to the 340-cc Tiger is using. Call 800-922-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.

KING COBRA SZ
Cobra Golf has updated its hot-selling King Cobra SS with the King Cobra SZ ($369). The "SZ" stands for "sweet zone," which the company says is bigger and hotter on the new club thanks to an insert behind the milled titanium clubface. Two additional inserts, visible at the back of the soleplate, optimize clubhead stability. In our testing, the SZ produced high, soaring shots with ease. Available in 400-cc or 440-cc clubhead size with or without extra offset. Call 800-225-8500 or visit cobragolf.com.

CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA TITANIUM
The new Big Bertha ($315) is a price-friendly club for golfers of all ability levels. The 360-cc clubhead is longer from heel to toe than on previous models, producing a wider, more forgiving hitting area, and it has perimeter weighting designed to produce the high, piercing trajectory appropriate for today's balls. Matching the driver is a new line of Big Bertha Stainless Steel fairway woods ($225 steel shafts, $285 graphite). Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

MIZUNO MP-001
The crown of Mizuno's MP-001 driver ($500) is made of lightweight carbon graphite, while the face and body are titanium—a similar innovation to that found in the Yonex and in Callaway's ERC Fusion (reviewed in our previous issue). The composite head allows designers to save weight overall, creating faster swing speeds, and to redistribute grams from the top of the clubhead to the sole and rear. The MP-001 (available in 370 cc or 400 cc) also features rear weight bars, or "Balance Grooves," near the heel to help square the clubface. We experienced a decided left bias on shots hit with this club, a plus for slicers. Call 800-966-1211 or visit mizunousa.com.

YONEX CYBERSTAR POWERBRID
Yonex produced the world's first graphite-headed driver back in 1982 and remains a leader in composite technology. The new 400-cc Cyberstar PowerBrid ($550) brings metal and graphite together in a handsome rock-solid package. The company says its graphite crown actually flexes slightly at impact for extra ball speed. We loved the muted metallic sound the club made. Call 800-449-6639 or visit yonex.com.

IRONS

CALLAWAY BIG BERTHA
In updating its Big Bertha irons ($760 steel; $1,000 graphite), Callaway played with the lofts, making some of the long irons stronger (or less lofted) and some of the short irons weaker. The resulting spread between nine-iron and pitching wedge was plugged with a "ten-iron." Otherwise, most of the improvements here are tweaks. We found the Berthas ridiculously easy to hit high and straight. Call 800-588-9836 or visit callawaygolf.com.

NIKE CPR
Nike fills out its CPR ("clubs for prevention and recovery") line, previously only sand wedges and hybrids, with five-iron through pitching wedge ($599 for the CPR Mixed Set, including two hybrids). A wide sole and aggressive perimeter weighting qualify these as game-improvement irons, yet they retain an attractive traditional look. Call 800-922-6453 or visit nikegolf.com.

MacGREGOR V-FOIL M455
MacGregor has reinvented itself in recent years as a producer of elegant, ingeniously engineered forged irons, ranging from sleek players blades to cavity backs. The handsome new V-FOIL M455s ($700 steel; $800 graphite) are extreme-game-improvement irons—and forged, to boot. The oversize head, thick topline and broad flange across the back produce incredibly high shots. Call 800-841-4358 or visit macgregorgolf.com.

TOMMY ARMOUR 845CS SILVERBACK
For price-conscious mid-handicap golfers, Tommy Armour has created a cast version of its popular forged 845c SilverBack irons. The 845cs SilverBacks ($399, steel only) have the same cavity-back design and look as the forged version, and in our testing offered just as much forgiveness and workability. Call 800-723-4653 or visit tommyarmourgolf.com.

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