Nike sees change square in its sights - East Valley Tribune: Sports

Nike sees change square in its sights

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Posted: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 11:20 pm | Updated: 3:20 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Nike Golf’s “Whistle-stop Tour ’06’’ blew into the East Valley on Tuesday afternoon to promote its latest-greatest drivers in the game — the SasQuatch Sumo and the radical SasQuatch Sumo2, or “Sumo Squared.”

Of the two, the Sumo2 is getting all of the attention for its radical design. The message came right out of an old Huey Lewis and the News tune: “It’s hip to be square.” If you think you’ve seen them all, you haven’t. The Sumo2 is a space-age cross that unites geometry with Star Wars to produce a clubhead that resembles a miniature flying saucer. As one might expect, Nike claims the results will take your golf ball “higher, farther and straighter.’’

Before we start with the reasons why, let’s give a little background. First of all, I thought a whistle-stop tour was more about trains. Leave it to the fast-paced folks at Nike to do their thing via a G-5 Learjet.

The tour began earlier Tuesday with Tiger Woods demonstrating the new product at Hawthorne Municipal Airport outside Los Angeles, where TW launched a couple of 400-yard drives with the Sumo2 that, coupled with a couple of good bounces off the deck, ended up in nearby Inglewood.

According to Woods’ media-relations guy, Mark Soltau, “Tiger bombed a couple down the runway without even warming up.’’ Gee, what a surprise.

The Nike public relations staff, all dressed in black, then headed for Scottsdale with fading superstar David Duval in tow. Even though the group’s G-5 unexpectedly arrived about an hour behind schedule, the local media hung out unwavering on the patio of the TPC of Scottsdale.

When the Nike folks finally settled in, there was a slick presentation on corresponding plasma TVs featuring the company’s stars — Woods, Duval, Michelle Wie, Trevor Immelman, Stephen Ames, Jason Gore and K.J. Choi, along with the new drivers. Of that group, only Choi has won on the PGA Tour with the Sumo2, a feat he accomplished recently at the Chrysler Championship.

Duval, who is in his final year of a five-year contract with Nike, was less familiar with the Sumo2. According to “Double D,’’ he has been hibernating at home in Colorado, enjoying some “down time.’’ Translated: No golf.

Asked how the average golfer might react to the supersized Sumo-2, Duval smiled politely and said: “I’m fairly traditional, but at the same time, you can’t argue with science. . . . I don’t think it will be an issue.’’

OK, what about the strange sound that emanates from the Sumo2 upon contact, something reminiscent of a sledgehammer crushing an aluminum can?

“It was like, ‘Wow,’ ’’ he said of his initial reaction. “At the same time, things start looking really pretty when (the ball) is long and straight. So people will get over that part.’’

On Wednesday morning, the Nike tour flew into New York, where Gore presumably told a group of writers much the same. That was it, three cities, coast to coast, in a little more than 24 hours. So what do you need to know about the Sumo and Sumo2? I’m not sure other than the facts that the drivers cost $450 (Sumo2) and $350 (Sumo) and won’t be available in retail stores until Feb. 1.

As for the technology, you would have to be a rocket scientist to understand all the geometry that goes into the Sumo2. Naturally, Nike has one of those types in its director of research and development, Tom “the Club Geek’’ Stites.

According to Stites, the square-shaped head allows for more stability while hitting the shot. These days, stability is called “MOI” (moment of inertia) and no club has a higher number (5,300 g/cm2) than the Sumo2. And while the club conforms to USGA standards with a 460-cubic, centimeter-sized head, “(The shape of the clubhead) fools the ball into thinking it is being hit by something much larger, like a 600-cc head.’’

“It’s a very good thing for the average golfer,’’ Stites added. “It’s extremely fun and forgiving, as well as high-performance.’’

Actually, Nike is not the only club manufacturer producing a driver with a square head. Callaway Golf also has a similar creation in its new FTi driver. And, as Stites pointed out, others have tried it “but that was before its time.’’

Which brings up one last question: Is the sport of golf, previously thought to be round or curved, about to go square? Who knows, as club manufacturers like Nike Golf are continually discovering brave, new worlds.

Listen to Bill Huffman on “Backspin: The Golf Show” on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 9 a.m. on XTRA (910 AM).

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