So there you have it, Cortex it is.

Last night’s Driver vs. Driver 2 finale inched along at a pace that would make a glacier impatient, but it finally – albeit a tad prematurely – gave you what Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke is calling the “best testing driver Wilson has ever produced.”

Get your cynical snarkiness out of the way now. As you’ll recall, the MyGolfSpy boys tested both the Cortex and Rozwell (and two others) in Episode 5, and both Sam and Adam predicted Cortex would be the one. We’ll be getting the final version of Cortex at MGS headquarters later today, so you can bet we’ll have some #Datacratic feedback for you asap.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the driver that put $250,000.00 in designer Evan Hoffman’s pocket.

One For The Money

We’ll have more detail on the Cortex in the coming days, but it was pretty clear throughout the program that it was the ball speed belle of the ball. Even though Wilson’s Tour players emphasized looks, feel and sound, what got them most jacked when comparing the Cortex and the Rozwell was ball speed, along with launch angle and spin. Cortex had the edge with the Tour players as well as with judges Jeremy Roenick, Rick Shiels, and Clarke. Both Roenick and Shiels raved about the looks of the Rozwell, but all three judges were clearly in favor of the Cortex in terms of performance, feel and especially – given the Triton experience – sound.

Because all technology needs a name (the cooler-sounding the better), the Cortex features Fast Cage Technology. Wilson says it’s a “weight-tuned titanium internal structure, with 44% of its surface area covered in Carbon Fiber Panels. One of the key changes made to Cortex between Episode 6 and the finale was to use less titanium and more carbon fiber.

The sliding weight in the Cortex isn’t new (TaylorMade M1, Mizuno JPX 850/900), but it’s something new for Wilson. Not unique, but it does what it’s supposed to do: help you dial in spin and launch. You can also make it draw or fade bias by switching the 2g and 8g weights between the heel and toe positions. Wilson went all out with the stock shaft – the Fujikura Atmos Tour Spec: red for high launch, blue for mid launch and black for low launch.

We can debate the price till the cows come home (and we will), but the Cortex hits retail today at $499.99. That’s pretty much the going rate for any OEM’s premium driver, and $100 more than Wilson’s C300, which tested out very well in this year’s Most Wanted Driver showdown. It was the 2nd lowest spinning driver in the test, right behind the Wilson D300. Clearly, Wilson knows spin.

Two For The Show

There was quite a bit of buzz on Twitter yesterday that Wilson might simply split the baby and sell both the Cortex and the Rozwell. It was a nice thought since both drivers performed well and most viewers seemed to like both designers. Wilson didn’t do that, but what they did do made for much better television.

I know we’re all supposed to be tough, cynical golf critics, but hell, if you watched the whole series and had half a heart, you’d kinda liked Tim Slama. The 21-year-old Oregon State University engineering student said his dream was to be a golf club designer. The kid did look legit crushed at the end (reality shows always show you the loser’s reaction), but in a truly classy move, Wilson told Tim they’d be paying for his senior year of college and that he’d have a job waiting for him after graduation (which, given the show’s timing, should be this spring).

I’m not crying; you’re crying.

Editor’s note – the finale was taped back in August. In the meantime, Tim wound up accepting a job in design engineering at Nike’s world headquarters in Oregon. You can read about it here.

Sonuva…

It really wouldn’t be Driver vs. Driver without something going wrong. In Season 1 it was the Triton, in all of its super-adjustable glory, being judged non-conforming the week after the finale and after it had been in stores over the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend. This time, it was a friggin’ pop-up ad.

I missed it the first time (texting and tv don’t mix), so I had to rewind the DVR a couple of times, but there it was. Just as the panel started its final words to the two contestants came this lovely little piece of buzzkill, a good three minutes before Clarke announced the winner…

For its part, Golf Channel issued the requisite Twitter apology within 90 minutes of the show’s close.

Somewhere, Steve Harvey is smiling.

And somewhere else, there’s a woodshed that’s open for business.

Final Thoughts

It’s pretty clear to anyone who watched both, but Season 2 of Driver vs. Driver was head and shoulders above Season 1. Tim Clarke promised we’d see more golf and less fluff, and we did. We got to see performance, and we got to see behind the R&D curtain a little. True design geeks and gearheads would probably like to have seen more, but it is what it is.

The $499.99 price tag for the Cortex is bound to spark some spirited discussion. That’s the going price for a premium driver with a real deal shaft, but will golfers give it the time of day compared to the 2019 offerings from Cobra, Titleist, PING, TaylorMade or Callaway? It’s hard for any of the challenger brands to crash the Big 5’s driver party, reality show or no reality show, so the Cortex will need to bring some serious juice to the table in order to get your attention.

That $499 does include some nice no upcharge options. Along with the full array of Atmos Tour Spec shafts, you can also select the EvenFlow Black or Blue or the HZRDUS Black or Red from Project X, or the UST Mamiya Recoil. In addition, a full array of Lamkin, Winn, and Golf Pride grips (including the Align) are available, also at no upcharge.

Cynics, of course, will bleat on, crying abomination, joke or waste of time. But as we said when Season 2 launched, Driver vs. Driver isn’t about the driver, not really. Yes, there’s a driver, and by all accounts, it looks pretty damned intriguing. But in the big picture Driver vs. Driver is about branding for Wilson Golf and Wilson Sporting Goods. And you don’t measure ROI on branding in weeks, months – you measure it in years.

And for what it’s worth, there are more people talking about Wilson Golf this morning than on this date five years ago.

As Tim Clarke told MyGolfSpy months ago, Driver vs. Driver was never meant to be an effort to outsell Callaway or TaylorMade. “The goal of the show was to take a brand that was, at one time, viewed as not being in the premium golf space and improve that.”

You can check out the Wilson Staff Cortex starting today at most retailers, and it’s available on Wilson’s website.