While no technology or performance information has been shared yet, Mizuno is continuing what is becoming a bit of a long, slow tease of its upcoming 2019 ST190 and ST190G drivers. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.
Mizuno hasn’t ever – at least not in recent memory – been a powerhouse in the driver category. If you’re ranking by dollar share, it sits a comfortable 9th, though its perhaps worth a mention that its average selling prices are considerably higher than some of the brands listed ahead of it. That’s good for its bottom line, but if it wants to be seen as a serious player in the category, like other challenger brands, Mizuno has plenty of work to do.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that 2019 has the potential to be the year of the little guy – and that means Mizuno has a shot to increase market share. Now, I haven’t lost my mind (at least not completely). I’m not saying that by June Mizuno and Wilson will be battling for the title of the #1 Driver in Golf (TaylorMade owns that Trademark), but there is at least the potential for smaller brands to get some play on tour, build some excitement, and maybe even find their way into more of your golf bags.
With Nike now long gone and TaylorMade cutting back, Tour players are exploring their options. By now most of you realize that all four Majors in 2018 were won by players without equipment deals. The bag demographics, even within the driver category, are changing.
Small case in point, Callaway won the driver count at last week’s Mayakoba Classic while PING did the same at the PGA Tour Champions Charles Schwab Cup. And while those aren’t exactly textbook examples of smaller brands shocking the world, it does suggest that TaylorMade’s death grip on the weekly driver count is sliding, and other brands (maybe even small brands) could start finding their way into tour player bags at a higher rate than at any time since pay to play became the reality. That kind of thing usually trickles down to the consumer.
What does that mean for Mizuno? It means there’s a sliver of light shining through a door that was previously bolted shut. There are no gimmes here, however. Three brands (TaylorMade, Callaway, and PING) currently account for more than 80% of the drivers sold at retail. Add Titleist and Cobra and it we’re at 90%. 5 brands, 90% of the market. It’s not like we anticipate much of a sway in that top 90%, so that leaves Mizuno and everybody else fighting for the lion’s share of the last 10%.
Can Wilson, Srixon (Cleveland), Tour Edge, or Mizuno emerge from that pack?
Wilson has Driver vs. Driver buzz, Tour Edge has taken ownership of the $300 price point, Srixon is building a following, and Mizuno, for the first time I can remember, looks to have a pair of drivers with appeal that extends beyond the Mizuno loyalist. Given whispers of a push on Mizuno’s part, it could be the one that makes the biggest inroads on tour (admittedly we’re not starting much above zero). There’s at least an outside chance that a name you know will put a Mizuno ST180 driver in the bag. If that happens, it just might increase Mizuno’s retail fortunes.
Who Rises to the Top?
The competition will be stiff.
The Srixon 85 series hit the market last month. The Tour Edge Exotics EXS and Wilson Cortex just launched, and the Mizuno GT190 shouldn’t be too far behind.
How likely are you to give any of them a shot at making it into your bag? Does any one of them stand out as a must try?
We’d love to hear your thoughts.