Nike shocked the golf world on Wednesday by announcing its intention to transition away from making golf clubs, golf balls and golf bags to focus on apparel and footwear.
The immediate reaction was imagining what equipment Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Michelle Wie and the other Nike staffers would play now that they're becoming free agents on their club deals.
The short-term answer is two parts. Current Nike Golf staffers will eventually need to find new clubs to play, but that transition, except in a few cases like Charl Schwartzel going to PXG before the Open Championship, will not happen overnight. For example, Finau told Golf Digest that he intends to play Nike Golf clubs in his next start at the John Deere Classic.
However, players may make changes in pieces of their bag before making broader changes in conjunction with a club deal. According to 2002 PGA champion Rich Beem, as told to Ireland's Newstalk, Rory McIlroy had a new Scotty Cameron putter at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol but couldn't play it because of his whole-bag deal with Nike. As those deals dissolve or get reworked, players like McIlroy can make those switches -- and will likely give themselves options like that in their next equipment deal.
As for who will sign the current Nike Golf staff, there are no clear-cut answers.
The expectation is that Parsons Xtreme Golf will be a big player. After all, they spent big in the offseason to sign the likes of Zach Johnson, Billy Horschel, Gerina Piller and others. However, as PXG is a high-end golf club brand, the impact of investing in Tour players may be limited as the company's customer base is inherently limited. Then again, with customers paying in upwards of $5,000 for a full bag of PXG equipment, Tour wins might further validate the brand's value to high-end players.
Of course, there are thoughts that Callaway Golf and TaylorMade might sign a number of players. Callaway is pretty well saturated in terms of staff size, and TaylorMade is currently up for sale by parent adidas AG, while also having to worry about potentially resigning Jason Day and Dustin Johnson in the offseason.
Then there's Titleist. Both Woods and McIlroy played their equipment before signing with Nike (or, even at the beginning of his Nike deal, in Woods' case). Titleist doesn't shell out big-money equipment deals because that's not their play; rather, their aim is to have broad support and branding among tour pros to show they're the No. 1 Ball in Golf (TM). So, unless Woods and McIlroy want to take a massive pay cut, this won't be an option -- and neither will Mizuno, Cobra, Cleveland/Srixon barring an unlikely effort to pay big for a big name.
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