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Sun, sea and sinking putts in Mallorca
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Although men’s golf doesn’t have professional teams outside of the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup competitions, it still has its own version of soccer’s transfer windows, with some big names moving to new brands, some extending existing deals, and others remaining free agents. Let’s round up all the big news going into 2021.
The Christmas decorations were still up when one of golf’s most high-profile free agents found a new equipment home. In early January, Jon Rahm signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Callaway Golf to use the brand’s equipment. The world’s second ranked player’s golf bag will now include Callaway’s prototype woods and irons, along with the brand’s Jaws MD5 forged wedges, Odyssey putter and Chrome Soft X golf ball.
After almost four years with TaylorMade Golf, the big Spaniard also left Adidas and will now wear Travis Mathew apparel under the agreement, a sister company of Callaway. He now joins Xander Schauffele and Phil Mickelson as notable Callaway Golf staff players.
TaylorMade still has a lot to be cheerful about, however, as shortly after seeing Rahm exit its tour staff, the brand retained the world’s top ranked player, signing Dustin Johnson to a multi-year extension to use its clubs and ball. The Masters and FedExCup champion has been with the company since 2007, and while the financial details of the agreement have not been released, Johnson’s golf bag has already revealed two new TaylorMade products, a SIM2 driver and a SIM2 Max 3-wood.
And just before Christmas, Tommy Fleetwood signed with TaylorMade, effectively filling the gap to be left by Rahm. The Englishman, a free agent since Nike stopped making golf equipment in 2016, had already been using TaylorMade irons and fairway woods, and now joins an impressive roster of players for the brand which includes Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff.
Heading into 2021, there are a few notable names who remain unsigned to an equipment manufacturer. Joining Rahm in moving away from TaylorMade is Jason Day. The Australian had been a TaylorMade staffer his entire pro career going all the way back to 2006, and is now likely to be a free agent for the foreseeable future, possibly with a golf bag and hat deal outside of any equipment agreement.
Justin Rose switched to luxury brand Honma in 2019, but in early 2020 split with the Japanese company to become a free agent, using a variety of clubs he felt were working for him. Though nothing has been mooted so far this season about him signing a deal with another manufacturer, he is one to keep an eye on this season as he looks to get back up the world rankings.
The highly marketable Brooks Koepka is yet to sign an equipment contract and remains one of the sport’s most committed free agents. Luring Koepka away from his stance and obtaining his services would be a major coup for any equipment brand. Like Koepka, Paul Casey has been using whichever clubs he sees fit since Nike hung up its golf clubs five years ago, and that approach is unlikely to change this season.
Patrick Reed raised a few eyebrows during the first round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions recently after he played the first round wearing a G/FORE polo shirt and a Titleist cap. This was after his apparel deal with Nike came to an end, and the obvious conclusion to draw was that free-agent Reed had signed a new clothing deal.
Though the former Masters champion does have a ball deal with Titleist, he has no club or clothing deal with the brand; and when it comes to G/FORE, he simply likes the clothing and bought some of the brand’s gear to wear, as any amateur player would do. In terms of equipment, the American remains a free agent and has one of the most mixed bags of clubs on the PGA Tour. But let’s see what 2021 brings…