The Strange Case Of The Non-Contracted Major Winners

None of the three major champions this year have had a full-bag equipment deal

Non-Contracted Major Winners

None of the three major champions this year have had a full-bag equipment deal

The Strange Case Of The Non-Contracted Major Winners

Francesco Molinari won his maiden major championship at Carnoustie to make it a clean sweep for players without full-bag equipment deals.

The Italian holed the winning putt using his Bettinardi flat stick, which he is contracted to use, whilst all 13 of the other clubs in his bag were chosen by him.

Molinari also has a ball deal with Titleist and used the Pro V1x ball to win the Claret Jug.

The rest of his bag was made up of TaylorMade gear, with the M4 driver, M3 3 wood, M3 5 wood, P790 and P750 irons and Milled Grind wedges.

Related: Francesco Molinari's Open winning clubs

It's a very similar story for the Masters and US Open winners too.

Each of them, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka, also used Titleist balls in their victory but neither of them have any deal with the company.

In fact, neither of them have any deal with any equipment company.

Related: Patrick Reed's Masters winning clubs

All three of this year's major winners wear Nike clothing and shoes. Molinari and Koepka were both former Nike equipment players prior to the company stopping production of clubs back in the summer of 2016.

It has seen them look elsewhere for their gear, although Koepka does still have a Nike 3 iron in the bag.

Koepka opts for TaylorMade woods, Mizuno irons, Titleist wedges and a Scotty Cameron putter.

Related: Brooks Koepka's US Open winning clubs

Reed goes with a Ping driver, Nike 3 wood, Callaway irons, Artisan and Titleist wedges and an Odyssey putter.

The Masters champion was with Callaway up until this year where he signed with Nike to wear their clothes and shoes and ended his deal with Callaway.

He was actually a Nike staffer in his early days as a pro, where he used the Nike VR Limited 3 wood that he currently has in the bag.

Other pros in similar boats to this year's major winners include Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey and Thorbjorn Olesen.

Fleetwood still uses his Nike irons and fairway woods, coupled with Callaway wedges, an Odyssey putter and TaylorMade driver, and has a ball deal with Titleist.

Casey has a metalwood deal with TaylorMade and ball deal with Titleist yet has Mizuno irons of his choice in the bag along with Titleist wedges and a Scotty Cameron putter.

Olesen, also a former Nike equipment player, is another with a Titleist ball deal and free-reign with everything else. He currently has a full bag of TaylorMades barring a Callaway wedge and Scotty Cameron putter.

On the other hand, barring this handfull of elite players, most of the Tour Pros do still have equipment deals with eight of the world's top 10 currently under contract.

How the world's top 10 looks in equipment deals:

  1. DJ - TaylorMade
  2. Rose - TaylorMade
  3. Thomas - Titleist
  4. Koepka - Free agent
  5. Rahm - TaylorMade
  6. Molinari - Free agent
  7. McIlroy - TaylorMade
  8. Spieth - Titleist
  9. Fowler - Cobra
  10. Day - TaylorMade

Nike staffers like Tiger Woods (TaylorMade), Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade) Charl Schwartzel (PXG) and Tony Finau (Ping) have chosen to sign full-bag deals.

Why might that be?

Rory McIlroy, who rocked up at the start of 2017 with Callaway woods and irons, and Titleist wedges and ball, stating he may not sign an equipment contract for some time, explains why he chose to go with one company in May of that year, "There's too much out there. You know, I started testing in Dubai at the end of '16, and it's like I literally had 25 boxes of golf clubs in front of me thinking this is -- where do you go from there?

"Look, there's a lot of great manufacturers out there that spend a lot of money in research and design. They're not going to make bad stuff. There's tiny little margins here and there between the equipment companies. I ended up just going with what worked best for me. It was more the golf ball than anything else. I really like the Nike golf ball, but then once I found the golf ball that I'm playing now, that was sort of the thing that did it for me.

"Yeah, there's just so much out there, and I think to really give every single golf club a chance and every single golf ball a chance, I probably wouldn't have started my season until about April. So there's just so much out there. So I needed to make a decision, and it made my life a lot easier by just going with one single manufacturer."

Expand Patrick Reed What’s In The Bag?

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Cynics may say that Rory only went with TaylorMade for the money, which is rumoured to be $100m over 10 years, and the players without that commercial power may have just not seen the benefits to signing a deal with one company.

It is clearly working for the likes of this year's major winners and more, including Olesen who won the Italian Open and Tommy Fleetwood who is currently world number 11, but they must be missing out on a fairly large chunk of money.

Molinari, you'd think, may soon sign with TaylorMade considering his commercial value will have rocketed after Carnoustie and he is playing their clubs anyway, although they may well bank on him continuing to use them and giving them free publicity.

Reed agreed with McIlroy that all the companies make great clubs and put that as the reason why he hasn't signed an equipment deal for 2018.

“I wanted to try something different this year,” Reed said at CNBC today on his post-Masters tour.

“There’s so many great companies out there. When you go on these big deals like this, you kind of get stuck on, you have to use all of the same equipment.

“It’s hard to believe that there is one company that makes 14 perfect clubs and a perfect golf ball for every player.

“So what I did this year, with partnering up with Nike and going kind of more on the clothing side, it has freed me up to use whatever equipment I want.

“I’m able to put 14 clubs and a golf ball in the golf bag that I feel are the perfect fit for me.”

It has certainly been an interesting last couple of years for gear fans since the Nike fallout and that looks to continue for some time now.

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Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news team as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as five Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays off of a six handicap. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H1

Irons: Mizuno MP5 5-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Srixon Z Star XV