Not sure if this falls under the Hotly Rumored heading or even Worst-Kept Secret, but it’s official: Gary Woodland has officially signed a multi-year equipment deal with Wilson Staff.
It may be only mildly significant in the big picture, but it is the first Tour signing for Wilson Staff since Troy Merritt came on board three years ago, and Woodland instantly becomes Wilson’s highest ranked Tour pro.
And for a brand that still touts more Major championships than any other (61 and holding), Woodland is a player coming off his best showing ever in a Major.
The rumors started at last month’s Hero World Championship, where Woodland was spotted testing a set of new Wilson prototype blades, along with an FG Tour V4 utility iron. At the time Wilson told MyGolfSpy Woodland was doing some product testing, leaving the door open to signing Woodland to an equipment deal.
Today makes it official.
Woodland had been among the growing trend of equipment free agents since his split from Callaway in 2015. His mixed bag included Titleist irons, Vokey and TaylorMade wedges, TaylorMade metal woods, a Scotty putter and Bridgestone Tour B X balls.
Woodland’s deal with Wilson Staff is for nine clubs, with incentives to add more Wilson clubs as the year goes on.
“The contract has multiple tiers,” Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke tells MyGolfSpy. “He’ll be teeing up nine clubs to start. He prefers a wider-sole wedge, so we expect to have some wedges in for him shortly.”
Woodland will have the new Wilson blades and the V4 utility iron in the bag today at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, and he has been working out the Wilson Cortex driver.
“At the QBE Shootout down in Naples he actually played it in two of the three practice rounds, and I do know it’s with him in Hawaii,” says Clarke. “But coming off the off-season, you kind of want to keep something familiar for distance, but there is a chance he’ll play it this week.”
“Ultimately, we do expect at some point for Gary to put the Cortex in play.”
At #31 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Woodland is Wilson Staff’s highest ranked player by a fairly wide margin (Brendan Steele is next at 113). He has three career wins, including last year’s Phoenix Waste Management Open, and has been playing well so far in the 2018-2019 season with three Top 10’s to go with a 2ndplace finish in the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in October.
Clarke told me several years ago that while Tour presence, and wins, validate an OEM’s equipment, Majors move the needle. Woodland, based on last year’s win and his ranking, should represent Wilson in all four Majors this year. He was the 36-hole leader in last year’s PGA Championship, shooting a two-round record 130 before finishing 6th, six shots behind Brooks Koepka. It was Woodland’s best finish in a major.
“Gary being a Midwest kind of a guy, a Kansas native, has the DNA that fits the Wilson background,” says Clarke. “I do believe every brand has a culture, and I think every player has a culture. When you look at Wilson as a brand, not only is it iconic in the history of golf, but it’s an iconic global brand, with athletes like Roger Federer. To me, Gary is a perfect fit at a perfect time.”
Woodland joins Steele, Kevin Streelman, Ricky Barnes and Padraig Harrington (Troy Merritt is now with Titleist) on Wilson’s PGA Tour roster. “We’ve also added six young European Tour players this year – that’s how we found Padraig 25 years ago or so,” says Clarke. With the crossover season, Woodland is coming on a little late, but Wilson does plan to utilize him as a full brand ambassador in its marketing efforts.
Significance for Wilson
Wilson heads into 2019 with some momentum. Driver Vs. Driver 2 proved to be more successful than Season One, and the company has achieved – for the first time in a long time – legitimate driver buzz with the Cortex. And just this past Monday MyGolfSpy named Wilson Staff as its 2018 Comeback Brand of the Year.
“We had a strong year with double-digit growth with premium equipment in the United States,” says Clarke. “It’s fun to be part of something in sports, in life, in anything you do when there’s momentum. I would say there’s no better place to be when you feel momentum in a brand.”
“Obviously, we have a lot of hard work to do, and our goal is to continue the journey to get ourselves back into the upper echelon of golf and be a powerful player in that space., and I think Gary is another piece to the puzzle.”
It’s probably a stretch to say anyone is going to go out and buy a set of Wilson’s just because Gary Woodland has them in the bag, but that’s true of everyone from Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson to Brendan McCarroll and Drew Weaver (look them up). But the fact remains Tour play is brand validation. You may not care which Tour pro plays whose equipment, but when it comes to branding and being viewed as premium, being visible on Tour beats the hell out of being invisible every time.