We know one thing for certain following Gary Woodland’s outta nowhere, Cinderella story win at the U.S. Open this weekend:
It’s gonna be a busy week at Wilson Golf.
Major #62 was a long time coming for the brand that claims more majors than any other (its first since Padraig Harrington’s Open/PGA double dip in ’08), but there’s no denying that Woodland’s win is a certifiable big deal for Wilson.
But that doesn’t mean you should fall asleep on what may be the bigger part of the story. Sure, Woodland is a contracted Wilson Staffer, but he won the U.S. Open with a legitimate mixed bag of equipment that included PING metalwoods with ACCRA shafts, Titleist and TaylorMade wedges (including that 64-degree – dayum that was a shot!), a Scotty putter, Titleist ball, some badass PUMA shoes and PUMA-Volition America apparel. And other than Wilson and PUMA, Woodland games it all without a contract, basically because he wants to.
Reed, Koepka, and Molinari swept all four majors without full-bag deals in 2018 (although Molinari parlayed a successful season into a deal with Callaway). Tiger – with TaylorMade and Bridgestone – broke that trend at the Masters, but Koepka at the PGA and now Woodland make it six out of the last seven majors won with mixed bags that include no-contract components.
For the brand-agnostic among us, and for those who fear golf is going the way of NASCAR, it’s a good thing to see. Yes, we still get press releases saying this company had the most drivers in the field at the John Deere and that company won the ball count at the Travelers, but everyone watches the majors. If you followed social media at all last night, you saw Wilson understandably going all-in on Woodland, but there was plenty of love going around for PING, Titleist, Scotty, and PUMA as well. It also wouldn’t be a surprise for some contract offers coming Woodland’s way to fill out his bag officially.
The Wilson Effect
Several years ago, Wilson Golf president Tim Clarke told me regular tour wins validate your equipment as premium, but majors move product. We saw that with Bridgestone after Tiger won the Masters – with Bridgestone president Dan Murphy standing on a desk declaring his love for Tiger and record-setting days on Bridgestone’s website. One Bridgestone sales rep told me accounts that were only carrying Precept Value Packs and e12 balls started carrying the Tour B series after Tiger’s win. The real questions, however, are how quickly does that inventory turn and how big will the re-order be? In sales, the first order is nice, but the second, third, and continuing orders are the ones that matter.
Wilson hasn’t wasted any time today. The press kit came in bright and early, letting us know that in addition to the Wilson Staff Model blades and that badass flat brim hat, Woodland also wore a Wilson Conform glove. Wilson’s website is already updated to showcase Woodland’s victory, as is the Wilson Staff Wikipedia page. Wilson’s social media team – one of the best in golf – has been tweeting, Facebooking and Instagramming at a feverish pace since last night, and if you didn’t get even a wee bit emotional seeing Woodland Facetime with Amy Bockerstette in the middle of his press conference, you truly have a heart of stone.
And while it may not matter to the consumer, don’t for a minute underestimate the effect this victory has on the people who work at Wilson. No disrespect intended, but there’s a tangible difference in excitement between Gary Woodland winning the U.S. Open and Brendan Steele winning the Safeway, and it puts some teeth back into that whole we’ve won more majors than any other brand thing which, quite frankly, was losing its credibility after a decade of non-contention.
I had a sit down with Clarke and marketing director Doug Thiel at Wilson’s new downtown Chicago headquarters about three weeks ago, and it was clear the company was feeling the momentum in terms of both sales and brand image. Wilson was already in discussions with Golf Channel for a third go-round of Driver Vs. Driver before Woodland’s victory, and having another major in house certainly won’t hurt.
Will Woodland’s victory move golf clubs for Wilson? Almost certainly – in the short term. It’s a gift from marketing heaven that will linger at least until the Open Championship next month, so Wilson has about 30 days to make the most of it.