NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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In the first major equipment move caused by LIV Golf defections, Bridgestone cut ties with Bryson DeChambeau.
To the question of whether this was a surprise, the answer is both yes and no. It is somewhat unexpected given that DeChambeau first signed with Bridgestone in 2016 and added a long-term extension in 2020. He has been featured prominently in advertising alongside Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, Lexi Thompson and others. It is only a golf ball contract, and DeChambeau is continuing to play the Bridgestone Tour B X ball – he is just no longer doing so under contract.
This didn’t appear to be a run-of-the-mill deal. DeChambeau expressed a desire to be heavily involved with ball design.
“I have a much deeper role in mind with Bridgestone,” he said in 2020. “I want to be a bigger part of their R&D process and help develop golf ball technology for the future of the game while pushing the limits of golf ball designs to benefit the full spectrum of players.”
At the same time, it makes sense that some manufacturers will try to distance themselves from the Saudi-funded LIV Golf organization. Bridgestone made it clear that the brand did not want to be associated with DeChambeau because of his decision.
"The PGA Tour is an extremely important part of professional golf, and Bridgestone has a sports marketing relationship with this highly visible series of tournaments," Bridgestone said in a statement. "In considering that Bryson DeChambeau will no longer be participating in these events, Bridgestone and Bryson have agreed to end their brand ambassador partnership."
The separation is significant because it may lead to more equipment breakups. Other than Phil Mickelson’s relationship with Callaway being paused, the majority of business relationships being affected are coming from outside the manufacturer realm. That includes Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen being let go from UPS sponsorships, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell seeing their Mastercard relationships paused and DeChambeau also losing a deal with Rocket Mortgage.
However, gear contracts have gone relatively undisturbed until now.
There will be a couple of factors to watch on this front. If LIV suffers from a lack of viewership, OEMs may not think their investment is worth it. On the other side, some players taking large amounts of money may feel less inclined to continue signing major contracts with companies due to some of the obligations that come when a player is attached to a certain brand. We already have seen Brooks Koepka break his contract with Cleveland/Srixon just before he departed for LIV.
It may take some time to sort everything out, but it will be fascinating to see how everyone reacts.
One note on the major season: All four winners used a Titleist golf ball. That included Scottie Scheffler (Pro V1), Justin Thomas (Pro V1x), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Pro V1x) and Cameron Smith (Pro V1x).