Ranking the 10 Best Brands on the PGA Tour
What does it mean to have the best brand on the PGA Tour? What metric could we possibly use to evaluate the "best"?
Here's a thought: Look at the top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR). These golfers, we can agree, are the best in the world. Then, have a look at their equipment sponsors. The manufacturer with the most staffers in its stable, then, is the "best."
Of course, this assumes that all sponsored players are equal, which, of course, they are not. Nike is happier to have Tiger Woods playing its clubs than Charl Schwartzel sporting the swoosh.
Still, it's a guide.
On to the best brands.
Notable staffers: Ernie Els, Aaron Baddeley
The Barney Adams-founded company doesn't have any staffers in the top 50 of the Official World Golf ranking. The great Ernie Els, however, is an Adams staffer, which is a feather in the company's cap.
Adams is now under the TaylorMade-Adidas umbrella, and the company appears to be struggling for market share and differentiation from TaylorMade. The company introduced a new logo in 2013 and seems to be doing a bit of soul searching.
Top 50 on staff: Rickie Fowler
One of the most dynamic brands in professional golf, Cobra-Puma golf's poster child is Rickie Fowler. The bold, bright and edgy company recently saw the defection of Ian Poulter.
However, with golfers such as Fowler and Lexi Thompson on its roster, Cobra-Puma has a hold on some of the most marketable young golfers on the planet.
Top 50 on staff: Luke Donald
Japanese company Mizuno doesn't have a huge presence on the PGA Tour. The irons specialist only counts former world No. 1 Luke Donald on its roster from inside the top 50 in the OWGR.
Still, the company has a reputation for making some of the finest forged irons in the world and is strong globally.
7. Cleveland Golf
Top 50 on staff: Keegan Bradley, Graeme McDowell, Hideki Matsuyama
While the roster of pros with Cleveland Golf isn't a huge one, the company does count a pair of cool dudes among its charges: Keegan Bradley and Graeme McDowell.
Top 50 on staff: Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker
While golf isn't the core of Bridgestone's enterprise, the Japan-founded company began making golf clubs in 1972 and has had a presence on tour for the past several decades.
Top-50 golfers Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker both play Bridgestone clubs (at least partially). Davis Love III and Fred Couples, too, are sponsored by the company.
Top 50 on staff: Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel
The protagonist in the story of Nike Golf is Woods. Upon turning pro in 1996, Woods inked a reported five-year, $40 million deal and has re-upped with the Beaverton, Oregon company since, according to ESPN.com's Bob Harig.
A partnership with the most influential and widely popular golfer was a major coup for Nike (which essentially formed its golf division for Woods).
When the company signed Rory McIlroy in early 2013, it could count two of the highest-profile golfers on tour in its stable. Unfortunately, the company isn't widely represented among the top 50, with only Schwartzel joining Woods and McIlroy under the swoosh.
Top 50 on staff: Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Billy Horschel, Hunter Mahan, Joost Luiten, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lee Westwood
While the preceding companies on this list all have stars on their rosters, the four equipment manufacturers that occupy the remainder of this list all have significantly more players in the top 50.
Ping counts seven of the top 50 golfers in the world among its ranks. The Arizona-based manufacturer's reputation for quality has made it hot among professionals since the release of the Eye 2 irons more than 20 years ago.
Top 50 on staff: Chris Kirk, Hideki Matsuyama, Henrik Stenson, Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed, Phil Mickelson, Thomas Bjorn, Thongchai Jaidee
Carlsbad, California-based Callaway Golf has experienced something of a resurgence in recent years thanks to a huge marketing push and efforts to freshen up the brand.
In addition to stalwart Phil Mickelson, Callaway has a roster of young talent in its corner, including Chris Kirk, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland.
Top 50 on staff: Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, Mikko Ilonen, John Senden, Brendon Todd, Ryan Moore
Proprietors of the No. 1 driver in golf, TaylorMade is the second-best brand on tour. Nobody seems to shell out the greenbacks like TaylorMade, and the company's presence on tour (and in all mediums of golf-related advertising) is strong.
While the Adidas-owned club manufacturer doesn't have a Woods or a Mickelson in its ranks, its logo graces the hats of Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia.
Top 50 on staff: Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Victor Dubuisson, Ian Poulter, Kevin Na, Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson, Ryan Palmer, Marc Leishman, Graham DeLaet
The makers of the Pro-V1—the most widely played golf ball on tour—Titleist also have more top-50 golfers on its books than any other manufacturer.
Traditionally thought of as pursuing a large number of pros, rather than shooting for the big names, Titleist's approach has landed 15 of the top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, most notably Adam Scott.