By E. Michael Johnson
Bubba Watson has always been a little bit different from your typical PGA Tour player and now the two-time Masters champion has a decidedly different endorsement deal— a “lifetime contract” with equipment sponsor Ping. Although financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, Ping confirmed the deal extends the relationship well past Watson’s expected PGA Tour career.
“I’ve been playing Ping equipment since I was a kid,” said Watson in a statement release by Ping. “I love the company and truly believe Ping is committed to making the best equipment. I can’t thank the Solheim family enough for their support during my career. Ping and the Solheim family have played a huge role in my golf career and my life. I’m very grateful they’ve put their faith in me to represent them for the rest of my career.”
Although unusual from a business standpoint, the deal makes sense for Watson, who is loathed to make changes. When Watson changed to the Volvik ball prior to the 2017 season, the experiment lasted less than a year before he returned to his Titleist Pro V1x.
“I hate changing equipment,” Watson told Golf Digest in 2014. “The feel is always new. There are times I’ll grab a new club or one that has been re-gripped and not even hit it because it doesn’t feel right.” Watson doesn’t even grind the sole on his wedges because replicating the shape became too much of chore, opting instead to learn how to play with a standard grind.
Although the uninitiated might find Watson pernickety, his sensitivity with equipment is a rare gift. Much like Ted Williams, who could take dozens of bats and explain the differences in all of them, or how Tiger Woods can tell the thickness of a driver face by brushing it against the grass, Watson has a savant-like quality about him when it comes to his clubs—he just knows.
“It’s not always about watching the ball fly,” he said in 2014. “I can tell if there’s a piece of tape missing under the grip. I can feel if the loft or lie angle is a little off or if the club is a little too heavy on one side due to too much glue. It’s a weird deal, but I can somehow do that.”
Watson’s first putter was a Ping B60 and he has played the company’s clubs continuously since receiving a junior set of irons as an 8-year-old boy. Fast forward to today and Watson, who is celebrating his 42nd birthday today, has 12 PGA Tour wins including a pair of Masters titles.
“We’re extremely excited to make this announcement,” said John K. Solheim, president of Ping. “We understand it is unique in the sports endorsement world, but so is Bubba. He’s done a lot for Ping over his amazing career and we felt the time was right to make this commitment to him. His skill level and creativity on the golf course have defined his career, but his generosity and compassion are what make him a great fit for Ping. He’s like family to us and we’re very happy he’ll be with us for the rest of his golf career.”