Francesco Molinari is one of the dozens of players on tour who doesn’t have a contract to play certain golf clubs.
Apart from his putter and his golf ball, the Italian is a free agent. He can play any driver, irons or wedges he wants.
Along with Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka he made it a clean sweep for free agents in the majors in 2018.
So why have we started to see more free agents? And why are they having so much success?
The landscape changed dramatically when Nike pulled out of the hardware game.
Most of these guys were also being paid to play a Titleist golf ball and some were free to get sponsorship for their bags.
Did they really need to be paid to play certain golf clubs? With what they earn in prize money, I’d say they definitely did not.
Why wouldn’t they pick the clubs which they felt would help their game rather than being tied down to just one brand?
Anyway, so how does this free agent malarkey actually work on tour when it comes to getting dialled in?
We caught up with TaylorMade’s Adrian Rietveld, who worked very closely with Molinari, to find out.
There are a lot of non-contracted players are using TaylorMade woods. Why is that?
We’re very proud of our heritage – we’ve been the No. 1 driver on tour for a long time.
Times are changing and budgets are getting tighter, like in any business.
So there are a lot of players in the field without contracts and they have that freedom of choice to use whatever clubs they want.
We’re at a point where the players have had the opportunity to test everything that’s out there from all manufacturers.
We’re fortunate that our older product and our brand new product are standing up when players are choosing what to use.
The bottom line is that these guys are not going to play anything that’s not the best for them.
How much help and support will you give to the non-contracted players?
If any player wants to utilise our equipment and our services then we are more than happy to help.
We offer a good service by supporting them with equipment, a fitting service and equipment knowledge.
And that’s the same for someone who is contracted to play 14 clubs or if someone is using one Hi-Toe wedge.
On any given week, if there’s anything we can do to help make that club work better, any tweaks, our tour truck is on site to help service the players and help them win with our product.
If a player win with our product, then we win as well.
What’s the camaraderie like between all the different brands on tour? Does it get competitive?
We all help each other out every week. With a week like at Crans [for the Omega European Masters] only a couple of tour trucks make it up the mountain, so if I need to do a re-grip the Mizuno truck will let me on there with pleasure.
We all have a very professional relationship we all help each other out every week.We all have a job to do out here and we all respect the job that each other is trying to do.
Of course there’s a competitive element to it. That’s why we all do what we do because we want to do something at the highest level.
Respect is first and foremost. If a competitor brand is working with a player there is no uncomfortable feeling as it’s all in the player’s best interests.
If a player tests our product and then chooses to test a competitors product, you have to respect that.
So what happens when something like the now infamous Jhonattan Vegas incident at The Open happens? Interview continues on the next page…