Dan Murphy, Bridgestone Golf’s new CEO and President, told us the opportunity to “work on the next chapter of this great brand is a great honor.”
And from our brief phone call on day one of Mr. Murphy sitting in the CEO chair, it sounds like he really means it. As a veteran of the company, he was a part of Bridgestone’s growth in the late 2000s, early 2010s, and he’s keen to focus on what worked well during that time: namely the company’s emphasis on ball fitting.
Murphy is hardly stuck in the past, however, as you’ll see from our conversation.
BA: Now, you were with Bridgestone from 2005 through 2014. Can you talk a bit about how the company is positioned as you return and what’s ahead?
DM: The great thing about our company, is we have the fundamentals in place. We have the tools. We make the best product in the world: Bridgestone’s attention to manufacturing excellence, quality, and consistency is unwavering…I think you can go all the way back to the 90s and the Precept product to see that. We’re great manufacturers.
Second is people…we have great people here…and then, the third factor is that we’re part of Bridgestone Tire and Rubber. They want to see us succeed…we have the saying power…both from a R&D resource perspective–we have something like 900 polymer science engineers on staff, who can help us design golf balls as well as tires–but we also have the financial resources to really sustain and make a difference in this business.
As we go forward, you’ll probably see some of the things that made us successful in the first place, perhaps become a little bit more relevant again…such as ball fitting, such as targeting better players…better players make a lot of sense for us because they appreciate the science, and they appreciate the engineering and the product quality. And just from a business perspective, better players are thought leaders. They are the ones that recreational players look to. We still prescribe to the Pyramid of Influence in that respect.
BA: With respect to your position in the ball market, the emphasis on golf ball fitting is both a point of differentiation and competitive advantage. I’m interested in how that’s sometimes been at the fore of marketing and sometimes hasn’t. Can you speak to that?
DM: The market leader does what they do and they do it very well. They have a Tour presence that’s hard to argue with; they have an advertising presence that’s hard to argue with, but there is an opportunity for a brand like us from a customization/fitting perspective to tell the story that we don’t all play extra stiff shafts…we don’t all wear size medium shirts or size 12 shoes. There’s specialization in every area of our lives. Why not address your golf ball the same way? We have different swings, different swing speeds, different needs…choosing your ball based on that rather than, perhaps, an overly simplified process of “play what the pros play.”
BA: Regarding the Tour staff, then, can you talk about your presence on Tour. You have Snedeker and Kuchar, and certainly Bryson playing the ball, and that would seem to fit hand-in-glove…and obviously Tiger.
DM: The Tour is very, very important to the positioning of our brand. Obviously, like other brands, it’s the testing ground to prove ourselves and fine-tune our product…the Tour is both an R&D tool as well as a promotional tool.
But we have to begin our conversation about the Tour with Tiger. We’re so pleased and so proud to have him. And for me to come back to this job with an asset like Tiger as part of the team is amazing. I mean, does anybody move the needle better than Tiger does?…But I believe we have a great Tour team in addition to Tiger.
I do see us mixing him [Tiger] up with the Tour team…His interactions with Bryson or a Freddie or a Matt could create a lot of consumer interest…I think you’ll see more of that. I think you’ll see us use those Tour players, including Tiger, to tell a customization and ball fitting story.
BA: Right. Obviously, Tiger’s incredibly analytical and data-driven in his own right…similar to Bryson’s orientation, and then he has such an affinity with Couples and Kuchar…and he’s been playing a lot of practice rounds with Bryson, so there must be an affinity there as well. So the opportunity there to mix it up from a marketing and messaging standpoint has got to be exciting.
DM: Especially for the enthusiasts that you have as your audience. I think lifting the veil and maybe seeing a little bit of what happens behind the scenes, say, in the locker room between a Freddie and a Tiger, that’s kind of interesting, and I think you’ll see that play out.
BA: Can you talk a bit about the ball and your share of the market? You’d risen in to the No. 2 spot, but to my knowledge you’d slipped.
DM: Well, our goal 100 percent is to get back into the No. 2 spot. We want to get back into that position of chasing down Titleist. We look forward to doing that. We think the Tour team combined with ball fitting combined with delivering better products than anyone else…if we do that in a creative, engaging way, we think we can do it.
There’s a subtlety and a nuance to talking to the golfer. I spent a little bit of time away from golf, and I have an appreciate for golf…it’s a unique niche industry. It’s not the same as a lot of other industries. It requires a certain insider’s voice and insider’s knowledge to talk to golers in a way that makes and that moves them to action.
BA: Right. The marketing and the messaging is delicate…and there’s a high degree of skepticism out there…but then you see certain things gather momentum and they become phenomenons. It’s an odd, maybe sometimes incongruent space, and it’s hard to think of other parallel industries. I’m always interested by the consumer in the golf space.
DM: Yeah. Well, there’s no doubt it’s a business of momentum, and you have to find ways to build momentum and create a brand…obviously the Tour is a great way to do that. But then…sometimes the Tour is, well, the Tour. It’s difficult to predict and control…but I do think within the control of a marketer is shaping the message in a way that really compels folks…to engage the brand, to find enough interest in the brand…to spend time researching the brand. Ball fitting or us is a great engagement tool we think we can utilize again to create that momentum.
Do you know where ball fitting came from, actually?…I’m a marketer from way back. In the 80s, Coke and Pepsi were going at each other and there was the Pepsi challenge. And I looked at that, where they offered people the opportunity to taste Pepsi versus Coke…so back in ‘08 or ‘09…we compared Titleist products to Bridgestone products based on performance…so, the cola wars were about taste. The golf ball wars were about performance. But then, the advantages consumers saw in being fit for a ball gave us the opportunity to talk about that in advertising.
BA: Interesting origin of that effort! Any final words here on day one of job? I’m sure it’s an overwhelming position to be in…
DM: I’m trying to consume massive amounts of information to get up to speed. It’s the old analogy of drinking water from the fire hose…but we have a lot of data, and we have a great team here. They understand our industry and they understand the company…I’m excited about it. Some things I’ve said already probably show which way we’re going to go…It’s not the same industry it was three years ago [when Murphy left Bridgestone], but we’ll move forward tailoring our approach to needs…of the market. But I’m super excited and very, very confident, and ready to rock and roll.
BA: Well, you certainly have some great resources and interesting ingredients, so we look forward to seeing the dish, if you, will that you cook up. I can only imagine the size and scope of the undertaking, so I wish you the best of luck with that, sir.
DM: We’d love to keep in touch as we go. We have tremendous respect for your organization and what you guys do. You play an important part in the industry, so this opportunity for me has been a great honor.
BA: We appreciate kind words!
Morning 9: More on the dollars and sense of TW’s win | Don’t forget Mr. Hogan | Masters ticket scheme
By Ben Alberstadt (email@example.com)
April 23, 2019
Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. More perspective on the financial impact of Tiger’s win
ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren collected some interesting (and wide-ranging) data points related to the financial impact of Tiger Woods’ Masters win
Wisely, Bridgestone is launching a commemorative edition of the Tour B XS with Woods’ image on the box cover and “thank you for letting us be part of your 15th major” printed on the bottom. A source at the company told me that ALL Bridgestone Tour B XS balls are currently sold old.
2. A refresher on Ben Hogan’s comeback
Geoff Shackelford, rightly, quotes Tiger Woods at the 2018 Masters and reminds us that when we call Woods’ comeback the greatest ever in golf, we do a disservice to the legacy of one William Ben Hogan.
3. Masters ticket scheme
Digest’s Stephen Hennessey with the story…
4. Bullish or bearish on Zurich Classic format?
A pair of Golf Digest staffers discuss the merits of the Zurich Classic’s team format.
5. More Williams on Woods
Per ESPN’s Bob Harig, who spoke with Tiger’s former bag man, Steve Williams…
6. Gainers and losers
Strokes gained. Probably the easiest way to see what ailed those who suffered and why those who prospered did so. I’d like to call attention to our Gianni Magliocco’s weekly roundup of the gainers/losers, this week from the RBC Heritage.
7. More on the “Nantz 2.5”
Golf Digest’s Alex Myers (quoting a Sports Business Journal report)
8. Showman Jimenez
Peter Wallace at Golf Australia talked to the Most Interesting Golfer in the World…
Stephen Hennessey on Doug Coupe’s cracking collection of golf balls.
Tour Rundown: Pan finds Neverland, Henderson hammers the field, and more
There was strange golf to be played, the week after Augusta 2019. Vijay dunked three consecutive wedge shots on Saturday. DJ gave seven shots away in a five-hole span on Sunday’s second nine. All of Brooke Henderson’s third-round chasers played like five-handicaps on day four. Scott McCarron tried to give the MEC away on PGA Tour Champions, but no one would take it. Perhaps April Fools came late, or maybe the golf world needed a bit of macabre humor before returning to the major-championship season. No matter the rationale, we found some unique ways to win on this day, and are happy to offer another week of Tour
Pan finds Neverland on Hilton Head Island, wins RBC Heritage
CT Pan had no business winning the 2019 RBC Heritage Classis at Harbour Town. Matt Kuchar had won the tournament before, posted four rounds in the 60s, and improved each day. Dustin Johnson looked for all the world as the guy most likely to finally find his birdie wand and run away with his home-state event. Patrick Cantlay and Shane Lowry had each won on the PGA Tour, poised to add a second title to their shelves. And then came Pan, not yet putting on the par-5 16th after four shots, with the temerity to stand alone after 72 holes at 12 under, one shot clear of Kuchar.
Day four was a space oddity of Bowie-esque proportions. Johnson, the top-ranked golfer in the world, turned for home at 10-under par, where he began his day. Beginning at the 11th, Johnson made three consecutive bogeys, followed by twin double bogeys, to tumble out of the top 10, outside the top 20 to a tie for 28th. That is what tree-lined golf courses, unlike any other on tour, can do to today’s longest hitters. Kuchar won’t ever be mistaken for a long hitter, but he did do one thing Sunday that Pan did not: make two bogeys. One behind the former UWashington golfer at day’s open, Kuchar bogeyed the short 17th to fall two behind. Even a final-hole birdie was not enough to catch the young titleist. Few golfers were able to survive the back nine without a blemish. If they did, as in the case of J.T. Poston, Seamus Power and Kevin Streelman, they shot into the top 10.
Remember Pan’s struggles on the 15th? He survived with bogey, then bounced back with birdie at the next. He closed with two strong pars to finish an even dozen below par, where a tartan jacket and trophy awaited, emblematic of the tournament victor.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 21, 2019
Henderson hammers field for second-consecutive Lotte Championship
Brooke Henderson, like so many snowbirds before her, is developing quite an affinity for warm-weather locales. Learning to flight her ball through trade winds, and roll her ball across tropical grasses, is now second nature to the Ontario native. Henderson and fellow wunderkind Nelly Korda were matched at 14 under through three rounds. While Korda encountered all sorts of messes, en route to a closing 77 and an 8th-place finish, Henderson rebounded from an opening bogey six with three birdies. Her blase 70 was more than enough to distance her from the field. When the final flag stick was replaced, Henderson stood four shots clear of Eun-Hee Ji, with her 8th career trophy in her embrace.
The toughest task of the week was Korda’s. She bolted to a two-shot lead with 63 on Wednesday, thanks to a 50-50 split of nine birdies and nine pars. Korda maintained a two-shot lead over Henderson through 36 holes, despite a pair of Thursday bogeys. On Friday, Korda posted three bogeys on her card, yet still preserved a tie at the top spot, thanks to four birdies on the card. On Sunday, the young Floridian continued trending downward, lowlighted by a double-bogey six at the ninth hole, and wet, quadruple-bogey eight at the finisher. The nearest threat came from Ariya Jutanugarn, who stood at 14-under par with four holes remaining. At precisely the time when she needed a big finish, the former No. 1 closed with a bogey and a double over the final four holes. She tied for third, one stroke behind Ji.
HIGHLIGHTS ?? pic.twitter.com/eWZFQggt9s
— LPGA (@LPGA) April 21, 2019
Lanto Calrissian claims 2nd career Web.Com in Alabama
He’s no spice runner, but Lanto Griffin might be mistaken for the suave, Baron Administrator of Cloud City. Why, you ask? Well, the Californian-turned-Virginian held off Alabama son Robby Shelton in a dramatic, four-hole playoff, to claim his second career, Web.Com Tour event. In the first year of the RTJ Golf Trail Championship, Griffin birdied 4 holes in his outward nine to seize the lead, then bogeyed the 12th to lose it. Playing Cat and Mouse with him was Shelton, who interrupted a run of birdies with a pair of bogeys, then birdied the 16th to take over the top spot. With everything on the line, Griffin made 3 at the par-four finishing hole to join Shelton atop the leader board. The pair played the 18th hole twice in extra time, matching the other’s pars. They moved to the ninth, also a par 4, before returning to the 18th once more. There, Griffin ended matters with an exquisite birdie from 14 inches, his 2nd of the day at the closing hole. The victory moved the winner from 93rd to 9th in the chase for a PGA Tour card. Shelton moved from 46th to 12th with his runner-up finish.
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) April 21, 2019
McCarron wins first title of 2019 at Mitsubushi Electric Classic
Scott McCarron won three times on the regular PGA Tour, with two of those wins coming at TPC Sugarloaf, near Atlanta. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he won this week’s PGA Tour Champions event at the same course, but that it took him four attempts to do so. With wet weather wreaking havoc on golfers’ psyches, McCarron needed all of his concentrative abilities to stay the course. On Saturday, within one stroke of the lead, Vijay Singh dumped three wedges into the pond fronting the final green. His 10 dropped him from contention, leading to a T14 finish overall. McCarron made a clutch birdie at the same hole to expand his overnight lead to three shots. He would need all of them.
Jerry Kelly mounted an early Sunday charge, with birdies at his first three holes and fourth on the sixth. He added a lone bogey on the 13th, then closed with shot-savers at the final two holes. McCarron, meanwhile, played topsy-turvy over his opening four holes. Birdies at two and four did not compensate for bogey at No. 1 and double bogey at three. In little more than an hour, his lead was nearly gone. Kirk Triplett, Kent Jones, and Joe Durant also joined the fray. Each would match Kelly, coming up short of the winner’s effort.
As noted, Kelly cooled off after his hot start, while McCarron found stability. His final 14 holes consisted of 12 pars and two birdies, enough to force a desperate field to give chase, something it failed to do. McCarron won four times on tour in 2017, but tapered off to 2 victories and a handful of missed chances in 2018. Will 2019 be the year that he becomes THE elite winner? Atlanta was a good start.
Scott McCarron increases his lead. ????
— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) April 21, 2019
Morning 9: Pantastic! | Henderson greatest in history of Canadian women’s golf? | Rough Sunday for DJ
By Ben Alberstadt (firstname.lastname@example.org)
April 21, 2019
Good Monday morning, golf fans.
Not the Dustin Johnson triumph we expected, true. Nevertheless, C.T. Pan’s W was compelling and steely down the stretch.
2. The (co-) winningest Canadian woman ever
Golf.com’s Pat Ralph…”Brooke Henderson captured her second straight Lotte Championship in Hawaii on Saturday to tie the Canadian record for LPGA Tour wins with eight thus far in her career. The 21-year-old Henderson now shares the record with former pro golfer Sandra Post.”
3. Rough Sunday for DJ…and viewers?
John Strege writes…”Johnson, 6-foot-4 and as athletic and talented as anyone in golf, shot a 77 (41 on the back nine) and tied for 28th. The tournament was won by C.T. Pan, a 5-foot-6 package of professional mediocrity prior to posting his first PGA Tour victory. In nine previous starts in the calendar year, he had not finished better than a tie for 42nd.”
Forgive the length of the excerpt, but Josh Vitale’s (of the Montgomery Advertiser, excerpted in Golfweek) use of Maya Brown, Lanto Griffin’s girlfriend, in his game story is superb.
5. …and Bhatia made the cut
Joel Beall writes…”Bhatia, the 17-year-old who made his PGA Tour debut last month at the Valspar Championship, was able to Monday qualify into the Web.com Tour’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship, and has made the most of his opportunity by making the cut at the rain-delayed event.”
A first-round 73 left Bhatia outside the top 100, but the homeschooler from North Carolina bounced back in Round 2 with a two-under 70, moving into a tie for 40th and good enough to advance to Saturday play.
Bhatia finished tied for 42nd.
6. McCarron gets it done
AP Report…”Scott McCarron completed a wire-to-wire victory in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on Sunday for his third victory at TPC Sugarloaf on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.”
7. President Trump tees off with Lexi Thompson, Rush Limbaugh
Rachel Frazin of the Hill…
8. Every shot technology…almost
Golfweek’s Forecaddie on the Masters attempt to have every shot available to view online…
9. Recapping the Ventus Experience
A handful of GolfWRXers visited Fujikura HQ for a look at the company’s newest wares, fittings, and more. Check out their experiences (along with plenty of photos) in this forum thread.
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