At Torrey Pines last weekend, thats exactly what happened. John Dalys prototype Dunlop golf ball rolling toward the hole on 18, just lofted out of a greenside bunker, may as well have been a pair of dice. Up they came, 3 + 4 = 7 = birdie. Bye-bye, Chris Riley and Luke Donald. Heck, even hometown hero Riley couldnt move the applause meter half as much as Daly, a worldwide perennial favorite who fans happily allow to get under their skin and into their hearts.
Doing back flips somewhere in the background were Dan Murphy and Shane Duffy, director and VP of marketing, respectively, for Dunlop Golf. Dunlop, a value-priced brand that has at various times been allied with Slazenger and Maxfli, just last month signed Daly to a three-year endorsement deal.
This feels pretty good, Murphy said in the afterglow. My wife said I should go out and buy a lottery ticket.
We tried to go about this as strategically as we could, Duffy said. We wanted someone who fit the brand, someone with the right personality.
For that, Daly was a lock from the start, said the Dunlop team. Their brand is meant to lure the golfer who is looking for quality gear, but who must or would rather be price-conscious. The company offers a titanium driver in the $149 range, and has value offerings across the board. And its new pitchman has a sense of humor, proudly joining in the joke when he told me for a Golf Central story that hes playing Dunlops new Redneck model putter.
The Dunlop-Daly deal is said to be long on incentive and short on up-front cash. (Compare that with a deal with one of the premium companies, such as Callaway, Nike or TaylorMade-adidas, where big dollars are likely to be the centerpiece of the transaction.) But even with those safeguards in place, industry watchers shook their heads and wondered if bringing on Daly was perhaps too much of a risk. Daly himself is the first to admit he has had a roller coaster ride of a life, although he feels he hasnt had any more trouble than anyone else ' its just been on display more.
Therein lies a serious rub. Endorsement is about display, and about chances, and when they come in the right way, everyone involved profits from the lightning-in-a-bottle moment. But when they go bad, whatever goodwill remains in the equity bank gets devalued and spent in a similarly brief lightning flash.
But how sweet it is when the thunder rolls and the flash illuminates success. Daly has said publicly and privately that he is ready to forget images in the past that dog him (largely due to the medias long memory), images of improvident slaps with the putter and uncontrollable, emotional tremors. He is looking past blown endorsement deals, such as the one with Callaway, which he lost in 2000 when he did not honor a clause prohibiting drinking and gambling.
He is looking ahead, and so is his new endorsement partner. And expectations remain in line.
You have to think of this as a bonus, Murphy said. We never went into this thinking he would be a certain lock to win anyway. The appeal to our customer base was the real reason.
Of course, for John Daly, winning might mean something different, something bigger than just a golf tournament. No matter what his ups and downs, the fans have remained constant, somehow feeling a kinship with the less-than-perfect, eminently human golfer in a world of properly creased, buttoned-down (and sometimes aloof) pros. The question is, what now?
Another win soon? Or in nine years? For Daly, and for Dunlop, it may not matter. Every day he shows up, logo in tow, brand philosophy worn on his sleeve and in his heart, and he tees it up. And keeps on walking.
Just keep showing up, and theres no need to handicap anything.
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