04/15/2016

It was only a matter of time, and now that time has come.

To no one’s surprise, SMU’s Bryon DeChambeau, the current NCAA’s Men’s Individual and U.S. Amateur Champion, has turned pro and signed a multi-year contract with Cobra Puma Golf and a separate deal with Bridgestone.

As they say in today’s political circus, this is “huge.”

DeChambeau, the low amateur at the Masters last week, will compete in his first tournament as a pro this weekend at the RBC Heritage. He figures to challenge Rory (Nike), Jason (Concur), Rickie (Cobra), and, of course, Jordan (Under Armour), as the darling of the millennial generation and heir to Tiger’s crossover appeal.

So the golf clubs he uses, including his new Cobra driver, fairway wood, and driving irons matters. Cobra-Puma is in a heated battle to join the big boys —Callaway, Taylor Made, Titleist, and Nike. Cobra is the upstart, but gaining ground fast, especially after adding crowd favorite Fowler to its stable.

And, of course, what DeChambeau will be wearing on the links also matters.

Cobra, which also sponsors Lexi Thompson and an entertainer named Rihanna, is fiercely competing with Nike and Under Armour for the burgeoning apparel market. Look for DeChambeau to be wearing Ignite, Puma’s footwear, on the course in upcoming months.

DeChambeau already plays a Cobra King F6+ driver set to 7 degrees of loft specifically customized to his unique specifications.

How unique?

Bryson wants all his wedges and irons bot be the same length, weight — 37.5 inches and 280 grams. Will other players, both pro and weekend warriors, adopt this scientific approach?

Is Cobra prepared to make this investment, following in the footsteps of other golf club manufacturers, like, um, well, it would only be Tommy Armour. Expect Cobra’s strategists to be watching to determine whether Bryson’s appeal and scientific bent are enough to translate into a commitment to develop a one-size-fits all brand of clubs.

Then there’s DeChambeau’s chapeau (couldn’t resist the rhyme). Will that signature Bryson look become part of Puma’s apparel line?

As part of the Bridgestone deal, DeChambeau will play the Bridgestone Tour B330-S ball and wear a Bridgestone glove. Again, science comes into play here.  DeChambeau says he floats his golf balls in an Epsom salt solution to determine each ball’s center of gravity, adding that about one-third of the balls are off center.

Does this mad scientist approach translate into marketing strategy? Bridgestone certainly thinks so. Take a look at Bridgestone’s just released promo that refers to DeChambeau as “part athlete, part scientist, part artist.

But, in the end, if DeChambeau doesn’t succeed on the course, Cobra and Bridgestone will be second guessed by investors and ridiculed in social media.

There’s no denying, however, that the gamble looks good on paper. Being the reigning NCAA’s Men’s Individual and U.S. Amateur Champion is a feat accomplished only by Ryan Moore and some guys named Nicklaus, Mickelson, and Woods.

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