Q&A: Bridgestone's new CEO Dan Murphy on the whole ball game
Greenville Headshots 2015
Dan Murphy was [named president and CEO of Bridgestone Golf last month](https://www.golfdigest.com/story/bridgestone-brings-back-dan-murphy-to-lead-company), returning to the company where he worked from 2004-15 in several roles including Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Murphy’s original watch brought an emphasis on matching Bridgestone products to the right golfers through the Bridgestone Ball-Fitting Challenge that led the brand to the No. 2 position in ball sales. He recently chatted with Mike Stachura during a visit to Bridgestone's offices in Covington, Ga., about how Murphy's impressions of the ball business as he starts his second tenure at the company.
So how have the first few days in the office been?
"It’s great to be back. We’ve got some work to do, but I’m excited about it. I think you’ll see some changes from us. We got maybe a little off track in some of our targeting, particularly who we’re talking to. We had made our bones in this business, coming up from 2006 when we launched the Bridgestone brand, all the way through the 2014-'15 time frame, when we were talking to the better player, and that seemed to work very well for us. I think in the last couple of years we maybe veered off that just a touch, and we began talking to all golfers. The better player is appropriate for us because we think they appreciate our quality, they appreciate our technology, they’re discerning to the point of understanding our golf balls versus the other guys’. The better player is just a more logical target."
When you say better player do you just mean someone who shoots lower scores or more a certain attitude a golfer might have?
"I think “serious” is a good word. It’s certainly someone who plays more often and someone who takes the game more seriously, someone who will have the dedication to the game to do the research and absorb the story because there are more simple stories out there. It’s not just a handicap thing at all. It’s much more of an involvement in the game, a more involved golfer."
How much of the message going forward will be similar to some of the original ideas of ball fitting, and how the average golfer can find a ball that fits his needs—but also gives him or her some of the best qualities of what the best players want in their golf ball?
"Certainly, the No. 1 ball in golf has their story and they’re sticking to it, for the most part. I still think the customization story is there for us, it still resonates for us. The idea that we don’t all wear size Medium shirts, we don’t all have size 12 shoes, we don’t all play X shafts. The fact is, fitting has become a proven benefit in clubs, so why not be fit for your ball? That field is still there for us, too. We just read the latest research from Golf Datatech that describes a very interesting situation. The better player, the dedicated player is still interested in fitting for a golf ball, and they recognize that it’s a benefit. The nice thing about being a challenger brand like us is we still own that idea. In the Golf Datatech research, the question, ‘Who do you perceive to be the leader in ball fitting to be?’ The answer still is us, even though we really haven’t talked about it in two years. So it seems a natural strategy to go back to what we own."
"Well, we have to do it differently. Me coming back here, the philosophy can’t be that everything we did before was right and everything since was wrong. I think something even more comprehensive than before is what we’ll be after. And probably something that may be more of an emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity. I think we may have gotten a little over the top in terms of quantity in trying to reach the world. Ball-fitting grew originally from the idea of the Pepsi Challenge, and what was so brilliant was that Pepsi advertised those results. But I think ball fitting is not the only story. It is a story that supports a technology position, a superior technology position, and perhaps we didn’t do enough to tell the actual, physical characteristics of the ball to the degree that we could have in order to underscore that technology position. So it’s kind of a 1-2 punch."
Where are you with regard to the ruling bodies recent focus on studying distance, specifically seeming to focus their attention on the ball?
"Bridgestone has had a wonderful relationship with the USGA for many, many years, and we greatly honor the role they play in the industry. They set the rules and we recognize that and we follow the rules. And that’s what we’re going to do. We defer to their judgment, whether it’s that they believe the ball goes too far or doesn’t go too far and all those debates. Our position is that we defer to the USGA, we’re happy that they do what they do, we respect them, and we don’t see ourselves in the media talking about things other than that. We’ll certainly present our thoughts to them in an appropriate way. We understand their role in the industry, and we think it’s vitally important that they do the proper research. We believe that they have the best interests of the industry and the game of golf in mind."
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