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TaylorMade's welcome dilemma

February 28, 2011

It must have been an interesting afternoon for executives of TaylorMade Golf as they watched the final match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship Sunday. One finalist was Martin Kaymer, the soon-to-be-annointed No. 1 player in the world, reigning PGA Champion and full-line TaylorMade staff player. The other was Luke Donald, a Mizuno staff player who happened to be wielding TaylorMade's flagship product, the white R11 driver.


Donald gave TaylorMade's R11 driver its first PGA Tour win. Photo: J.D. Cuban

So which player was the company rooting for?

On the surface the theoretical question would appear to be a no-brainer. Kaymer is a TaylorMade guy and as the new No. 1 he is someone the company can ride in terms of exposure for the brand. But fact is TaylorMade has pretty much bet the ranch on white clubs -- and the R11 in particular -- becoming popular. Company president and CEO Mark King even went so far as to recently tell Golf Digest the goal was "to make black drivers obsolete."

The company has done well in its conversion efforts. Last week at the Match Play 14 of the 22 TaylorMade drivers were white. And the previous week at Riviera the number was 42 out of 57 -- an impressive ratio for a product with a look outside the norm. Even Kaymer has been impressed with the product, even if he hasn't yet switched over to it. "It's a really good driver but it takes me quite a while to change," Kaymer said during a recent TaylorMade event in New York. "I'm a little slower than most. I had a very successful season last year so it's hard to make that move right now. I just need a few weeks break where I can work with it and get used to it."

Solid thinking, but not much help from a marketing perspective. A high-profile product such as R11 needed a win on the highly visible PGA Tour and Kaymer was still swinging his TaylorMade R9 SuperTri last weekend. So while we don't know who TaylorMade execs were pulling for, we know who we would have been backing: Donald -- all the way to the bank.

--E. Michael Johnson**Follow me on twitter: @EMichaelGW