Mizuno has changed their tactics on tour, prioritising young up and comers rather than chasing established big-name players.
At the core of the roadmap is Mizuno’s new commitment to identify and grow talent, rather than bid for ready-made, established players with no prior Mizuno connections. Mizuno is in a strong position to make changes – with four recent non-contracted Major wins for its JPX Tour irons and 12 iron wins in 2019 across the PGA, Korn Ferry and European Tour. A win for its ST200 driver in the hands of Keith Mitchell at the Honda Classic was another huge step forward for the manufacturer.
A number of up-and-coming, hungry new players have been recruited for 2020 including Bo Hoag (USA) and Rhein Gibson (Australian) – both Korn Ferry winners in 2019 and now plying their trade on the PGA Tour. They are joined in the US by 2019 Walker Cup player and serial amateur winner Steven Fisk, recently converted to the professional ranks.
On the European Tour, Mizuno has recruited the talented Frenchman Adrien Saddier, young Englishman Scott Gregory – winner of the 2016 Amateur Championship – and Tom Gandy fresh from his first professional win in 2019. All six players have two things in common: playing Mizuno equipment long before signing their official deals and putting Mizuno’s new ST200 drivers straight into the bag. Criteria that will become the signature of Mizuno’s recruitment moving forward.
Jeremy Galbreth, Mizuno US Director of Golf, said: “Mizuno will now only sign players who want to work with us on product development and put more than just irons to the test. That means starting with younger players who haven’t developed too many preferences and are open-minded. Just two seasons ago, despite a surge in unpaid use of our irons, Mizuno had no drivers at all in play at the Sony Open.
This week we had five drivers in play …which shows the progress we’re already making with this approach.”
Mizuno will also focus on providing elite amateurs a pathway to the professional game. In the past, Mizuno has nurtured some of the world’s best amateurs but cut ties once they moved into the professional ranks.
“Now if you’re with Mizuno as an elite amateur, we’ll have a deal waiting for you when you turn pro,” said Jeff Cook, Mizuno’s PGA Tour Manager. “Agents will know from 2020 that Mizuno is a viable option for a young player hitting the paid ranks – no need to switch equipment. Having a serial amateur winner like Steven Fisk on board is just the start. We’ll be patient and let Steven evolve – we’re patient enough to play the long game.”
The plan contrasts to the obvious approach of signing well-known, established players and then creating clubs for them to play. Yet Mizuno believes that is what will ultimately set them apart.
Product Manager Chris Voshall, said: “Golfers are intelligent and do their research – they can see straight through a top 10-player suddenly signing to play a new brand of equipment for the first time. It means very little if the player maintains their form and even less if the player goes backwards. The public put a lot more faith in elite players who have stuck with their equipment over their careers, or the ones who give up endorsement completely to have a free choice of equipment.”
Early into 2020 and Scott Gregory was the first to set a marker to Mizuno’s new vision with a win on the Portugal Pro tour – using a full Mizuno set up of ST200 driver, MP20 irons and T20 wedges.
“We’re essentially going back to basics – providing evidence to the public that Mizuno equipment stacks up under intense pressure,” Voshall added. “After all, what’s tougher than playing to establish a long-term career in the game? Plus, when a Mizuno staff ambassador next wins on tour or turns up in the top 10, we’ll be able to say with absolute authenticity that our equipment had something to do with it.”