Why Brooks Koepka refuses to mention his driver by name
Brooks Koepka had just put the finishing touches on a tidy opening-round 66, but all anyone wanted to ask him about during his post-round press conference was the driver he was carrying at TPC Harding Park. Koepka confirmed it wasn’t the Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero he’d been using since February.
“I went with the one I used to play,” he said. “Same one, same shaft, same driver head but new.”
The answer didn’t satisfy the inquisitive journalist, who prodded for a deeper answer to a potentially more serious question: Was there any concern switching drivers on the eve of a major? “No, it’s all good. I know what it does.”
Another driver question followed. Koepka’s answer was practically identical but longer in length — save for a quip at the end that elicited some laughter.
“When you’re swinging it well, it just goes back to the same thing I’ve done the last two years with that company,” he said. “They don’t pay me, so I’m not mentioning their name.”
So what’s with Koepka’s refusal to mention the driver by name? For those who don’t follow the professional golf equipment scene, it may come as a surprise that Koepka is an equipment free agent. In other words, he doesn’t get paid by a club manufacturer to play their product.
Following the 2016 season, Nike Golf shuttered their hard-goods arm — clubs, balls and golf bags — to focus solely on apparel, leaving Koepka, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and other high-profile staffers to figure out their equipment situation. Some (McIlroy, Woods, Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau) left for greener pastures while others (Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood) chose to pass on endorsement dollars and play brand-agnostic setups.
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Koepka is without question the poster-child for golf’s equipment free agent movement. All four of his major titles came after Nike left the club and ball space (Koepka still had a Vapor Fly Pro 3-iron in play during the victories), and there’s no question he influenced others to pass on guaranteed money to test the free-agent waters.
Some players are willing to mention a product by name, even if they don’t have a deal in place. Koepka, on the other hand, doesn’t see the financial sense in giving TaylorMade free advertising. Some might call it petty. Then again, Koepka reportedly turned down somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $100,000 for an equipment manufacturer to just use his name and likeness in advertisements for one week following a major win.
Koepka isn’t the only megastar who won’t mention a non-paying brand by name, but he’s one of the few who is willing to openly admit during a presser conference at a major championship that he’s not giving out freebies. Based on what some believe he might be worth if he were to sign a gear deal, Koepka has millions of reasons to say (or not say) whatever he wants.