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Unlike Other Years, Contract Landscape Little Changed In

Equipment company contracts are a time-honored tradition in professional golf. Yet unlike Gene Sarazen, who signed with Wilson Golf in 1923 and stayed with the company until his death in 1999 (his tenure marking the longest endorsement contract in professional sports), today's players tend to switch hats and bats more frequently.

Unlike recent years, however, when several big-name players chased the money and changed companies, late 2011 saw less movement and several marquee players opted to re-up with their current companies instead of changing teams. Among the bigger names staying put were Bill Haas and Webb Simpson (with Titleist); Hunter Mahan, Miguel Angel Jim?nez and Mark Wilson (Ping); Brandt Snedeker (Bridgestone, after speculation he was closeto a deal with TaylorMade); and Jhonattan Vegas (who was said to be going to Callaway but re-signed with Nike). Some top LPGA players also likely will stand pat as it is expected Yani Tseng and Brittany Lincicome will remain with Adams Golf.

The reasons for maintaining the status quo are multiple (and, often, individual). Jim?nez has been with Ping for 25 years and enjoys a comfort level with his equipment and the people he works with. Ditto Haas, who has been with Titleist since turning professional in 2004. The marketplace too has helped curb movement. The combination of companies spending less freely on players combined with the large purses available on the course has kept both companies and players from taking chances.

Of course, there have been some examples of players who have changed and done OK. Phil Mickelson ditched Titleist after his first Masters win and has chalked up three more majors since signing with Callaway. But there's also Ernie Els, who hasn't won a major since leaving TaylorMade at the end of 2002.

Mind you, not everybody stuck with what they were using. TaylorMade signed Johnson Wagner and Steve Marino while Adams Golf grabbed Kenny Perry and Robert Karlsson. Although not official yet, the worst-kept secret in golf is that Rickie Fowler will sign with Cobra (but continue to use a Titleist ball and glove). Callaway also got in the game, signing Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey and Jim Furyk, the latter contracted only to play its driver and golf ball. There are still some free agents on the market: Justin Leonard and John Cook, for example, are no longer with Nike and have yet to sign with another company.

If history holds, they won't be logo-less for long.

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