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Adidas is on an ironic hot streak in golf

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

Even if you don't closely follow golf, you've likely been unable to avoid hearing the name Jason Day lately.

For a couple of years now, the 28-year-old Australian has been mentioned in the same pack as Jordan Spieth (22), Rory McIlroy (27) and Rickie Fowler (27) as the four exciting young stars dominating the links. But so far this year, Day is shoulders ahead of the other three. He has won three PGA Tour events in 2016, more than any other golfer. Last year, he won his first Major, the PGA Championship. He is the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world.

That's great for Adidas (ADDYY), which sponsors Day. Adidas also sponsors Sergio Garcia, a well-liked 36-year-old Spaniard who has never won a Major. On Sunday, Garcia won an exciting playoff to capture the AT&T Byron Nelson tournament—another win for the Adidas Golf team. (Garcia beat Brooks Koepka, who is Nike-sponsored.) Adidas also sponsors Dustin Johnson, who has been in the mix of contenders at a number of tournaments this year.

There's just one problem with this success on the course—or you could call it an irony. All of these golfers are technically sponsored by TaylorMade-Adidas. They all use TaylorMade golf clubs exclusively, and on the course, their hats and shirts show the TaylorMade logo in addition to the Adidas stripes. Adidas is currently seeking to sell off TaylorMade.

The golf equipment maker, which Adidas Group acquired in 1997, has been an albatross around the neck of the German company, which continues to have its recently-great earnings reports marred by TaylorMade's poor numbers. Sales at TaylorMade have fallen in eight of the past nine quarters, including a whopping 26% drop in a single quarter last year.

CEO Herbert Hainer, in 2015, said the company would seek to turn TaylorMade around. But earlier this month, the company finally waved the white flag and said it wants to sell TaylorMade, as well as Adams, a smaller club-maker, and Ashworth, an apparel line. It will hold on to Adidas Golf.

It will likely also hold on to its contracts with Day, Garcia, Johnson and Justin Rose—but what clubs will they use? Adidas would no longer own any club maker. If and when Adidas does find a buyer for TaylorMade, those stars will need to don new hats; they'd presumably no longer have any relationship with TaylorMade.

Adidas will not confirm whether these four stars would still be with Adidas after TaylorMade is sold. Their contracts are almost certainly under Adidas, and the four of them are even labeled, on an Adidas web site, as being part of Adidas Golf. But the separate TaylorMade-Adidas web site lists a much larger roster of golfers that includes Fred Couples, Stewart Cink, Trevor Immelman, Ernie Els, Paula Creamer, Martin Kaymer, and even Sir Nick Faldo, now a broadcaster. Would Adidas lose these players if it sells TaylorMade?

Adidas confirmed that Day, Garcia, Johnson and Rose are "TaylorMade-Adidas staff players," and told Yahoo Finance, "We can’t discuss the details of our athlete contracts. These players are sponsored by TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. We are one entity."

Adidas and TaylorMade are one entity, but not for much longer. And as one looks to get rid of the other, seeing its star golfers sport the TaylorMade name on the course is increasingly awkward.

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Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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