E-Mail Bag Overflows After Mickelson Story

By Adam BarrSeptember 10, 2004, 4:00 pm
Hundreds of e-mails came in ' and continue to arrive ' about the recent rapid-fire changes in Phil Mickelsons equipment endorsement alliances. So many came at once that my mailbox shut down for awhile.
As you probably know by now, Mickelson and Titleist mutually agreed last week to end his $4 million-per-year deal 16 months early after a reported renegotiation attempt failed. Early this week, Mickelson signed a greater-than-five-year deal with Callaway Golf, presumably for more than he was getting from Titleist. Mickelson has some of the Callaway gear in his new Callaway bag for this weeks Bell Canadian Open.
I get e-mails after almost every opinion column, some agreeing, others critical. But the volume of this mail, responding only to a couple of straightforward news stories, was off the charts. I stopped counting at 400.
Here are some samples (some were signed, others werent):
Do people really buy product based on what a pro says? Come on! He had a deal with one company he touted as the best, wanted a better deal even though he had signed a contract, walked away from that sponsor 16 months early, and now, a week later he says use this new product, its the best.honest!
There were plenty of others who disposed of the issue by doubting the real value of endorsements, but even more who hewed to the idea of the sanctity of a contract.
I guess Phil thinks he's a pro basketball or football player now. Titleist carried his sorry tail when he was playing up and down for three years, probably never missing a payment, and now that hes playing great and [just when] they can get a return on the $12 million they've already spent, he wants to renegotiate. Boy, what a truly class act Phil turned out to be. All he needs now is tattoos from head to toe to make the transition complete. ' Terry from Texas
Not everyone was as harsh as Terry. But there were a lot of echoes of the above.
The very least I would have expected from Phil would be to see his existing contract out; sportsmen are supposed to be role models. Demonstrations of honour, integrity and courage are what the world needs from its role models, not greed, greed and more greed. ' Justin Henzie
Just thought golf was maybe still above some of the contract shenanigans we see in other pro sports, with players holding out and wanting to renegotiate because of one good year. A contract is a contract. I wonder what Phil would have done if Titleist wanted to renegotiate his contract because of his poor play last year? Also, why change your equipment when playing so well? He's playing with fire.
Most fans of the sport are not impressed with athletes who demand renegotiation of their contracts on the basis of one good year. Did Titleist demand to renegotiate when Phil had a non-winning year in 2003? He should have seen his contract through. Also, Phil has played the best golf of his life with Titleist equipment. How many players have switched equipment, only to falter badly after doing so? Now, next year when Phil comes up short in a few events, everyone (including him) will be wondering if the equipment or balls had something to do with it. From the gallery, it just doesn't seem like this was the right time to do this. ' Dave Jarvis, Syracuse, N.Y.
Looks like somebody is being greedy. He didn't seem to mind getting his 4 million a year when he wasn't winning the Masters, but now in mid-stream he can just demand more money. I thought professional golfers had more class than the typical NFL, MLB, or NBA stars! ' Paul Abdullah, Jacksonville, Fla.
As for me I am going out and buying new Titleist clubs this week and will never put a Callaway product in my bag again. ' Tim Johnson Tampa, Florida

Some were worried about Leftys timing:
Well...why not? After all, he finally got his game to where he used common sense and started winning. Why not go to a different company 16 months before you need to and have to go through the process of starting all over again; isn't that the way Phil operates, outside the box of common sense? What will he do next, start hitting his driver on every par 4 again? It's like, 'Lookie, I can hit a ball 320 yards! Maybe out of play, but look what I can do!' I like Phil a lot but have we not come to expect this type of behavior from him? I can't believe he'd pull a stunt like this just before the Ryder Cup. Yes I can. ' Michael Dent
Others took a more economic view:
We must remember these golf guys are independent contractors. They are self-employed. No play no pay. Any kind of muscular/skeletal injury or illness can mean end of career. Professional sports is not a game. It is a business. So the professionals must look out for their best interests first. I don't see this as greed, but good business tactics. Any business person should be doing the same to protect their interests and further the opportunities of their company. ' Jack Viskil, San Diego
And some insisted that Titleist, not Phil, bungled the situation:
I really think Titleist has made a huge mistake! Phil is THE poster boy for a great brand.
Thought they learned their lesson the last time they let Sign Boy go.

Some were just disheartened:
I suppose the real reason I am sad is I don't like to have my fantasy bubble burst, particularly by one of the players in my fantasy. ' Sadly, Guy Howard
What does all this say about big-time golf? Perhaps only that even in an election year, in a country at war, with baseball heating up and football getting started, people still find time to make themselves heard about golf and golfers. And this website is a golf fan destination, so perhaps its not surprising that the response was so voluminous.
But what if it says something else? Many of these people held golf above other sports in a moral sense; the PGA Tour and other organizations have been capitalizing on that esteem with sponsors for years now. But how about the guy who wont buy Callaway now? Or the one for whom endorsements are meaningless because of the effect of players switching?
And how about the one who was such a Mickelson fan that hes downright sad? The intimations that Mickelsons behavior, or that of his handlers, was unworthy of an honorable game?
It doesnt matter whether the allegations contained in the questions above are true or not. The real issue is, what will be the effect of people thinking those allegations are true?
Golf may never be like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Football League. But if people believe it can be, the damage, whatever it will be, is done.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
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LAAC returning to Casa de Campo in 2019

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 8:23 pm

The Latin America Amateur Championship will return to Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic in 2019 (Jan. 17-20), event organizers announced Saturday in Chile, where this year’s championship is underway.

The LAAC champion receives an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club every spring.

The champion is also exempt into The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event for which he is eligible to compete. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The championship got its start in 2015 with Chile’s Matias Dominguez winning at Pilar Golf in Argentina. In 2016, Casa de Campo hosted, with Costa Rica’s Paul Chaplet winning. At 16, he became the first player from Central America to compete in the Masters. In 2017, Chile’s Toto Gana won the title at  Club de Golf de Panama.

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Beef's beer goggles: Less drinks = more wins

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

An offseason spent soul searching is apparently paying quick dividends for Andrew “Beef” Johnston, who is in contention to win Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Johnston acknowledged he was “burning the candle at both ends” last year, playing both the PGA Tour and the European Tour, but he told reporters Saturday that it wasn’t too much golf that hindered his efforts.

It was too much “socializing.”

“I'm a social person,” Johnston said. “If you go out with friends, or you get invited to something, I'll have a beer, please. But I probably had a few too many beers, I would say, to be honest. And it reflected in my golf, and I was disappointed looking back at it. I want to turn that around and have a good season.”

Johnston posted a 6-under-par 66 Saturday, moving into a tie for sixth, three shots off the lead. He said he arrived in Abu Dhabi a week early to prepare for his first start of the new year. It’s paying off with a Sunday chance to win his second European Tour title.

“Last year was crazy, and like getting distracted, and things like that,” Johnston said. “You don't know it's happened until you've finished the season. You’re off doing things and you're burning the candle at both ends. When I got back from last season, sort of had time to reflect on it, I sort of said to myself, 'You've got to keep quiet and keep disciplined and get on with your work.’”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Johnston finished 189th last year in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings. He was 116th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

Johnston’s fun-loving personality, his scruffy beard and his big-bodied shape quickly made him one of the most popular and entertaining players in the game when he earned his PGA Tour card before the 2016-17 season. Golf Digest called him a “quirky outlier,” and while he has had fun with that persona, Johnston is also intent on continuing to prove he belongs among the game’s best players.

His plan for doing that?

“Just put the work in,” he said. “I didn’t put enough work in last year. It’s simple. It showed. So, just get down, knuckle down and practice hard.”

Rory McIlroy at the 2018 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship Getty Images

McIlroy making big statement in first start of 2018

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 3:40 pm

Rory McIlroy marched the fairways of Abu Dhabi Golf Club Saturday with that fighter pilot stride of his, with that confident little bob in his step that you see when he is in command of his full arsenal of shots.

So much for easing into the new year.

So much for working off rust and treating these first few months of 2018 as a warmup for the Masters and his bid to complete the career Grand Slam.

McIlroy, 28, is poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion Sunday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

With back-to-back birdies to close his round, McIlroy put up a 7-under-par 65, leaving him just one shot off the lead going into the final round.

“It’s good,” McIlroy said. “I probably scored a bit better today, short game was needed as well, but I hit the ball very well, so all in all it was another great round and confidence builder, not just for this week but obviously for the rest of the season as well.”

McIlroy can make a strong statement with a win Sunday.

If he claims the title in his first start of the year, he sends a message about leaving all the woes of 2017 behind him. He sends a message about his fitness after a nagging rib injury plagued him all of last year. He sends a message about his readiness to reassert himself as the game’s best player in a world suddenly teeming with towering young talent.

After his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro, McIlroy is eager to show himself, as well as everyone else, that he is ready to challenge for major championships and the world No. 1 title again.

“It feels like awhile since I’ve won,” McIlroy said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

A victory would be all the more meaningful because the week started with McIlroy paired with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and reigning European Tour Player of the Year Tommy Fleetwood.

McIlroy acknowledged the meaning of that going into Saturday’s round.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent healthy,” he said. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and one of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

It’s worth repeating what 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman said last month about pairings and the alpha-dog nature of the world’s best players. He was talking about Tiger Woods’ return at the Hero World Challenge, when Immelman said pairings matter, even in off season events.

“When you are the elite level, you are always trying to send a message,” Immelman said. “They want to show this guy, `This is what I got.’”

A victory with Johnson in the field just two weeks after Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in an eight-shot rout will get the attention of all the elite players.

A victory also sets this up as a January for the ages, making it the kind of big-bang start the game has struggled to create in the shadow of the NFL playoffs.

Johnson put on a tour-de-force performance winning in Hawaii and the confident young Spaniard Jon Rahm is just a shot off the lead this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour. Sergio Garcia is just two off the lead going into the final round of the Singapore Open. Tiger Woods makes his return to the PGA Tour at Torrey Pines next week.

To be sure, McIlroy has a lot of work to do Sunday.

Yet another rising young talent, Thomas Pieters, shares the lead with Ross Fisher. Fleetwood is just two shots back and Johnson five back.

McIlroy has such a good history at Abu Dhabi. Over the last seven years, he has finished second four times and third twice. Still, even a strong finish that falls short of winning bodes well for McIlroy in his first start of the year.

“I have never won my first start back out,” McIlroy said.

A strong start, whether he wins or not, sets McIlroy up well for the ambitious schedule he plans for 2018. He’s also scheduled to play the Dubai Desert Classic next with the possibility he’ll play 30 times this year, two more events than he’s ever played in a year.

“I’m just really getting my golf head back on,” McIlroy said. “I’ve been really pleased with that.”

A victory Sunday will make all our heads spin a little b it with the exciting possibilities the game offers this year.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.