Els Moves to Callaway
Callaway announced the deal as Els began first round play in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Thailand with a Callaway FT-5 driver, an HX Tour 56 golf ball and a new Callaway bag. Callaway and Els will work on fitting him with the metalwoods, irons, wedges and putter that best suit his game. The driver has 8.5 degrees of loft and aneutral face bias, and Els got comfortable with it in just two days of trial, said a company official.
The eventual switch to an Odyssey putter (Odyssey is a Callaway business unit) is definite, said the Callaway official. As for irons and wedges, Els will work with legendary Callaway club designer Roger Cleveland, who has known Els for more than 17 years.
Els will continue to wear the hat with SAP logo on front, but the Callaway logo appears on the sides and back of his cap.
Although it was reported in some quarters that Callaway bought out Els agreement with Titleist, Callaway officials said that's not true.
The parties didn't disclose specific terms of the deal. Els, 37, has won three major championships: the 1994 and 1997 U.S. Opens and the Open Championship in 2002. He joined the PGA Tour in 1994; the U.S. Open at Oakmont that year was the first of his 15 PGA Tour wins. Els has won 43 times in international events, plus four times in team tournaments, always with fellow South Africans David Frost and Retief Goosen.
Els didn't win in 2006. But he did manage eight Top 10 finishes in the wake of a 2005 surgery needed beause of a knee injury sustained while sailing in the Mediterranean.
Whenever a Top 10 player's equipment deal is in play, the rumor mill heats up. For a few days this week, the uncertainty as to where Els would land generated more heat than light.
Depending on who you asked Tuesday, Els was 1) ending his four-year equipment endorsement deal with Titleist, 2) signing with Callaway, 3) negotiating with Callaway but still seen wearing a Titleist hat, or 4) some version of all of the above.
But when Els teed off Thursday in Thailand, his equipment situation became clear. A few days earlier, Titleist had issued a brief statement saying Els and the company had agreed to part ways immediately, and thanking Els for his services.
But on Tuesday, a Callaway official said no deal had been signed with Els, and there was no announcement to make, at least for the moment. The same executive wouldnt comment on how negotiations were progressing, or even if they were happening at all ' thats Callaway company policy.
Titleist officials did not extend comment past the confines of their brief statement, and Els and his agent either did not return calls or could not be reached. So the reasons for Els departure remain unclear. Tour players move for many reasons, including shifting economic goals and fortunes within the companies they endorse. David Toms left Cleveland Golf and started with TaylorMade this year; Lucas Glover went from Titleist to Nike as the new season began. And, of course, sometimes player economics, not company decisions, impel a move.
Recent Titleist history confirms that although it is not afraid to use the courts or mediation to protect its brand and contract rights, in the end it doesnt insist on keeping around anyone who is determined to change. Tiger Woods began with Titleist equipment, but went to Nike in 1999 (he already had a shoe and clothing deal with the company). David Duval left in 2001 for the same destination. Phil Mickelson parted with Titleist in 2004 to move to Callaway. Titleists tour staff, although replete with solid stars, has always had more of a team feel ' no one player predominates; the whole staff advances the brand. Davis Love III may be better known than, say, Bill Haas ' but Titleist doesnt market its players in a way that shows overt preference.
Now that Els has signed with Callaway, the squad feel could increase there as well. The staff already includes Mickelson, recent Nissan Open winner Charles Howell III, and Annika Sorenstam, as well as Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. It will be interesting to see how it helps the company that pioneered big, easy-to-hit drivers (with 1991s Big Bertha) to get its hands on The Big Easy.
Els short-term schedule includes the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the WGC-CA Championship at Doral on the PGA Tour, plus the Tavistock Cup in Orlando.
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back
Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.
At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.
Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.
Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.
“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”
In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.
“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."
Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.