Its Raining Golf Balls New Summer Introductions

By Adam BarrAugust 8, 2001, 4:00 pm
The latest:
 
SUMMER BALL BONANZA CONTINUES: New golf balls from Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide, Maxfli Golf and Wilson Golf will reach stores soon as the games major brands jockey for midseason position.
 
The Titleist NXT will direct parent company Acushnets focus into the middle price stratum, but with a large-core, thin-cover product similar in basic engineering to the popular (and more expensive) Pro V1. The suggested retail price will be under $34 per dozen. The Pro V1 is $54 per dozen suggested retail.
 
With the NXT Tour and NXT Distance, Titleist promises a low-spin, long-distance ball that will eventually replace its HP Tour and HP Distance models. (The HP microbrand will be recast as the HVC line, which will come in at about $26 per dozen suggested retail.)
 
Titleist NXT golf ballFrom a market point of view, the company sees an opportunity in this lower price tier, where wholesale prices range between $14 and $20 per dozen and retail is at about $20 and $34. About a quarter of the 38 million dozen golf balls sold every year in the United States are in this tier, says Titleist. But the company admits that although it owns about 60 percent of the premium level golf ball market, it holds just more than a third of the tier on which the NXT will compete with Spalding Sports Worldwides Strata Professional, Precept Golfs MC Lady, and Callaway Golfs CB2.
 
Titleist also hopes some new customers will be waiting in this part of the market, golfers who arent traditionally seen as Titleist players.
 
With the NXT family, we plan to convert 10 plus handicap players of competitive products to the Titleist brand, said George Sine, Titleists vice President of golf ball marketing and strategic planning.
 
This is where the volume is, said Acushnet president and CEO Wally Uihlein. Its an extension of the counterattack begun with the Pro V1.
 
The attack Uihlein is countering comes mainly from Nike. The sporting goods giants success with its Tour Accuracy ball, used by Tiger Woods and David Duval, both former Titleist endorsers, has at least made a great deal of market noise, if not a serious challenge to Titleists market dominance. Nike has worked to preserve the Tour Accuracy momentum with the Power Distance Line, which is supported by an ad campaign with the intentionally Cro-Magnon tag line, Ball Go Far. The Power Distance line has been selling well, according to Nike, at a street price of about $16 per dozen.
 
Although their products wont likely be seen as participating in the same counterattack, lower-market-share players Maxfli and Wilson refuse to be deterred by whats going on above them. Maxflis new A10 ball, a solid-core, multi-layer entry, got plenty of attention as staffer Ian Woosnam hung around the leaderboard at the British Open. By that time, the ball already had eight tour wins, and Se Ri Pak just added another with the Weetabix Womens British Open. If tour exposure is the currency of the golf ball market, Maxfli started this battle with a fat wallet.
 
But consumers may need a big wallet too. Maxfli has positioned the A10 in that $52 suggested retail zone occupied by the Pro V1, Callaways Rule 35 and the Tour Accuracy.
 
Wilsons latest golf ball under its Staff brand boasts a urethane cover and a new core mixture, leading to more distance with soft feel, the company says. Suggested retail will be about $25. Unlike the other companies, Wilson wont rely on tour pros to tell their story. The company changed strategy in the late 1990s, choosing to focus instead on an advisory staff of more than 3,000 club pros and the needs of their golf students.
 
With the second half of the season underway, its still too early to say with any confidence how the year will turn out for the golf ball manufacturers. But rounds played is the statistic that drives golf ball sales, and with those numbers down this year overall (see Business Edge for August 7), things could get tough for all but the richest. Does that mean a Titleist-Nike war? Stay tuned.
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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."

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Rahm (62) shoots career low round at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 10:33 pm

After a banner year in 2017, Jon Rahm found a way to add yet another accolade to his growing list of accomplishments during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Rahm got off to a fast start at La Quinta Country Club, playing his first seven holes in 6 under en route to a 10-under 62. The score marked his career low on the PGA Tour by two shots and gave him an early lead in an event that utilizes a three-course rotation.

La Quinta was the site of Adam Hadwin's 59 during last year's event, and Rahm knew full well that a quick start opened the door to a memorably low score.

"Any time you have that going for you, you get thoughts come in your head, 60, maybe 59," Rahm told reporters. "I knew that if I kept playing good I was going to have more birdie opportunities, and I tried not to get ahead of myself and I was able to do it."

Rahm birdied his first two holes before an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole sparked him to an outward 30. He added four more birdies on the inward half without dropping a shot.

The Spaniard is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, and while many players opted for a two-week stint in Hawaii he instead came home for some practice after opening the new year with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That decision appears to have paid some early dividends as Rahm gets set to defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Low scores were plentiful on all three courses during the opening round, and Rahm remained pleased with his effort even though he fell short of matching Hadwin's sub-60 score from a year ago.

"That's golf. You're not going to make every single putt, you're not going to hit every shot perfect," he said. "Overall, you've got to look at the bigger picture. I birdied the last hole, had a couple of great sand saves coming in, shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for."

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.