Mid-Winter Miscellania and Other Dangerous Thoughts
- Tiger Woods has put a Nike driver in his bag. Now Iron Watch 2002 begins. Every Thursday, breathless phone callers, without even bothering to identify themselves, ask me, Is he playing them yet? Of course, hes not. But its just a matter of time, right? So if its a foregone conclusion, whats the big deal? Hell win, and soon. (But for what its worth, one Nike insider told me not to take my eyes off The Striped Ones bag.)
- By the bye, the real nut of the question is not whether Tigers endorsement will drive sales, but how much.
- My money says dont expect to see Titleist, FootJoy or Cobra at the 2003 PGA Merchandise Show. As show costs escalate, parent company Acushnet wont be able to justify the trip. Acushnet will be polling its key accounts this spring.
- Speaking of Cobra, the mid-1990s powerhouse is planning an aggressive run at the fair-price market for premium equipment this year. Case in point: An oversized titanium driver for $369.
- And speaking of aggressive, watch out for TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Flushed with the tour success of its 300 Series of drivers last year, TMaG now wants to push irons hard. That should make tour pros happy; word was TMaG paid as much as $1,500 tee-up money per week to any player who put a 300 Series club in his bag in 2001. So far, so good for TaylorMade: They claim to have led the PGA Tour count in drivers, irons and fairway woods at Pebble Beach.
- Grass gurus met in Orlando this week at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America annual show. If you like great big lawnmowers, sod cutters and clipping vacuums, this is the place.
Actually, the supers spend a lot of time discussing how to keep grass under our cleats. A one-hour seminar featuring the superintendents whose course will host majors this year had an overflow crowd.
- Never Compromise introduced a new line of putters in the $90 range. Company chief Vikash Sanyal said he recognized that NC was missing a lot of business in that price stratum. He shows the kind of business smarts a lot of bigger companies would want on their teams ' indeed, Sanyal is an Odyssey Golf veteran ' but one wonders if a well-run little putter company can ever hit it big in this rich-get-richer golf economy.
- Would it necessarily be a bad thing if small companies could thrive? A big-company-only oligopoly would cut consumer choice; the smaller companies add texture to the industry. Question is, can they pay the bills?
- All quiet on the equipment war front ' for the moment. The U.S. Golf Association just finished its annual meetings, at which it installed new president Reed Mackenzie. Among equipment manufacturers, Mackenzie has a hawkish reputation on equipment issues. The man himself insists that fairness and thoroughness are his goals. It will be interesting to see what the next move will be ' and who makes it.
- Overseas, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews finally took a stand on the issue of whether the effects of big and/or long clubs need to be studied. Read the memorandum from Rules Secretary David Rickman on the R&A website (www.randa.org) and notice how many times he makes clear that the R&A will move deliberately and listen to manufacturers. Sounds like the R&A is trying to keep tensions from rising any higher than they are.
- When I lived in Arlington Heights outside of Chicago, now was about the time of year I would start counting the days until we could tee it up. And just to keep myself sane, I would walk the holes at nearby Palatine Hills Golf Course as the snow melted, thanks to the indulgence of Raul Zaldivar and his staff. Thanks for the memories, guys. May the time be short.
McIlroy 'happy to be back', can 'empathize' with Tiger
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – After a long layoff from golf, Rory McIlroy has some newfound sympathy for Tiger Woods.
The 28-year-old Northern Irishman is making a comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship after ending his season early last year. He has not played a round since the final day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Oct. 8.
McIlroy, a four-time major champion who has slipped to No. 11 in the world rankings, last won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour in September 2016. He injured a rib in his first outing of 2017 – at the South African Open – and felt its after-effects throughout the year.
McIlroy, who has seven top-five finishes in his last eight starts in Abu Dhabi, said Tuesday he felt mentally low because of his physical issues.
''Honestly, I was excited to be done. I could have shut it down after the PGA Championship very easily and taken the rest of the year off, but I didn't. I played six events after that, played OK and had a chance to win one of them,'' McIlroy said. ''But I was just excited to take that time off and get myself just sort of a re-set.''
Last week, McIlroy also revealed that he has a minor, non-threatening heart condition that needs regular check-ups.
''After that 3-plus months of a re-set, I'm very happy to be back. I felt like I needed it physically and mentally. I just felt like it was a little bit of a sabbatical. I've been out here for 10 years, and I want to get ready for the next 10.''
McIlroy compared his situation to what Woods has been going through.
''I've only been through, maybe, not even 5 percent of what he's had to go through. And you can tell from where he was to where he is now mentally, because of physically where he is ... he's a totally different person,'' McIlroy said. ''Of course, I empathize with him, and I know he was in a dark place there for a while. It's just so great to see him out of that and back and excited to be playing golf again.''
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship will be the first of back-to-back events for McIlroy, who is also playing next week in Dubai.
''I think the next two weeks will be a big learning curve, just to see where I'm at,'' McIlroy said. ''I'm obviously coming into the events trying to play as well as I can and trying to compete and trying to win, but I think there will definitely be things I'll have to work on going into that stretch in the States.''
The tournament, which starts Thursday, has attracted some big names, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, No. 6 Justin Rose, No. 9 Henrik Stenson, No. 14 Paul Casey and No. 15 Matt Kuchar. No. 18 Tommy Fleetwood is the defending champion.
Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational
Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.
The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.
Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.
“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”
Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews
Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.
Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.
Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form
Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.
Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.
Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.
Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.
Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA.
New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.
Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.
Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.
Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.
Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.
Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions.