The New Callaway Golf

By Adam BarrOctober 24, 2001, 4:00 pm
San Diego, Ca. ' It was emotional, seeing him again.
 
Ely Callaways ghost did not pop up at the companys second annual Partnership Event here, a gathering of key retailers Callaway Golf uses to introduce new products. But images of him, which appeared occasionally and without warning in videos and presentation stills, raised momentary lumps in many throats.
 
The golf industry, and the media that follow it, miss Ely, who died July 5 at the age of 82 of pancreatic cancer. From the press point of view, he was good copy, but theres more to it than that. We reporters didnt always agree with him, but we still admired his integrity.
 
Ely Callaway Those who now run the company he founded also miss Ely. But they are determined to go on. The two-day meeting at the Rancho Bernardo Inn here, which wrapped up today, showcased the broadest product introduction in Callaways history. It also showed some notable changes in approach, if not in overall objective.
 
Callaway still wants to be the golf company of the average player, with its primary focus on innovation in the premium segment. That goal aint broke, and therefore needs no fixing. The new products, some of which have already been announced, toe that well-worn line.
 
* The C4 driver, for compression cured carbon composite, features a huge (360 cc) head of what is generally called graphite. Its very light, and Callaway claims this helps add noticeable distance to drives. The company insists this is not simply a graphite model of a titanium design, and that it is better than the graphite-headed clubs that enjoyed a kind of fad status in the early 1990s. One new element of this club will be sound that it makes ' or more accurately doesnt make, as there is no metal to clink.
 
* The Steelhead III metalwoods conform to U.S. Golf Association strictures on spring-like effect (as does the C4), but Callaway is billing them as having that hot feeling as the ball leaves the clubface. The marketing will focus on three concepts: excitement, solidity, and agility.
 
* The latest Big Bertha irons feature the undercut channel of the originals. Its a nod to what Callaway calls retro technology. A lot of the usually equipment-cranky golf writers who hit them yesterday nodded in approval.
 
* Two new golf ball models, each with a red (firm) and blue (soft) option, have already been announced. The HX model features a 332-polygon dimple configuration that Callaway prefers to call a tubular lattice network instead of traditional dimples. (Trust me, theres more science in this than there was in your college organic chemistry final.) And the CTU30 (for cast thermoset urethane) ball is a new entry into the thin cover, big core ball at the top of most makers lines now.
 
* Two new Odyssey putters are coming. The 2-Ball is a derivation of an old Dave Pelz idea, which has two ball-shaped disks lined up back to back behind the putter face as an alignment aid. The other model is an updated Dual Force Rossie II, the most popular Odyssey putter ever, but now with Callaways successful White Hot insert instead of the old Odyssey Stronomic.
 
* An expanded line of golf bags and other accessories is on the way, all designed to spread the Callaway brand farther and wider (about which more below).
 
The product introduction is a significant undertaking in itself. But Callaway brass also want to adjust the way the company does business in certain areas, even admitting mistakes when necessary.
 
Let me start by saying what will not change, said chairman and CEO Ron Drapeau moments after he took the podium to open the meeting. We are Callaway, and we will stay focused on the average player.
 
But later: Our clubs have been friendly. Our customer relationships were not. That will change now.
 
Drapeau referred to an undercurrent of retailer complaints from some quarters over the past five years. Callaway was hard to deal with, some retailers said. Aggressive account openings in some regions required price shaving at retail, squeezing margins to sometimes ridiculous lows.
 
Only Callaways enemies ever depicted the problem as pervasive. But Drapeau and his staff have clearly decided to take the matter seriously, no matter what its true magnitude may be. The public acknowledgement of the problem, certainly for the first time with this degree of frankness, underscores the new approach to this side of the business.
 
Drapeau, who in the opinion of many industry observers is settling into his role wisely by not trying to mimic Elys one-of-a-kind persona, was also frank about conditions facing the market. Taking the lead from Mick McCormick, his chief merchant, who asked for a minute of silence to remember the victims of September 11, Drapeau admitted that the recent tragedies force all leisure industries onto unfamiliar and uncertain terrain. Big-ticket purchases will be a hard sell in the months to come. But, Drapeau reasons, golf can be positioned as a temporary escape from the worlds new stressors. Callaway, with virtually no debt and cash reserves of more than $100 million, is poised to take advantage of any opportunities that can be found, Drapeau said.
 
One of those opportunities may be in golf balls, the company believes. Tour relations manager Mike Galeski promised an aggressive campaign to increase ball counts on tour by signing more players before the end of this year. On the PGA Tour, Callaway has in its sights no specific type of player or money-list stratum. Galeski plays this issue close to the vest, but Callaways endorsement strategy of late has been to secure solid names (such as Palmer and Player) while stocking up on young guns (Howell III, Tryon, Quinney), all the while concentrating on an A-list of proven performers in their primes (Annika Sorenstam is the leader in this group).
 
Hand-in-hand with this strategy is the expansion of bags, luggage and other accessory lines to get the brand name firmly entrenched in the national recreational mind. Here, Callaway has a firm foothold already; perhaps only Titleist is more ubiquitous as a golf brand in the United States.
 
Look for chief merchant McCormick to figure significantly in the companys plans in both the short and long term. His enthusiasm for selling and customer relations could, if harnessed, solve Californias energy crisis. Another key figure will be Ian Rowden, who was recently brought in from Coca-Cola to handle advertising, but was then given expanded marketing duties. Rowden perceives some serious competitive threats, including that of Nike, whose new clubs will debut next year. But he promises Callaways advertising will head off in a different direction than the ones he sees from other companies.
 
Recent notable golf ball ads from Nike feature a golfer climbing a fence while yelling Ball Go Far, the tagline for the companys new balls. And the usually buttoned-down Wally Uihlein, chief of Titleist & FootJoy Worldwide, recently allowed his sense of humor some free rein when he took a pie in the face from a mad golf course architect (played by Monty Python veteran John Cleese) in an ad for the companys new NXT golf balls.
 
It seems to me right now that there are a lot of people reacting to each other, Rowden said. We are not going to compete with Nike on their terms.
 
Its also clear that at least in some aspects, Callaway isnt planning to do business on its old terms.
Getty Images

McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and 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.”

Getty Images

Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

Getty Images

The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

Getty Images

Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.