Nike Irons Swoosh into Tigers Bag in Time for Ryder Cup
NIKE IRONS IN TIGERS BAG: Tiger Woods has switched to Nikes forged irons, further engraving the ubiquitous Swoosh into his professional image.
Woods has been a Nike endorser since he turned professional in 1996, so it was a foregone conclusion that once that company entered the club business, he would eventually use the products. But the timing of the switch ' the eve of the big-money American Express Championship in Ireland, with the Ryder Cup the next week ' is telling. Top players tend not to change anything in advance of majors or other big events for fear of sending their games into a tailspin. Woods switch shows extraordinary confidence, Nike says.
Surely it shows some faith, but dont think for a moment that these clubs are truly new to Woods. Inside word is that Tiger has made multiple trips to the Fort Worth, Texas shop of Tom Stites, the veteran club designer and Nikes director of product creation, for fine-tuning. Woods also played a number of practice rounds with the prototype sticks at Shady Oaks, the late Ben Hogans old club.
Nike began working its way into Tigers bag earlier this year with its forged titanium driver. It was in his bag for the two majors he won, the Masters and the U.S. Open.
Titleist products made way for the Nike gear. Tiger had used a 975D driver before switching, and had Titleist forged prototype irons before this switch. He continued to use those clubs long after he had severed any endorsement ties with Titleist. Woods continues to use a Titleist putter by noted designer Scotty Cameron as well as Titleist wedges by Bob Vokey. But Nike already has wedges, and Nike execs have coyly refused to deny rumors that putters are in the works. That may be another foregone conclusion.
BERTHA RETURNS: After getting away from the famous moniker for a few models (Steelhead, ERC, C4), Callaway Golf is returning to the legendary name with the Great Big Bertha II titanium driver, which will hit stores this month. The 380 cc head, 130 cc larger than the original, features a precisely located center of gravity for optimum launch angle and spin rate, Callaway says. The size increase makes the club more forgiving as well, Callaway says, by raising that all-important moment of inertia, or resistance to twisting.
I know what youre thinking: Yes, this club is U.S. Golf Association-legal, coming in just under the .80 limitation. But a higher C.O.R model, the Great Big Bertha II+, will be available in markets where the restriction doesnt apply, that is, the jurisdiction of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
Nonetheless, Weve taken a modern classic and revved it up, said Richard C. Helmstetter, Callaways design chief.
Callaway tour professionals who have already switched include Annika Sorenstam, Charles Howell III, Rocco Mediate, Jesper Parnevik, Jim Colbert, Emilee Klein and Kelli Kuehne.
Available lofts are 9, 10, 11 and 12 degrees (but no 12 for left-handers), and a Pro Series model comes in 8.5 and 9.5-degree lofts (right hand only). The Pro Series has neutral face angles, but the standard models offer a draw bias to make it easier to square up the clubface. Both models carry a suggested retail price of $500.
MAKE ME A COPY OF THIS: Not all the sponsorship news is bad this year. The PGA Tour has signed a deal with Kinkos Inc. to become title sponsor of the Kinkos Classic of Austin (Texas), and to create a marketing alliance.
This is the first time a PGA Tour-related event will come to Austin since the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf relocated after the 1994 tournament. The new, 54-hole tournament will have a $1.6 million purse, and will be contested over The Hills Country Club, a Jack Nicklaus design. The inaugural event is set for the week of May 5, 2003.
As for the marketing link-up, Kinkos will be the Tours official document services provider, receiving tournament site, broadcast and print exposure, as well as the increased advertising opportunities involved in most PGA Tour marketing alliances. Kinkos claims to be the worlds largest document services company, employing 20,000 at 1,100 digitally connected locations.
Hey, while were on the subject, can they make a copy of Tiger Woods?
FATHER AND SON OPEN ANOTHER ONE: Speaking of The Hills and Jack Nicklaus: The Bear and his son, Jack Nicklaus II (do I get credit for avoiding the obvious Cub joke?) have opened the first course in Texas that they have co-designed. Flintrock Hills is the second 18 at The Hills, so named because of its proximity to Texas legendary hill country (translation: You better be able to play in wind). Nicklaus Senior commented that the terrain (and therefore, the routing) has nice movement, which is a high compliment from a man who values good flow in a golf course.
The Hills is a ClubCorp property, the tenth club with Nicklaus designs that ClubCorp has opened or managed. ClubCorp, the Dallas-based club management company with more than $1.6 billion in assets, hooked up with Jack Nicklaus in 1998 for a special marketing union. The result has been a number of courses, including the Bears Best tracks in Las Vegas and Atlanta. Those courses feature recreations of holes from some of the 200-plus golf courses Nicklaus has designed since 1967.
OCEANS OPEN: Jack Nicklaus began his design career in collaboration with the famed (and infamous) Pete Dye. Jacks mentor has been busy on his own ever since, most recently with the updating of one of his most notable creations. The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (S.C.) has just reopened after its owners let the Diabolical Dye at it again.
Word is Dye made subtle but substantial changes. The 18th green complex will be most noticeable; its now 25 yards closer to the ocean, which is what Dye says he intended all along.
But its not all hit-and-heartache. The landing area for drives on No. 2 was enlarged, and the second (!) marsh crossing on that hole got new bulkheads. That should make it easier to see, so players will be able to prepare and hit less shots that will trickle into the wetlands.
All in all, the course is an improved challenge, says Dye. But with the second shot on 18 almost directly facing the ocean, its still a heart-thumper. My suggestion: Do what I did at Carnoustie. Check your ego at the door and have fun.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.
Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook played a six-hole stretch in 6 under and shot an 8-under 64 in breezy conditions Saturday to take the lead at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook began the run at La Quinta Country Club with birdies on Nos. 4-5, eagled the sixth and added birdies on No. 7 and 9 to make the turn in 6-under 30.
After a bogey on the 10th, he birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 15 and saved par on the 18th with a 20-footer to take a 19-under 197 total into the final round on PGA West's Stadium Course. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player is making his first start in the event. He won at Sea Island in November for his first PGA Tour title.
Fellow former Razorbacks star Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were a stroke back. Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 on the Stadium Course. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. They are both winless on the PGA Tour.
Jon Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium Course to reach 17 under. The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3, Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.
Scott Piercy also was two strokes back after a 66 at the Stadium.
Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, and Harkins shot 68 on the Stadium Course.
Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium Course to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time.
The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. The Southern California recruit had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over for the week.
John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine – and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.
Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years
Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.
He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.
How rare is his missing the cut there?
The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.
The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.
The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.
Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.
Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.
Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur
Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.
The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.
They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.
It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.
“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”
The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. 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.