PGA Show Begins Another Hopeful Year for Golf
You cant kill it, he said with a smile. The 1994 strike, the 1919 Black Sox scandal, everything in between: No matter what happens with the pro game, someone somewhere will still play baseball.
I always enjoyed that hopeful notion. And while the state of the golf industry is perhaps not as dramatic as the state of baseball when ONeill spoke (the early 1990s), I like to think that no matter what happens with equipment sales, the number of golfers, the pro game, and any number of other variables, golfs allure is eternal.
This years PGA Merchandise Show, which wrapped up last Sunday, supported my hope. Yes, certain large equipment companies have decided that trade shows are not for them. Yes, you can point to statistics tending to show that golf in the United States may not be growing as we would like it to. But every January, when the show begins, the Orange County Convention Center seems full of hope and anticipation for the season about to start.
Its hard not to be hopeful in the midst of all that shiny new gear. Here, it is not considered boring to dive into driver minutiae. That new laser weld saves how much weight in the driver head? The sweet spot is how big? Ill hit it how far? Lemme at it. (MacGregor offered its MacTec NVG2 driver, which has no welds on the back of the face, thereby expanding the effective hitting area, says MacG.)
Its not just the equipment (although that would be enough). Walk down the aisle and you could run into anyone ' Greg Norman (his apparel labels booth had a tank with two sharks in it), Donna Andrews, Lorie Kane, Jim Furyk, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, Fred Funk and others came by, signed autographs, shook hands, and communed.
I got stopped many times by Canadian golf pros and their guests. Never have I seen in more eyes a desire for green to emerge through the snow, for the tee to be clear, for the ball to get flyin. Never have I seen so much golf hope.
And in an industry that trades in hope, there was stock in trade aplenty. Odyssey hopes its Tri-Ball putter captures as much imagination as the 2-Ball did. Bridgestone has a lot of hope behind its e5 and e6 golf balls, as well as Paula Creamer in a Precept ball on tour. Mizuno has MX900 irons designed by master craftsman Harry Taylor, who has gotten very good at working game-enhancement elements into forgings. And Clay Long, his design rival and colleague, has done some very nice thin-faced irons for Nicklaus, the High CTs.
These are just examples of the many things to be seen at the Show. At one end of the massive hall, stall upon hitting stall of pros and guests tried a forest of sticks. It was wonderfully hard to get a spot as player after player peeled off winters rust.
So the Show, which has been criticized in some circles in recent years, was a success as far as I can see. It sharpened the industrys anticipation of another year, uttered another prayer for a good spring, took another shot at making the grandest game a broader stripe in the American (and world) fabric.
Could the show be improved? Anything can, and I know the folks at trade show master Reed Exhibitions, which puts on the PGA Show, are always looking for an edge. One suggestion that circulated briskly: Expand the pre-Show demo day (it filled the massive range at Orlandos Orange County National Golf Resort) to two days, then have two days for the trade only ' and then throw open the doors to golf consumers for a couple days. I guarantee, people will travel from all coasts for a look inside this show, enough to require a big security contingent to keep traffic flowing. And what better way to pump consumer interest? Let club pros choose a few members to bring along. Hold sweepstakes for tickets. Build travel packages. Have fun.
Because not only can you not kill it ' you can definitely grow it.
After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time
Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.
On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...
Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).
Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.
It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard
On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...
There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.
He sure looks like the real deal, though.
His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.
Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner
Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2
With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.
He picked up one more No. 2, too.
The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.
In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.
Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.
“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”
Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.
Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.
He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.
Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.
Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.
His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.
“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."
Tom Brady, postgame, on wearing the wrap on his hand: “I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that. It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament.”— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 22, 2018
Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.
Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.
Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:
Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)
What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.
Best of the rest: A two-time Web.com winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.
Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Web.com Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.
Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.
Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:
Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry