PGA Show Endures the Age of Multi-Marketing
Americans of a certain age will remember the Wish Book, whose chunky pre-Christmas version featured gifts of all kinds, from louvered blinds to lingerie, plus holiday decorations. And most exciting to the cookie-crumbed hands that grabbed the bounty eagerly from the mailman, it had toys. Pages and pages of toys.
The Wish Book as we kids knew it was a happy holiday paean to Sears' historic foothold in the mail order business, which began in the late 19th century. But the rise of department stores, and Sears own success in that important retail genre, made the Wish Book something of an anachronism: Still prized, but more as a Christmas season tradition than for its many-lined order form. (Sears still has specialty catalogs, but search Wish Book on the Internet now, and you go straight to Sears online retail site.)
As golfs main toy display, the PGA Merchandise Show has in just a few years morphed from a massive, must-be-there-in-force sales floor to a meeting that many are reluctant to abandon. Nonetheless, some major golf equipment companies have departed, citing the outsized budget line items involved with moving to Orlando each January a booth the size of two or three pro shops, plus hundreds of people to support the effort, all with attendant travel and entertainment costs.
Alas, some of the defectors have been major players, and it has not helped the shows current owners, Reed Exhibitions, that some left with apologies for doing what the budgets compelled them to do. Acushnet, owner of the Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle brands, has not attended since 2002. Ping skipped last year and is not returning this year. Adams Golf continues to stay away. Cleveland Golf will be there this year, but is making noises about this being its farewell to the show. TaylorMade-adidas Golf made a point of supporting the show when others were leaving, but it abruptly decided in December 2003 not to come in 2004, the commercial equivalent of stepping out of line just as your boarding pass is being ripped.
But just as newspapers did not suffer the manslaughter predicted by futurists who were high on the Internet in its early days, so has the PGA Merchandise Show survived the onslaught of multi-channel marketing, tighter budgets, and uneasiness about travel.
In figuring out why it has endured, its easy to say that the golf trade likes the Show because it is the only industry-wide meeting on the calendar. Others cite the weather and the opportunity for a working vacation for golf pros. But the real fascination is the well-known Toy Store Effect. Even without the absentees, the Show is the most stunning collection of golf equipment anywhere on Earth, after all these years a breathtaking annual adrenaline splash that amazes newcomers and excites veteran golf gearheads.
Even the vets arent immune from losing control of their jaw muscles. I am about to cover my 10th PGA Show, and Im still amazed at just how much there is to look at, learn about and absorb. Bottom line: If you like golf equipment, this Show is still fun.
Reed has worked hard to update the presentation, too, last year adding a pre-Show outdoor demo day that met with rave reviews. The all-day swingfest is held at the massive range at Orange County National Golf Center & Lodge outside Orlando, and it promises to be a hit again. Most importantly, the chance to swing, feel, heft and roll lifts attendees from the role of mere window shoppers with tired feet to the happy position of test drivers in Softspikes.
In an effort to capitalize on that success, Reed has arranged a large, netted, 45-bay indoor hitting area for the four days of the show proper. This innovation will be the centerpiece of what was once just 10 miles of walk-look-walk-look-some-more exhibits.
Heres a brief sample of what will be on view at the Show:
Callaway Golf: ERC Fusion driver (already in many tour bags); new-era Big Bertha irons
Nike: Ignite driver, the one Nike aggressively brought to market after Tiger Woods much-publicized driver misgivings in 2003. Also, Slingshot irons, featuring a weight band across the back cavity. Theyre beginning to show up in some tour bags.
Cleveland Golf: Cleveland is proud of a new line of wedges made of a metal they say is revolutionary. The CG10 line features multiple bounce options and that soft metal, called Carbon Metal Matrix. A new line of game-improvement irons, the TA6s are due, as well as a new Voodoo putter from Never Compromise, the upstart putter line that Cleveland recently bought.
Club Car: The Precedent golf cart allegedly has none. Club Car promises sleek, updated styling, a 360-degree bumper for added impact protection, and back-friendly, ergonomic seats, plus many other features.
And thats just the beginning. Join us on Golf Central at 7:30 PM/ET Wednesday, Jan. 28 through Sunday, Feb. 1 for coverage, then at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday for a live one-hour wrap-up show on the Show.
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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
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.
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.