At This PGA Show Excitement and Uncertainty Go Hand in Hand

By Adam BarrJanuary 23, 2002, 5:00 pm
When the PGA Merchandise Show opens Thursday in Orlando, it will welcome an industry that doesnt know whether to smile or furrow its brow.
There is the annual excitement that accompanies the golf industrys biggest gathering, a surge of adrenaline at seeing the combined commercial might of the game to which so many have devoted their working lives. There is the buzz about new products, this time including an aggressive entry into a new segment for the largest sporting goods company in the world as Nike introduces its new golf clubs. And there is that undeniable temptation to handicap the year ahead, to speculate on whether Titleist will loosen Nikes golf ball foothold, whether Precepts bet on a second stage in the soft ball fad will come in, or whether Callaway can make a go of the C4, a very light driver that is neither metal nor wood.
But accompanying the industry head rush is an inbox full of problems and uncertainty. This is the first industry meeting since September 11, a day whose utter darkness still tempers any exuberance. Even if the effects of that tragedy could be ignored, recreational golf is still a game saddled with the puzzle of flat participation over the past six years (one executive calls it the three-million-in, three-million-out-each-year problem). The included challenge of attracting juniors who will become lifelong customers involves competing against other leisure activities that require much less investment of time and money (soccer, basketball, and video games, to name just a few).
Also, even though the U.S. Golf Association has relaxed its proposal on clubhead size limitations by 75 cubic centimeters, the industry feels beleaguered by repeated attempts to regulate driver distance for recreational players. (The proposed limitations come a year after the debate on spring-like effect off of driver faces began to boil over.) Also, ball manufacturers still bristle at the USGAs plans to introduce a new Overall Distance Standard to replace the one made in 1976; the ball makers see no need for a new standard.
The golf industry owes a lot to Tiger Woods on many levels, but as this show opens, the most relevant gift from Tiger may be hope. Whenever things seem tight, industry vets remind themselves that golf still has the most recognized athlete in the world, one whose prominence was immune even to the return of his predecessor to basketball. Without Tiger as a touchstone for a possible resurgence of the game, many smaller golf companies, weary of red ink and escalating marketing costs, would probably give up.
With all that in mind, here are some of the questions that this show will raise, and perhaps answer:
1. Order, please: Most golf equipment companies say their orders declined for about 10 days to two weeks after September 11, then picked up considerably. But with the recession now endorsed as official by the government and the business press, exhibitors worry that order-writing will be down at this show. Add anything but good spring weather to that, and the industry could have a disappointing start this year.
2. Nikes pyramid of influence: By releasing a better-player iron first, will Nike irritate most recreational players? Or will they have those golfers aspiring to use clubs like those in the bags of their heroes, such as David Duval and (eventually) Woods?
3. Ball dominance: There are no caves to clear out; this war is being fought out in the open. What will Titleist bring as a Pro V2, and can it make as big a noise as the unprecedented Pro V1 did? What will be Nikes return salvo? Now that TaylorMade-adidas Golf is essentially in charge of Maxfli, what will happen to that troubled brand? And will the industry pay more attention to Spalding balls, or to rumors that Spalding owner KKR is about to sell to another holding company with a split-it-and-sell-it reputation?
4. When does the cycle break down?: How long before consumers get tired of being asked to buy new every 12 months?
5. Does the show have a future?: Ping is in this year, but has decided not to come to the 2003 PGA Show. Will other companies examine how well their trade-show marketing dollar works? The Las Vegas show became a second-tier flea market in short order. Show owner Reed Exposition will be working hard to make sure theres no domino effect in Orlando.
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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.