Quiet But Persistent Business Buzz at Augusta National

By Adam BarrApril 10, 2002, 4:00 pm
The latest from Augusta:
 
Under the giant oak tree behind the clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club, manners are genteel but fashion rules are relaxed. Where else could the most powerful people in golf feel perfectly comfortable in a fine blazer, a snappy tie ' and a baseball cap?
 
Many of those caps are emblazoned with golfs most recognizable brand names: Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist and more. And although this is not a week for high productivity, golfs leaders come to see, be seen, and drink up the fabled atmosphere at golfs cherished rite of spring.
 
Geniality reigns. You may see ideological rivals chatting, even laughing (U.S. Golf Association officers and equipment company executives, for example). Any meetings with potential for brow-furrowing occur off-site.
 
Buzz becomes louder as the competition days approach.
 
CALLAWAY TO POST STRONG FIRST QUARTER: Advance word on Callaways first quarter financial numbers have the company feeling proud. The income statement wont be released until Thursday, April 18, but inside sources say to expect gross sales of $245 million. That works out to about 41 cents per share, about what Callaway expected. Considering the sluggish economy for big-ticket and recreational goods in the wake of September 11, the results are pleasing, say Callaway higher-ups.
 
Typically, either the first or fourth quarter yields the lowest gross sales for premium golf companies. If thats true and the summer is strong, could Callaway crack a billion this year?
 
Callaway also reports that its Odyssey 2-Ball putter is moving so well at retail that sales of that model would make it the worlds third biggest putter company all by itself. Odyssey claims a 45 percent market share in on-course golf shops.
 
THE TAYLORMADE-MAXFLI HORIZON: Look for TaylorMade-adidas Golf to exercise its option to buy all of Maxfli and Slazenger some time this summer, say sources close to the situation.
 
Late last year, TMaG set up a complex transaction that gave it effective ownership of Maxfli for five years, with an option to make it permanent. TaylorMade moved its golf ball production to Maxflis Westminster, S.C. plant and gave its Pontotoc, Miss. plant to Maxfli seller Dunlop Slazenger Group. (DSG promptly shut down that plant.)
 
What will happen if TMaG indeed takes the reins for good? Well, dont expect the Maxfli Noodle golf ball, or anything like it, to hang around. TaylorMades focus has been on making the best golf equipment for the best players, and polishing its image to match. Thats how it would handle the Maxfli brand.
 
So Maxfli clubs would vanish, and golf balls would be positioned as serious, high-performance products worthy of matching up with TaylorMade clubs. But its likely TMaG wouldnt completely meld the companies; the strategy would be to maintain Maxflis brand integrity and position it under the adidas umbrella. And even though adidas, the worlds second-largest sporting goods company, would be the corporate parent, the golf brands would probably be organized under the TaylorMade master brand, to take advantage of TMs strong golf pedigree.
 
HAD TO BE THE SHOES: Cocktail parties and dinners are a big part of Masters week. Most of them are pleasant but normal-looking affairs ' but count on Nike to set itself apart. In a lovely home not far from Augusta National, Nike had a party Tuesday night that featured the now-famous Annika Sorenstam red golf shoes displayed in a glass box. Annika stopped by later in the evening; I had to resist the temptation to ask her to put on the shoes, click the heels together, and say Theres no place like Stockholm.
 
Annika is also in town this week to accept an award from the Golf Writers Association of America, whose annual dinner is Wednesday night. Ill be there to lead the standing ovation when my colleague George White steps up to collect his well-deserved writing award.
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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

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.