Recession Tee It Up

By Adam BarrMarch 30, 2001, 5:00 pm
With all this recession talk weve been hearing, youd think companies in leisure industries would be nervous. But thats not necessarily so.
If we have new, innovative products out there, well hit our numbers, said Mark King, president of TaylorMade-adidas Golf. That brand of optimism is easier to find now than golf-market gloominess, at least on the supply side of the industry.
Thats not to say that companies arent watching costs. But dont expect massive promotional pull-backs or layoffs at golfs biggest equipment companies.
The question is, how big a recession is it, said Ping chief John Solheim. Its a hard one to read. Ive never been through a great depression, and I dont think the economy is headed that way now.
Solheim questions whether there will really be a recession. He also is unconcerned about the supposed direct connection between economic indicators and leisure spending.
In Japan, golf spending usually goes up in an economic downturn, Solheim said. He speculated that the hard-working Japanese might have more time for golf when production demands flatten.
Despite recent stormy forecasts for Japans highly leveraged, real-estate-inflated economy, TaylorMade is breathing a sigh of relief because of its overseas sales.
Business is absolutely booming in Japan this year, King said. We might double what we did there last year.
Imitators of TaylorMades 300 Series woods, with their low, medium and high flight paths, have cropped up in the Orient, King said. That may be irritating from an intellectual property point of view, but its usually the sincerest form of flattery with respect to demand.
A savvy parent company such as adidas is a helpful ally, King said. But despite the green lights in major markets, TaylorMade and other companies have their feet poised over the brake pedal, just to be safe.
In our business planning, we look quarter-by-quarter at controlling expenses, King said. Advertising is an obvious first target, and indeed there are tales of buyers market behavior among some advertisers with respect to their print and television plans. But hiring and marketing programs could be trimmed slightly to save money too, King said.
And doesnt that raise the challenge of striking a balance between necessary competitive promotion (March is not a good time to have your brand name disappear) and cost control (months containing 28 or more days are not good times to go broke)?
Certainly, King said.
Ping has set up its business to remove at least one problem. The companys custom-built element essentially eliminates sizable inventories, which irritate retailers. Aside from some minimal stock on hand, Ping sells every stick it builds because it doesnt build on spec.
Thats one reason Solheim is confident of the chances of reaching or surpassing the companys performance in 2000, which was a record year for Ping. Wood sales, he said, are leading the way.
Spalding Sports Worldwide has done well early on with its new golf ball, the Strata Tour Ultimate. But caution blended with optimism is the order of the day.
Yes, we are taking a couple of actions that we think are prudent right now, said Eddie Binder, director of marketing for Spalding, in a March 29 conference call with the golf press. What we have done is to really make sure on the marketing spending front that we're going to commit the major dollars to the brand of Ben Hogan and Strata, which we believe to be our biggest opportunities. And we're looking right now at tightening a little bit on our advertising and promotional spending as a hedge against any sort of market conditions.
Of course, you can batten down all the hatches you want. Theres no knowing the full extent of a storm until it hits. So a lot of people will be watching their e-mails very carefully to see when the second quarter numbers come out in early July.
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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.

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Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:10 pm

SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.

Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.

Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.

With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.

''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''

Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.

Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.

Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.

He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.

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

"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''