Of Sponsorships Affordability and Mango-Scented Towels
The Sponsor Dance: Its true that sponsorship churn on the PGA Tour seems more volatile than in a typical year. But this isnt a typical year.
Even before September 11, years before as a matter of fact, companies of all sizes were beginning to scrutinize their promotional spending. As business has become more competitive, corporations have tried to learn to live with the fact that corporate entertainment is necessary but not very measurable. You can never say with certainty how many sales are pushed along by glad-handing and booze-pouring ' but you can certainly write them off if you dont do it.
So its no wonder that some sponsors are becoming more circumspect with the dollars (anywhere from $3 million to $6 million) it takes to put ones name on a golf tournament. Add September 11 concerns and the Dow free-fall to the mix, and it makes sense that a lot of sponsorships would be in flux.
The PGA Tour is run by experienced executives, so it's persona is that of a large corporation ' in other words, the kind of entity people love to hate these days. But dont blame the Tour for shifting sponsorships. Under the model the Tour has been using for years, sponsorships are sold at the local level by tournament organizers. The Tour uses its Rolodex and business savvy to help organizers get matched up with sponsors, if the locals need the help.
Its regrettable when an event such as Reno-Tahoe goes on life support, and everybody hopes it and other troubled tournaments will recover. But just like baseball and other major sports, golf is a business. And the economic cream rises to the top, as it should.
By the bye, the biggest loss in terms of tournaments with a rich history would be the Hilton Head event, now in peril because of the recent bankruptcy filing of former sponsor Worldcom, which had been under contract through 2006. But that event should be an easy sell. Lets just hope its to someone with a good auditor.
What the Market Wont Bear: Whens the last time you played an upscale daily fee? Greens fees above $100 may provide the country-club-for-a-day experience for those who are entertaining clients, or who have forgotten how many Porsches they have. But such courses dont get a lot of repeat play, and they dont offer a sustainable strategy for growth of themselves or the game.
Case in point: An industry friend told me he recently played at Meadows Del Mar near San Diego at the resident rate of $100. (He was the host for the other three. Do the math, and you get a pretty big pre-lunch nut right away.) He ran into a ranger who told him their foursome was the only one on the course at the moment, but that three or four others would be along later.
On the other hand, go 90 miles north and get in line at the always-jammed 36-hole facility at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, where players happily wait hours to play for a reasonable price. The two-level range is constantly full too.
What more evidence do you need as to what kind of courses need to be built?
I wont be happy until affordable course openings outnumber upscale daily fee openings four to one.
The Dimpled World: Speaking of affordability, the golf ball industry has been good at it for years. Were so spoiled by the breadth of choices that we take it for granted. Whether you go for Pro V1, HX Blues, Tour Accuracy and their competitors or multi-packs of balls aimed at the low-price-loving market, theres something out there for you.
Thats called responding to consumer demand. Course builders, are you listening?
Butbutbut: Its true, golf courses cost a lot to maintain. And owners constantly raise the excuse that they have to provide a lush carpet of green wall-to-wall, or they cant compete. While theres some truth to this, I doubt its a real problem for folks who want to play affordable golf. As long as it was mowed and I good condition, I never met a weed or a brown spot in the fairway that interfered with the fun of a well-struck ball.
Can I Have Mint?: The Ranger came around to our group yesterday about six holes in and offered us cold, wet, mango-scented towels. It was easily 97 degrees with about 98 percent humidity, so we eagerly accepted and put them around our necks.
Not to be ungrateful ' but who chose mango?
Oh, and if this is one of those things that jacks up the greens fee, keep your towel. Ill bring my own. Minus the mango.
Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas
Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.
McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.
Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?
Memo to the golf gods:
If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?
Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?
It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.
With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.
It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.
We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.
We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.
Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.
Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line. Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors.
In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.
While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.
Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.
Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.
Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.
While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.
Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.
So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?
McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever
With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.
The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.
Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.
"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."
McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.
But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.
"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."
What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire
Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft
Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft
Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft
Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x