TaylorMade Hits Ground Running with Maxfli Acquisition
HUGHES IN AT TAYLORMADE: Soon after taking over Maxfli late last year with a five-year deal to distribute the Maxfli and Slazenger golf brands, TaylorMade-adidas Golf has plucked some of Maxflis top marketing talent as well. Edward Hughes, who has steered Maxfli marketing since 1997, will now handle it as global general manager, effectively running all TaylorMade-related golf ball operations.
You wont see changes so much from a logo perspective, Hughes said, but weve changed the company structure. The changes are more related to the investment in the business and research and development. Now, of course, we have the R&D staff in Carlsbad [whereTaylorMade is headquartered] working on the business.
And well see a good bump in our tour presence; TaylorMades belief is that the tour is central to success.
Another advantage: TaylorMades ownership by adidas, the second largest sporting goods company in the world, with its expertise in athletic fabrics, could help Slazengers apparel line make a run at Nike.
Under the new setup Dunlop Slazenger Group will manufacture TaylorMade, Maxfli and Slazenger balls at Maxflis Westminster, S.C. plant, and TaylorMade will get them to market. Now Hughes will stop working for Dunlop Slazenger and report directly to Jim Stutts, TMaGs CEO. TaylorMade will also assemble Maxfli clubs.
WATCH THAT TOUR COUNT: As if TMaG didnt have enough to keep its people busy ' that tour presence Hughes mentioned will be a big priority this year. Expect to see some new endorsement signings for dollars in the 70 thousand to 250 thousand range, as well as pool payments to any player who tees up with TMaG woods, irons and even putters.
How much money is on the table? Last year, TMaG pumped up the PGA Tour count of its 300 Series drivers with weekly payments of $1,500, say industry sources. No word yet on the level of 2002 tee-up payments for other TMaG clubs.
Even though there will be a few big names on staff, the primary focus will be on high tour counts rather than icons, said a TMaG insider. That strategy, which requires losing some expensive endorsers to free up money for broader use, will lead to premium-segment dominance, TMaG believes.
In the endorser exit column: Lee Janzen, a six year TMaG veteran. Hes likely to sign a new deal with MacGregor Golf as early as the week of Jan. 14.
MACGREGOR TO UNVEIL NEW TECHNOLOGY: Not sure which model Janzen will be playing, but MacGregor will be pinning a lot of hopes on its new V-Technologies clubs at the PGA Merchandise Show, Jan. 24-27 in Orlando, Fla. The weight-moving design puts more mass behind the hitting area, MacGregor says. Its available in forged and cavity-back irons, as well as specially weighted woods. Staff player Jose Maria Olazabal has already won with prototypes, MacGregor says.
STRATEGY CHANGE AT MIZUNO?: Clubs from Japanese golf power Mizuno have been the most-used irons every year on the PGA Tour since 1994. But it never paid staff endorsers to use the clubs, so the company could take only limited advantage of its prominence.
That may change, though. A Mizuno executive in the United States who requested anonymity said the company may have to take on some name players to continue to compete. As with TaylorMade, Mizuno hopes to finalize some deals during the week of Jan. 14.
PRECEPT GETS OUT THE INK: In the midst of efforts to capitalize on the 2001 success of it soft-core MC Lady golf ball, Precept Golf has signed Justin Leonard to play its Tour Premium LS ball. Its the first ball change for Leonard since his career began; he was on Titleists staff. Matt Kuchar also signed up to use the ball, as well as Precepts Tour Premium driver and irons and a Precept glove.
Not that Precept is forgetting its soft mission: Golf writers have received sample packages of the new Laddie ball, which is presented in a yellow box with a cow on the front, and four quarter sleeves inside ' soft as butter. Get it?
GIVING NIKE THE SHAFT: Club genius Tom Stites, who cut his teeth working for Ben Hogan, designed Nikes new golf clubs. So you know hed be a stickler about whom he chose to make the shafts. Two of the winners are Fujikura, which claims the most popular shaft on the PGA Tour in 2001, and Graphite Design International, both of which are based in the San Diego area. Fujikura will supply graphite shafts and offer selected models for Nikes custom wood program. Graphite Design will make shafts for two models of forged titanium Nike drivers.
ROUNDS WAY UP IN NOVEMBER: Unseasonably warm weather was probably what helped rounds played numbers skyrocket in November versus November 2000. The monthly tally issued by industry metrics leader Golf Datatech and the National Golf Course Owners Association showed rounds up everywhere but California (where they were down 7.6 percent).
For instance: 106.4 percent in the East North Central region (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio) and 241.7 percent in West North Central (the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri). That makes the respectable bump of 46.3 percent in the Middle Atlantic (Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey) seem modest.
Rounds in the United States overall were up 25.3 percent for the month, but still down 1.3 percent for the year through the end of November.
NEW CAMERON WEBSITE UP: Fans of Titleist putter guru Scotty Cameron can learn more about Acushnets milled metal master and what he does at a new website, www.scottycameron.com. Thats also linkable from the Titleist site, www.titleist.com.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.