Who Gets Spalding -- and Do You Care

By Adam BarrAugust 29, 2003, 4:00 pm
Just after Labor Day, a court will hold an auction to determine who will own what remains of one of the oldest names in sporting goods.
And golf consumers everywhere will turn right to the Red Sox box score.
Whatever wincing is done September 4 will likely be more related to the inevitable dog-day slide of the anti-Yankees than to the other New England disintegration, the dividing up of the remains of Spalding Golf.
Actually, Spalding is technically already gone. The non-golf assets of the century-old sporting goods company were sold off earlier this year, leaving the substantial golf component, which was then called Top-Flite Golf after its most prominent brand. When Top-Flite went on the block, TaylorMade-adidas Golf kicked the tires. But finally, Callaway Golf emerged as the preliminary winning bidder in a special bankruptcy proceeding that allows Top-Flite to declare bankruptcy and then show up in court with a ready buyer who will take the company out of insolvency. The proposed price: $125 million. But the law says the court must give other bidders a chance, just in case someone else can top the offer.
Whats actually for sale? Most prominently, there are the proven Top-Flite and Strata golf ball brands (Top-Flite has been used on clubs at various times over the years as well), plus the venerable Ben Hogan club brand. There are two golf ball plants, one in Chicopee, Mass., north of Hartford, Conn., and another in Gloversville, N.Y. Their combined capacity is about 30 million dozen per year, although they are said by industry sources to be producing only about 19 million dozen annually in this depressed golf economy. And there is the Hogan club facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The main reason the Red Sox will cause more heartburn than this sale is not the Babes Curse, but the fact that nothing about this bankruptcy deal is likely to change the lives of golf consumers, even avid ones. The brands involved are not likely to vanish any time soon no matter who buys them. Their equity is simply too strong, even in their owners insolvency, for the industry to ignore. Pull the rug out from under Strata, Hogan and the related brands, and everyone who admires Jim Furyk enough to buy the gear he used to win the U.S. Open will go to another company. That would be the kind of business misstep a new owner cant afford.
Still, the business chess is interesting. Only two approved bidders are expected at next weeks auction: Callaway and TaylorMade, through its corporate parent, adidas. Each bidder has a unique interest and could take over under a collection of scenarios ' and those dont always involve actually owning or operating these brands.
Callaway, whose ball business hasnt taken off the way it had hoped, would love an excuse to close its expensive, state-of-the-art golf ball plant in Carlsbad, Calif. Almost everything you do industrially in California is expensive, and that plant has a capacity of only about six million dozen. Selling the small plant and gaining 30 million dozen in capacity, either for itself or subcontract manufacturing, could be seen by the Wall Street analysts who watch Callaway as a shrewd move.
But dont jump to the conclusion that Callaway would not, under the right circumstances, want to operate the former Spalding brands. The Hogan irons especially would make Callaway an immediate player in the better-player iron category. (Callaway says its the No. 1 maker of irons in the world. But although its irons have their own following among better players, Callaway irons in general carry a game-improvement reputation.)
TaylorMade-adidas has been famously tight-lipped about its plans, probably because of the strict controls and European business style of its German-based parent, the second-largest sporting goods company in the world. But back channel word is that TaylorMade would operate the brands, and do so aggressively. Its also possible that adidas could run the brands outside the TaylorMade umbrella.
Many accuse TaylorMade of simply trying to frustrate cross-town rival Callaway, and TaylorMade hasnt denied it. But theres not a lot of profit in inflicting frustration for its own sake.
In recent weeks, speculation has spilled over to other golf brands as well. Titleist looked like it might be in the picture as well, but it let the deadline pass for becoming a qualified bidder under court rules. Inside sources say Titleist was concerned about allowing a competitor to pick up a lot of extra capacity for cents on the dollar, but more worried about getting stuck with an antitrust mess. Titleist and its parent company, Acushnet, own about 55 percent of the golf ball market already.
As usual whenever a big event is expected in the sporting goods business, there are rumors about Nikes possible interest. But Nike isnt discussing the matter, and word is it is not an approved bidder.
The eventual landing place of Top-Flite golf might not raise a lot of questions among consumers. But the real question for whoever walks away from the auction will be, whos the winner? We may not know for a few years, until we see just how able the new owner-managers are.
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Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

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.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

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.

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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?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

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."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

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