Will the Golf Industry Abandon the PGA Show
That was the pronouncement of a 30-year industry veteran over dinner Saturday. His experience drapes him in rich, solid credentials, the kind you get and maintain by not making such statements lightly.
And as he said it, his voice blended sadness and realism. He echoed the suspicion of many who believe that the golf industry has evolved past trade shows, or soon will.
Nothing about the outward appearance of this years show, the 49th of its kind, betrayed a hint of obsolescence. There were aisles and aisles of shiny clubs, spanking new balls, desirable bags, handsome clothing, and more. Smiles and handshakes passed freely between old friends and new. There was energy in the air and a spring in many steps, even those who said attendance felt off compared to other years.
Full Coverage of the 2002 PGA Merchandise Show
Nike introduced new clubs that quickened the pulse of anyone who loves the classic look of forged irons. Titleist showed us Son of Pro V1, along with some forgings of its own. Golf writers spent the early part of the week clobbering drives with Pings TiSi Tec, Clevelands Launcher, TaylorMade-adidas 200 Series, and a number of other drivers. True Temper showed off a new BiMatrx and a very light steel shaft, the TX90.
But before the show even began, the industry knew that Ping had decided to be absent starting next year. Ping executives explained privately that they had no quarrel with Reed Exposition, the company that bought the show from the PGA of America in 1998. They simply did a cost-benefit analysis and decided that their marketing dollars could be better used (deployed is the fashionable marketing-speak word for it) on other programs.
Its a hard decision to argue with. Ping has for years brought retail accounts and clubfitters to its facilities in Phoenix to show them the operation from top to bottom. They share the stage with no one, and everyone leaves with a clear and comprehensive understanding of how Ping approaches the golf business.
They also leave with new or solidified relationships with the Solheims and other Ping staffers. Thats what Ping execs are referring to when they say their show decision involved more cost effectiveness than can be measured in dollars. Callaway executives, who in 2000 started inviting press and retailers to a major company event in October, agreed.
The difficulty of finding quality time at the PGA Show for relationship building has been a topic of evening conversation at the last four or five shows, and it all stems from a kind of embarrassment of riches. There are so many good people in this little industry, and so many interesting products to see, that it seems as if there is an average of 38 seconds per person an attendee wants to see. That sentiment is nearly universal now, from sales force to manufacturers to golf pros to press.
Pings determination earned the praise of top competitors such as Titleist and Callaway, each of whom turned up the volume on perennial cries for examination of show strategy. Wally Uihlein, president of The Acushnet Co. (which owns the Titleist, Pinnacle, FootJoy and Cobra brands), promised an evaluation of his empires plans within three to six months.
Smaller exhibitors, some of whom nonetheless cover 10,000 square feet of booth space, renewed the annual complaints about being nickel-and-dimed to death by elevated fees for space rental, drayage, and even vacuuming of the carpets. They also reported ' although none wanted to be quoted ' that Reed executives are already talking about rebates as a tactic to try to avoid a rapid exodus from the show.
That threat is real. When manufacturers began to abandon the Las Vegas PGA Show after 1999, those who still attended compared the atmosphere to a flea market, or at least a setting not worthy of the premium golf equipment industry.
In a world banded by bundles of communications cables, books full of scheduled flights, and wireless backtalk, perhaps trade shows dont work well for small industries. Golf equipment will certainly be popular, subject to economic cycles. By this time next year, well see if Orlando is still the industrys Broadway.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.