Tigers remaining sponsors plot out his return

By Associated PressApril 3, 2010, 12:18 am

NEW YORK – Sponsors who stuck by Tiger Woods are ramping up to profit from his return to the golf course.

Upper Deck Co. will sell memorabilia like signed red shirts with price tags upward of $1,800. Electronic Arts Inc. has a new browser-based version of its Tiger-themed video game coming out next week. And Nike Inc. reportedly has a TV commercial featuring Woods in the works, though it won’t confirm that.

The big question is whether his tarnished image can work anything close to its old magic for them and the golf industry, which has been going through tough times of its own because of the weak economy.

It could be that all publicity is good publicity – as time passes since his admissions to extramarital affairs and he returns to golf after four months at the Masters, starting next Thursday.

Woods’ value as a pitchman who embodied professional perfection may have suffered. He became sports’ first $1 billion earner, but lost top endorsements from companies such as Accenture LLP and AT&T Inc. as the scandal unfolded.

But it’s hard to see much falloff in sales of some Woods-branded wares.

Golfsmith, the nation’s biggest chain of golf stores, and sports card and memorabilia maker Upper Deck Co. say Woods’ scandal that erupted in late November didn’t dampen demand for his products.

Golfsmith International Holdings Inc. says sales of Woods-branded hats, shirts and belts (all made by Nike) grew 8 percent from October through mid-March this year compared with last year. Most of that period came after word spread that the quiet, clean-cut golfer had a sex addiction and partook in serial infidelities.

The company sold 9,564 Woods-branded hats, belts, shirts and other products made by Nike from October through mid-March, compared with 8,855 in the same period the previous year.

Woods’ leave from golf will end in about a week at the Masters, the season’s first major tournament. It’s about time for an industry that has seen its retail sales drop as its main participants trim their tee times and spending habits in the recession.

“The tour wants him back. The players want him back. His endorsers want him back and like anybody with an economic interest in him, we want him back,” said Golfsmith CEO Marty Hanaka.

Tiger has been good for golf. He’s brought more interest to the game from even casual players, and boosted television ratings and sponsorships – which has translated into higher payouts for Woods and his fellow golfers. In 1995, the year before Woods turned pro, the Masters’ total prize payout was $2.1 million. Last year, it reached $7.5 million.

The sport is in need of a boost again. The industry has seen an unprecedented slump because of the weak economy and unseasonably wet weather, which also depresses playing, said Tom Stine, co-founder of Golf Datatech LLC, a market research firm.

Total revenue for the golf industry was $2.4 billion last year, down 11.6 percent from $2.8 billion in 2008, the firm said. People are delaying equipment purchases but they’re still playing golf, said Stine, who expected minimal effect from Woods’ return.

EA is releasing the browser version of “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” on Tuesday. The timing is good, though coincidental: the video game maker announced the launch date a day before Woods announced his return and now figures his return will just add exposure for its sites for the game and its Woods franchise.

“Sometimes you just get lucky,” said Craig Evans, marketing director of the game, who added visits to the company’s Woods sites have risen “significantly” since Woods said he’d return.

Former sponsors Accenture, AT&T and others who dropped Woods after his personal problems became public late last year have declined to say if they’ll make any changes once he returns. Accenture merely referred to its December news release that announced it would drop Woods.

Experts say it will likely be at least a year before any major new companies sign Woods. Companies that distanced themselves from him, like Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette unit, haven’t announced plans to feature him in advertisements again, either. Spokesman Damon Jones said Gillette has no plans to use Woods “for the foreseeable future.”

Those who deal in razor blades and consulting services might be ambivalent, but the golf world undoubtedly wants him back.

“That’s just going to give golf this momentum that’s just going to send it into a whirlwind of a season, which will be huge for them,” said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst for market research firm NPD.

Golfsmith’s Hanaka said he’s bracing for a surge in interest if Woods wins the Masters.

“You can see after he wins a major event, our stores are like the Saturday before Christmas,” he said.

Upper Deck, which has had Woods as its golf spokesman and autograph signer since 2001, said there was no noticeable uptick or downturn in demand for Woods memorabilia. The company has new items it will sell no matter how Woods does at the Masters, including 50 autographed cleats for nearly $1,400 each. And if Woods does win, Upper Deck will sell three more items, including 500 autographed pin flags for nearly $1,300.

Nike declined to comment on reports by celebrity gossip site TMZ.com that the company has already filmed a new commercial featuring Woods, the face of its golfing line. So did Wieden & Kennedy, an advertising firm that frequently works with Nike.

Woods has always brought viewers in droves. But his return, broadcast on CBS and ESPN, is likely to be off the charts. In 1997, Woods’ first Masters win, Nielsen estimates 14.1 percent of all households tuned in, still the most-watched golf telecast since at least 1977.

But if Woods makes it past Thursday and Friday’s rounds into the weekend, it’s likely those ratings will shatter that record, said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports and now a consultant with Pilson Communications. He said the ratings could go as high as 18 to 20 percent of all households watching TV. Last year’s Masters had an 8.3 percent share in the final round, getting about 14.3 million viewers. That’s a fraction of, say, the Super Bowl’s 106 million viewers, but it’s golf’s most-watched event, according to Nielsen.

It’s not clear if the heightened interest will help reverse golf’s recession-fueled downturn. Probably not, said John Sweeney, director of sports communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“He’ll bring more eyes back to the sport,” he said. “He will not bring the sort of wonderful image that he brought that created a lot of people going, ‘I want to play golf’ back. He’s bringing back the sort of tainted prodigy that he is. But it’ll be fun to watch.”

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.