Woods indefinite break to hurt Tiger Inc

By Associated PressDecember 13, 2009, 4:07 am

When Tiger Woods’ break from golf ends, he’s unlikely to regain his crown as one of the world’s most valuable pitchmen, even if he gets back to winning tournaments and convinces people he’s changed.

America loves comeback stories, but his future ad opportunities are likely to be limited to sports product endorsements, significantly reducing his earnings power.

That was the takeaway from Gillette’s announcement Saturday that it won’t feature Woods in its ads for an unspecified period of time. It was the first major sponsor to distance itself from Woods since he announced late Friday he is taking an indefinite leave from golf to work on his marriage after allegations of infidelity surfaced in recent weeks.

Woods’ time-out and request for privacy may give sponsors the cover they need to pull their ads indefinitely and distance themselves from allegations that Woods had trysts with multiple women.

AT&T said it is evaluating its relationship with the golfer. Representatives from Accenture won’t say what its plans are regarding Woods, whom the consulting firm has used to personify its claimed attributes of integrity and high performance. But its Web site no longer displays on its home page an image of the golfer that had been there as recently as Thursday.

Companies often use athletes and celebrities in image ads not to sell products but to ride the coattails of their perceived qualities in the hope that it will rub off on them. Those kinds of ads are now likely gone forever for Woods as Tiger Inc. has self-destructed, costing him hundreds of millions in future endorsement fees.

Before the Nov. 27 car accident that exposed Woods’ alleged serial infidelity, 91 percent of the opinions expressed about him on the Internet were positive, according to Zeta Interactive. As of Saturday, Woods’ positive rating online had fallen to just 41 percent.

That’s bad news for Accenture. The global consulting and outsourcing firm lauded its connections with Woods in a 2006 news release, saying its “Go on, be a Tiger” campaign had boosted its image significantly.

“The world associates Tiger with high performance. He embodies the relentless pursuit of perfection,” James E. Murphy, Accenture’s chief marketing and communications officer, was quoted as saying in that release. The company didn’t return requests for comment Saturday.

Gillette, which uses the slogan “The best a man can get,” said it won’t air advertisements featuring Woods or include him in public appearances. Woods was hired by Gillette in 2007 and has been in ads for Gillette Fusion Power razors with titles like “Phenom” and “Champions” with other stars including tennis great Roger Federer and soccer player Thierry Henry.

“This is supporting his desire to step out of the public eye and we’re going to support him by helping him to take a lower profile,” said Damon Jones, a spokesman for Gillette, a unit of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble.

He wouldn’t say when – or if – the company would resume ads with Woods. Woods hasn’t been seen in a prime-time television commercial since a Gillette spot on Nov. 29, according to research firm Nielsen Co.

No companies have cut ties altogether to Woods in the weeks since his marital troubles came to light, tarnishing the image of a man who spent 13 years in the public eye carefully cultivating a good guy image. But with the 33-year-old’s decision to leave golf – at least temporarily – they’re now forced to consider their future with him.

“They’re going to hedge, they’re going to buy some time to determine whether or not the situation will turn,” said Rick Burton, former chief marketing officer of the United States Olympic Committee and now a sports marketing professor at Syracuse University.

Woods’ array of endorsements helped him become the first sports star to earn $1 billion, according to Forbes. Michael Jordan, Woods’ closest contemporary, is a distant second at $800 million, amassed during and after an NBA career that spanned nearly 20 years. Basketball star LeBron James has made public his desire to be the next athlete to earn $1 billion. Woods’ time-out could mean more room for James and other athletes to snatch up more endorsements.

Nike Inc. said late Friday it supports his decision. Gatorade, a unit of PepsiCo Inc., said previously it supports Woods and said Saturday it has no updated comment. EA Sports has been selling Tiger Woods video golf games for a decade, and its next edition featuring him comes out in six months, giving it time to see what happens. Watch maker Tag Heuer did not return a call Saturday.

All of these companies are examining their relationships with him, said Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management. He expects they are commissioning research to see how much damage – if any – Woods’ scandal is doing to their brands.

The answer to that may lie in the nature of the product being pitched.

“The ones that would stand to lose the least are sports,” Bernstein said. “The connection with a watch company or a clothing company is much more tenuous and probably more subject to damage than connections to Nike.”

A Wisconsin middle school already has learned Tiger Inc. may not be worth as much as it was a month ago.

The band at the Clintonville middle school had expected to raise $1,600 from an autographed photo of Woods that was auctioned off Dec. 5. Instead, most of the people just shook their heads as they walked by the picture, which finally sold for $300.

“The faces they were making, saying ‘Are you kidding? Why would you do this?”’ said Adam Englebretson, athletic director for the Clintonville district’s high school.

Woods’ earnings prowess also has been cut short. “The sponsors who want to sign him up may be different,” said Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management. “It may be somebody who wants to market only to men or only to the avid golfer. There may be fewer cross-generational or cross-demographic sponsors.”

Even for Nike, which built its golf business that generates $650 million a year in revenue around Woods, the timing of the scandal couldn’t be worse. “Nike Golf is Tiger Woods,” said Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates PR. “This is the time of year that they should be selling golf clubs for Christmas.”

Mary Le Beau is among the golfers now reluctant to buy Nike equipment or apparel tied to Tiger. “There’s so many choices that you don’t have to give up any quality to go with your conscience,” said the 52-year-old marketer from Green Bay, Wis.

Others at risk of becoming collateral damage include: the television networks that drove up the bidding to show golf tournaments and other professional golfers who have benefited from the quadrupling of prize money since Woods joined the PGA tour in 1996.

The PGA’s contracts with TV broadcasters NBC and CBS expire in 2012, with negotiations on a new deal likely to begin during the second half of next year.

As a measure of Woods’ importance to the PGA Tour, the average television rating fell by nearly 50 percent for a host of 2008 tournaments that Woods missed while he was recovering from knee surgery, according to Nielsen Co.

Expect Americans to root for him when– and if– he does come back, now that he’s positioned himself as less than the champion he’s always been known for being.

“We always root for the underdog,” Smith said. “We all think that everybody has a chance to be successful. It depends how hard somebody is willing to work and what sacrifices they’re willing to make.”

Woods is golf to so many people. But even without him, people won’t lose their interest, said Gary Lynch, sales associate at New York Golf Center.

“Icons come and go,” he said. “This is a big story because of the financial aspect involved and because he set himself up to be a saint.”

Emily Fredrix reported from Milwaukee. AP Business Writers Michael Liedtke in San Francisco; Rachel Beck, Damian Troise, Stephen Manning and Mae Anderson in New York; Sarah Skidmore in Portland, Ore.; and Ryan Nakashima in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”