Woods sponsors standing behind him for now

By Associated PressDecember 3, 2009, 6:02 am

Longtime sponsors are sticking with Tiger Woods – for now.

But the world’s most famous athlete, who offered a “profound apology” Wednesday following allegations of infidelity, might find new deals hard to come by, marketing experts say, and the loyalty of existing sponsors could be tested by any additional tawdry stories or his reluctance to address the issue publicly.

“Unfortunately for Tiger, the situation is not over,” said Bob Williams, CEO of Burns Entertainment and Sports Marketing, which represents companies looking to hire celebrities to sell their brands.

“The linchpin will be when he addresses the public for the first time,” Williams said, adding that will help companies determine how they feel about him.

Woods’ apology came in a statement on his Web site, after a cover story in Us Weekly magazine reported that a Los Angeles cocktail waitress claimed to have had a 31-month affair with the world’s No. 1 golfer. The magazine also published what it said was a voice mail – provided by the waitress, Jaimee Grubbs – that Woods left on her phone on Nov. 24, three days before his middle-of-the-night car crash outside his Florida home.

Woods did not offer details of any alleged relationships but said he had “not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves.”

Forbes estimated earlier this year that Woods was the first athlete to surpass $1 billion in career earnings, more than 80 percent of that coming from endorsements with companies such as Nike, Gillette, Gatorade and AT&T. Those are all long-term relationships, Octagon First Call’s David Schwab said, partners not likely to dump him at the first rough patch.

Nike, Gatorade and EA Sports all released statements Wednesday expressing their support or commitment to Woods, and Gillette said it had no plans to change its marketing programs. AT&T declined comment.

“These are people who are invested with him in his foundation, his golf courses, across the board. So they’re part of his family, too,” said Schwab, who also links companies and celebrities for branding opportunities.

In fact, cutting ties with Woods now could actually hurt a company, Schwab said.

“Brands look at how impactful a spokesperson can be for their for brand but also what the public outcry or public opinion would be,” he said. “If a brand drops him, there could potentially be negativity toward the brand for doing so.

“That’s why brands typically weather the storm.”

But companies that may have wanted to align themselves with Woods might rethink that – particularly companies whose target audience is women or children. Part of Woods’ appeal has been his pristine image, off the course as well as on, and events of the last week have tainted that, making him an easy target.

Jay Leno poked fun at Woods during his show Tuesday night. Spirit Airlines is trying to capitalize on his troubles, too, offering an “eye of the tiger” sale, which they’re promoting with a video that shows a tiger in a baseball cap driving an SUV into a fire hydrant.

Zeta Interactive’s “Zeta Buzz” mines more than 100 million blogs, message boards and social media posts to analyze the feelings of potential consumers. In the past, terms most associated with Woods were “Masters,” “golf” and “winning,” Zeta CEO Al DiGuido said. In the last week, that’s changed to “affair” and “cheat,” DiGuido said.

The tone of posts has also changed, he said. Before the car crash, 91 percent were positive. That’s now down to 74 percent. The volume also has skyrocketed. Zeta Buzz found 900 posts related to Woods on Tuesday; from midnight to noon Wednesday, there were 2,000, DiGuido said.

“As much as he wants to put this behind him, what’s happening now is the alleged scandal is starting to fuel the buzz, and it’s not positive for Tiger Woods,” DiGuido said. “The volume is continuing to grow and the negative side of it is getting more intense.

“It would be something that (if you’re a sponsor) you would watch pretty closely because it starts to take on a life of its own.”

It’s not just Woods who stands to lose. The Tiger Woods Foundation provides educational resources to disadvantaged children, with a $25 million learning center in Anaheim, Calif., and plans to build another in Washington, D.C.

“With respect to the sponsors and partners, they’ve shown a tremendous amount of support in us and this event, and they’ve been supportive of the foundation and they’ve been proud of the work we’ve done the past 13 years with more than 10 million kids,” Greg McLaughlin, foundation president and tournament director for Woods’ Chevron World Challenge, said this week.

“A lot of kids need our help and want our help, and we’re going to continue to grow our foundation and provide valuable services to these kids,” he said.

Woods, who backed out of the tournament after the accident, again pleaded for privacy in his statement Wednesday, saying “problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.” But that’s not going to be good enough, the marketing experts said.

Questions will continue to be asked until Woods himself answers them, they said. And the longer he goes without facing the public, the more fans and consumers will question the faith they had in him.

 “Sponsors are going to listen to the people who buy their products,” said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon Strategic Communications in New York. “If he handles it well, and he still has the opportunity to do that, he can put this to bed. Currently, the way he’s handling it is failing.

“The language in the statement is perfect,” Gordon added. “But he needs to come out and humanize it and say those words and answer a handful of tough questions on the subject. The more he avoids direct media contact, he creates more scrutiny of the situation.”

AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.

 

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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.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.