Notes: Three logos for U.S. Open merchandising

By Doug FergusonApril 29, 2014, 11:19 pm

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The primary merchandise tent for the U.S. Women's Open will be about triple the size of any merchandise pavilion in the 68-year history of the event. It also will be 28 percent smaller than the pavilion a week earlier for the men's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

This is part of the challenge – and the thrill – for Mary Lopuszynski.

''In 20 years ... this is the most exciting Open I've worked on,'' said Lopuszynski, the USGA's senior director of licensing and U.S. Open merchandising.

The USGA is about six weeks away from its grand experiment of hosting the U.S. Open and U.S. Women's Open on the same course in consecutive weeks. Several structures already will be in place, such as the media center, grandstands, television towers and concession areas.

And so will be the merchandise pavilion, which will be a record 39,000 square feet.

Lopuszynski said the host club typically handles merchandise for the U.S. Women's Open, and the tent is about 8,000 to 10,000 square feet. For Pinehurst, she said the pavilion will be shrunk to about 28,000 square feet.

''We're going to move a wall to reduce the size of the square footage of the sales floor,'' she said. ''We won't have as much product. My goal is for the merchandise to look great and to have no empty spaces. We want it to look fantastic for the Women's Open.''

This 18-day sales extravaganza at Pinehurst No. 2 will feature three logos. The men's logo is the ''Golf Lad'' character hugging the U.S. Open trophy. The women's logo features a cardinal on the branch of a pine. And a third logo figures to be the most popular because it has both trophies – the hat of Golf Lad on the men's trophy, and the cardinal on the women's trophy with ''U.S. Open Championships'' across the top.

''The main logo is the joint logo. That's what is special about this year,'' Lopuszynski said. ''We're treating it as two championships and one event, and we're also doing that with our merchandise. We're trying to celebrate the joint logo.''

Count her staff among those who might not want to see a Monday playoff for the men. That's the day set aside to give the pavilion a makeover from the structure to the shelves to the merchandise. The plan is to work through the night on Sunday and all of Monday, when the grounds are to be closed to spectators.

As for the goods?

There are shirts and hats and towels and accessories with each of the three logos, though Lopuszynski said the majority of items have the joint logo. As an example, she said approximately 70 percent of the headwear will feature the joint logo. The merchandise can be replenished on demand.

She said the most successful merchandise sales in U.S. Open history was in 2008 at Torrey Pines (which had a Monday playoff), followed by Merion last year.

''We're hoping for our best merchandise sales ever for a U.S. Open,'' she said. ''I think we're going to do great.''

TIGER'S REIGN: Adam Scott has had three chances to go to No. 1 in the world, squandering the best opportunity at Bay Hill when he closed with a 76. Henrik Stenson had his best chance last week until he tied for fifth in the Volvo China Open after starting the week with an ailing stomach.

One of them is certain to reach No. 1 before long, perhaps by default.

Tiger Woods is No. 1 for at least the next two weeks, but his most recent reign is about to end. Even if no players make a move, Woods will keep losing points (and Scott plays such a limited schedule) that is likely to have been displaced by the end of May, if not sooner.

The short-term forecast indicates five players – Scott, Stenson, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Jason Day – could move to No. 1 at The Players Championship in two weeks. Day, who has played only one time the last two months because of a thumb injury, and Kuchar would have to win at TPC Sawgrass. Watson would have to be runner-up, while Stenson would need to finish in the top six and Scott in the top 16.

Currently, only Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have been No. 1 without ever having won a major. Day, Kuchar and Stenson have not majors. It's also worth noting that since Woods first went to No. 1 in 1997, only one American has occupied the top of the world ranking. That was David Duval in 1999.

BIG BONUS: The typical purse on the LPGA's Symetra Tour is $100,000. Cindy LaCrosse holds the minor circuit's record for season earnings in 2010 at $94,578. The Symetra Tour's total prize fund for the entire season is $2.25 million.

That should help put the value of a new bonus into context.

Charlotte-based Park Sterling Bank is putting up $1 million to the player who wins all three tournaments on the Symetra Tour's swing through the Carolinas. The tournaments are the Self Regional HealthCare Foundation Women's Health Charity Classic on May 8-11 in Greenwood, S.C.; Friends of Mission Charity Classic on May 16-18 in Asheville; and the Symetra Classic on May 22-24 in Charlotte.

The Park Sterling Cup would not count toward the official money list.

FRENCH REVOLUTION: Not long ago, a pair of French sports journalists proclaimed a historic day at Augusta National. ''For the first time in history, there are more journalists than players at the Masters,'' one of them said. How many journalists? ''Two.'' How many players? ''None.''

Don't look now, but with the Ryder Cup headed to Paris in 2018, French golf is on the rise.

Victor Dubuisson won the Turkish Open last year, earned his first trip to the Masters and leads the Ryder Cup standings. Alexander Levy won the Volvo China Open last week, shooting 62 in the second round and never giving anyone a serious chance.

They are among five French-born players to have won in the last year. The others are Julien Quesne (Italian Open), Gregory Bourdy (Wales Open) and Raphael Jacquelin (Spanish Open).


DIVOTS: Royal Cinque Ports received so much damage from winter floods in Kent that it has been replaced as a British Open qualifying site this year. Instead, the 36-hole final qualifier will be held July 1 on the New Course at Sunningdale. The other three qualifiers in Britain are at Gailes Links (Scotland), Hillside and Woburn. ... Bill Bachran, a longtime golf publicist and historian who ran the Sony Open press center for more than 40 years, died Sunday morning at his home in Honolulu. He was 87. ... The last person to officially enter the U.S. Open was 14-year-old Travis Wells from Land O'Lakes, Fla. He submitted his online entry 26 seconds before the 5 p.m. EDT deadline on April 23.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Rory McIlroy fell to No. 11 this week, his first time out of the top 10 in the world ranking in more than three years.

FINAL WORD: ''I hate missing cuts more than I like winning.'' - Billy Horschel, who missed the cut in New Orleans as the defending champion.

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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.