Bradley brings Jordan-brand shoes to the course

By Jason SobelAugust 28, 2014, 12:05 pm

“It’s gotta be the shoes, Mike!” – Mars Blackmon

Basketball has always been Michael Jordan’s domain, but shoes are his empire. His last name is synonymous with his brand, one that has only grown in popularity since his retirement. It extends well past the boundaries of the court. There’s a story from a few years back about Jordan starting his own motorsports team. Rather than have the riders wear inappropriate footwear or another brand, he simply urged his design team to create shoes to meet their needs. Two weeks later, they were wearing them.

As an avid golfer – one who pals around with PGA Tour stars and has even served as a United States assistant team captain in the Presidents Cup – he’s brought his brand to the links, too. That’s right: When Michael Jordan plays golf, he wears – what else? – Jordans, even though there is no Jordan golf shoe on the market.

Hey, it’s good to be the boss.

It’s also good to know the boss. Keegan Bradley is one of those PGA Tour stars who has parlayed professional success into a burgeoning friendship with the six-time NBA champion. During one of their many South Florida rounds last year, Bradley sidled up to his iconic buddy, looked down at his feet and told him he wanted a piece of the action.

“I said to him, ‘I don’t have a shoe deal, so I’d love to wear Jordans,’” Bradley recalls. “And he was like, ‘You know what? I’ve been thinking about making shoes. That would be awesome.’”

It wasn’t that easy, though. Not even close. Jordan’s shoes didn’t quite meet the standards of an elite golfer with three career victories already on his resume.

“They were more of an amateur’s shoes,” Bradley says with a laugh. “He goes, ‘Let’s start this over. We’re going to get my crew on it and do it from top to bottom.’”

Enter Mark Smith.

The creative director of special projects for Nike Innovation, he's been with the company since 1989, combining both art and industrial engineering into creating original footwear.

“My favorite aspect of this job,” Smith says, “is getting those unique, out-there, fringe-related projects that challenge the status quo.”

This one qualified. After receiving a call from Jordan, he and Bradley together began designing golf shoes from scratch that would offer optimal performance for the pro golfer.

As anyone understands who’s witnessed him stutter-step to approach his ball in the fairway or examine it cockeyed on the green, Bradley can be a pretty quirky guy. That extends to his spikes, too.

“I’m super-particular about my shoes,” he says, “and once Mark’s team got me going, I got even more particular. At first I felt bad, but then I realized that’s what they really want. They want every little critique, every little minor detail – even down to the shoelace length. 

“It’s like they’re building a car from scratch. It’s nuts.”

Smith meticulously measured the weight of Bradley’s shoes. The height. The kickpoints. And yes, even his feet themselves, which proved to be a significant variable.

His left foot is a size 10 3/4 EE. His right foot is an 11 1/2 EEE. His arches are more forward than those of most people. And he owns some, well, unique characteristics.

“He has the ability to raise his toes, but limited mobility in his ankle,” Smith explains. “He’d been cramming his toes into shoes. As soon as we tried other stuff on him, that freed up his feet. It’s a very unique situation, where we build our shoes around his feet.”

At first, there was just one pair. A white pair of Jordans built specifically for golf and even more specifically just for Bradley. Once he’d worn them for a while, Smith sent another pair and then tore apart the originals, doing a complete forensics test on the impact from his feet.



The experimentation continued from there, a trial and error process that became more finely tuned with each pair that was produced. And there have been plenty, as Bradley estimates he now owns “at least 40” pairs of Jordan golf shoes, with more being delivered seemingly every week he plays.

The performance aspects of these shoes still receive periodic tweaks in an attempt to unearth what Smith calls “the perfect pair,” but he’s also employed his artistic background to add some flair to the newer models. This includes fashioning Bradley in footwear with the Jordan brand’s patented “elephant print” amorphic design, which is comprised of various words to help tell his own personal story.

Newer models have included his parents’ names, references to him winning the PGA Championship and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award and some of his favorite Jordan phrases.

“He always tells me: ‘Kill or be killed’. I put that one on there. It’s very MJ," Bradley says.

Meanwhile, Bradley is starting to become nearly as synonymous with the shoes as the man for whom they’re named after.

“Everyone has an opinion – they either love ‘em or really hate ‘em,” he says. “There are a lot of big Jordan guys out here on Tour who love ‘em. There are also guys who think they’re ridiculous and I look stupid. But I think that’s great. Any sort of commotion you can cause is really good.

“Of all the stuff I’ve done, the most recognition I get from fans is about my shoes. It’s insane. Every hole, somebody says something.”

All of which leads to one logical question: What does the man whose name is represented in the shoes think about this development?

“Being creative is all about energy,” Jordan says. “This is how I feel when we talk golf. Working with Mark and Keegan inspires my creativity.”

Those words are akin to a blessing from the pope – the pope of athletic footwear, at least.

Jordan has long known the secret to success, one which he’s now passed down to Bradley. Except there’s not much of a secret. As Mars Blackmon shouted long ago: It’s gotta be the shoes.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.