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.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.


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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.


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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''


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J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the Web.com more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''