McIlroy Nike rumors are premature

By Jason SobelOctober 28, 2012, 9:58 pm

Here's a wicked little social experiment for the next time you find yourself on the driving range at a PGA Tour event: Stand on one end of the facility and within earshot of Tour types – players, caddies, agents, equipment reps, etc. – casually drop a hot little rumor in their direction. Then sit back and watch as it trickles down the range, concluding at the other end with the words and message distorted like that old whisper-down-the-lane children’s game.

This exercise isn't meant to paint the world's best golfers – and their entourages – as gossip hounds. It's simply human nature to want to pass along juicy information to the next guy and invariably common for that information to be misinterpreted the further it travels.

All of which leads us to those persistent Rory McIlroy-to-Nike rumors, which have already traveled thousands of miles around the globe as part of one giant game of whisper-down-the-lane.

In this instance, the communication process may mirror that of the driving range experiment, its message twisted and distorted with each whisper. Or maybe it’s come through crystal clear, passed from one messenger to the next with astonishingly unhindered aplomb.

Here is what we do know: Speculation is running rampant that McIlroy will soon sign a 10-year/$250 million contract to adorn the conspicuous swoosh logo.

Here is what we don’t know: Everything.

Despite the worldwide gossip, there are really only three parties with inside knowledge of any potential deal and possible negotiations – Camp McIlroy, Camp Nike and Camp Titleist, his current equipment sponsor. Unlike a player in another sport leaving through free agency, Rory must also negotiate through the manufacturer with whom he’s currently under contract. And – surprise, surprise – none of them are talking right now, not even enough to lend credence to the rumors.

“I have my management company deal with endorsements and everything like that,” McIlroy said prior to this week’s BMW Masters. “I’m just here to concentrate on golf this week, and I’ve got enough to think about trying to get that ball in the hole. So no further comment on that.”

As for Nike, a spokesperson maintained via email that, “We are not going to comment on rumors or speculation.”

There’s plenty of speculation to not be commented on, too. For months, the Internet message boards have been buzzing with conjecture about McIlroy joining Woods in Nike’s stable, with mainstream media outlets quickly joining in the race to make such a connection.

Since then, every little inner machination involving one or both has developed into some sort of signal that it’s going to happen, according to the conspiracy theorists. Tiger and Rory turn their friendship into a full-blown bromance? Must be because the former is trying to recruit the latter. Nike drops its longtime sponsorship of Lance Armstrong in the wake of his banishment from professional cycling? Must be because it's freeing up more cash for McIlroy.

There's an old axiom which easily speaks to such flammable situations: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. In other words, if there was nothing to this speculation, it probably wouldn’t have arisen in the first place.

Even this theory, though, can be debated in the current scenario.

In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with multiple industry insiders who claim that McIlroy-to-Nike is a done deal, they’re just waiting for the ink to dry while his management team ties up loose ends with prior sponsorship obligations. I’ve also spoken with multiple industry insiders who claim that much like a benign fender-bender, we should move along because there’s nothing to see here, these sources steadfast in their contention that a deal is not imminent.

Whom should we believe? Well, those with the most information, of course. The only problem is that those with the most information – Camp McIlroy, Camp Nike and Camp Titleist, remember – are also the ones who aren’t talking, leading to a vicious cycle of nothingness, the proverbial dog chasing its tail.

It leaves the rest speculating about rumors and gossip, reluctant pawns in a game of whisper-down-the-lane that has transfixed a global golf community hungry for answers. Sometimes the process can yield the correct result at the other end of the line, but with so many rampant hypotheses, it’s important to remember that miscommunication and misinterpretation are often a major factor in this game.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

 

 

Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.