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.

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”

Amen.


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Web.com Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the Web.com money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.


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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.


Full-field scores from the Honda Classic

Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos


Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).