Tiger the Agent and the Agency
“Who’s coming with me? Who’s coming with me?” he wails as the room falls silent, not a single one offering up their services.
He is left holding only a purloined goldfish, until a lone person rises from a desk and accepts the proposal. Tiger Woods, wearing a walking boot on his left leg and brandishing crutches, meekly answers, “I will go with you.”
OK, so real life may not imitate 'Jerry Maguire' and Steinberg may not have had Woods at hello, but he has worked as the sole agent for him since 1999. Now out as the head of IMG’s global golf division, most ensuing discussions will be centered around whether the client will follow his representative out the door of the famed agency.
For the past dozen years, Steinberg has not only been the man behind Woods, but the man behind his brand – for better or worse. He was there when Tiger won the last 13 of his 14 major championship titles and there when he endured ridicule during a highly publicized scandal 18 months ago.
Since then, Woods has experienced uncertainty in both his personal and professional life. He may now be about to experience uncertainty in his business life, as well – and don’t underestimate the importance of that piece to the entire puzzle.
The juicy part of this story is about the relationship between the two men and whether it will continue. About eight hours prior to the announcement that Steinberg was leaving IMG, Woods reaffirmed his commitment to both the agent and the agency. He will now have to choose only one.
There is so much more at play here, though; so many moving parts in the scenario. Steinberg was once described by Wall Street Journal as “amongst the three or four most powerful people in golf.” Sure, that had plenty to do with his relationship to Tiger, but it had just as much – if not more – to do with the fact that he oversaw the entire golf division for IMG.
How far is that reach? The agency either owns and operates or has a consulting relationship with more than 40 golf tournaments worldwide, from heavy hitters on the PGA Tour to a bevy of big-time events on the European Tour to a joint venture that allows it to run 10 tourneys on the Asian Tour.
Dating to Mark McCormack’s founding of the agency, the IMG influence in the sport has been unprecedented and unrivaled. In recent years, Steinberg was the man responsible for it all. He was the decision maker and in every facet of the business, to proffer a cliché, the buck stopped with him.
Insiders will contend, however, that recently he had become too “Tiger-centric,” his responsibilities toward the former No. 1-ranked player surpassing his role as head of the division. The message from IMG offices in the aftermath is that in light of the previous situation, many others were helping to carry that load, the contention being that IMG Golf is bigger than just one person.
The division will now enter a new era, with longtime vice chairman Alastair Johnston continuing to oversee the business, joined by new co-heads Guy Kinnings in London and Robbie Henchman in Singapore.
While Woods’ impending future is the main topic of interest in the short term, there will be bigger and perhaps more important effects of Tuesday’s news in the long run.
With so much influence and power within the game, it will be worth watching how IMG continues to handle its current global business strategies. Employees of the agency maintain that while there will be an “adjustment period,” they should be able to keep the status quo for now.
And yet, in this ever-evolving golf landscape, there really is no status quo. From new tournaments on the PGA Tour to a growing popularity on the European and Asian tours, the game is always malleable and moving in new directions.
The most conspicuous domino that will fall in the wake of Steinberg leaving IMG is that of Woods’ impending future – whether he decides to remain with his longtime agent or agency. That is hardly the only domino, however. It may be both gradual and nebulous, but this move will have repercussions in the golf world well beyond that of a relationship between one player and his representation.
Follow Jason Sobel on Twitter @JasonSobelGC
Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome
Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)
The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...
And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.
Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas
He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.
Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.
Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.
In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.
Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.
Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.
Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic
Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double
Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open
Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open
Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row
Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow
Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship
The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ
Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year
And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season
Photo Galleries: Best of ...
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com counted down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below. And click here for the full collection of articles.
Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.
The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.
They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.
Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.
Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.
Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.
''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''
The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.
In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''
Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.