Speculation abounds with Tiger, Steinberg

By Randall MellMay 27, 2011, 1:51 am

With Mark Steinberg’s split with IMG official and with the company’s announcement of a reorganization of its golf division, the focus is now on Tiger Woods.

IMG has confirmed that Woods is free to leave with the agent who has represented him for a dozen years.

But will Woods leave with Steinberg?

“I'm committed to both, with IMG, and Mark's my agent,” Woods said Tuesday before news broke of Steinberg's departure.

If Madison Avenue laid odds, it would heavily favor Woods leaving with Steinberg. While more than one media outlet is reporting Woods will leave, Woods has yet to confirm he’ll do so.

“With most professional athletes, the relationship with their agent is typically a personal one,” says Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor who specializes in sports at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. “It’s a matter of comfort. I don’t know Tiger Woods or what’s going on in his head, but my instinct tells me if he’s comfortable with Mark Steinberg, he’s going to stay with him. They’ve gone through wars together. If he wasn’t comfortable with him, he wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as he has.”

There’s some speculation within the industry that Steinberg could join Creative Arts Agency if he wanted and take Woods with him, but Zimbalist says industry instincts point away from that.

“My guess is that Mark Steinberg feels like he’s a big enough name that he can start his own agency,” Zimbalist said. “I think it’s reasonable speculation he is going out on his own.”

With Woods in tow, Steinberg has considerable options.

Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing, which represents Phil Simms, Howie Long, Cal Ripken and Nick Faldo, said Steinberg’s decision likely hinged on knowing Woods would join him before he decided to leave IMG. Rosner sees Steinberg with four options:

1. Steinberg could set up his own sports representation/marketing business with Woods as his star client.

2. He could go into business with Woods, striking out on their own as partners.

3. He could join an established, smaller company where Steinberg could negotiate more freedom and power than he had at IMG and benefit from the company's established resources, or could even negotiate part ownership in the company.

4. He could join another large conglomerate.

“My guess is that at this point in his career, Tiger wants more control of his destiny,” Rosner said.

Rosner isn’t privy to the deals Steinberg negotiated for Woods with IMG, but he said IMG would continue to take a percentage of the deals inked under its umbrella through the life of those contracts, unless Steinberg negotiated specific provisions to the contrary, should Woods leave the company.

If not for the scandal that beset Woods, and now the injuries plaguing him, Steinberg might be striking out on one of the richest ventures in sports representation and marketing history.

As it is, Steinberg may be setting up his own shop with a damaged product with an uncertain future.

CNBC reported that IMG financial records showed that Woods lost between $23 million and $30 million in endorsement income last year. Woods lost Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Gillette as sponsors in the wake of personal woes that unfolded in Woods' life late in '09. The Associated Press and CBS Sportsline have reported that Steinberg’s been actively seeking a sponsor for Woods’ golf bag since last fall with no takers yet to his terms. Still, Woods continues to make an estimated $70 million annually in endorsements.

“I don’t think these two are going to go hungry,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, in reference to a new Steinberg/Woods venture.

Swangard said he wasn’t surprised by news of Steinberg’s departure.

“I don’t think it really had anything to do with IMG,” Swangard said. “I suspect it’s just Mark Steinberg thinking he has a better way of doing things.”

A better way to manage Woods even with their new challenges.

“While we would describe Tiger as a distressed product, he’s still a premium brand,” Swangard said. “If you were going to strike out on your own with Tiger Woods, you would be able to do some pretty good things. And being on their own, they’re going to be able to do some things they might not be able to do with IMG, possibly push the envelope as sole proprietors of a business, if they wanted, things IMG might be averse to doing, or things that might conflict with businesses that IMG has.”

Of course, Swangard said the reach of a new Steinberg/Woods business would be linked to Woods' success on the course. Woods hasn’t won a tournament in 18 months. The value and extension of current deals with Nike, EA, Upper Deck and other companies depend on Woods’ success on the course. Woods’ knee and Achilles injuries cloud the picture.

Business decisions are no small matters for athletes who resemble small corporations. Trusting a new business model for a successful professional golfer can be as daunting as trusting a new swing. There’s bound to be new demands and challenges for Woods in changing course with so many uncertainties in his game affecting his business.

While Woods is financially set for life, so much of his legacy hinges on the continued success of his brand.

As rich as Woods is, there’s still pressure to win.

As Woods thrives, so do his business partners and the charitable endeavors linked to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

“I think everyone feels he needs to win soon,” Swangard said. “The core brands maintaining associations with Tiger, led by Nike, are dependent on his ability to be a good golfer. If Tiger isn’t the player he was, there’s clear risk in that.”

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC
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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

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.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.