McIlroy gambling with his future regarding new equipment?

By Rex HoggardOctober 30, 2012, 9:23 pm

In the world of mega-endorsement deals this one, at least in newsprint, is Alex Rodriguez – a blockbuster that defies market value and the status quo.

On Tuesday Titleist confirmed it was clearing the air and essentially giving Rory McIlroy an opportunity to take his considerable talents to Beaverton, Ore., home of the Nike empire that has reportedly been wooing the Ulsterman to the tune of a 10-year deal with $20 million a calendar.

For the Acushnet Co., the parent of Titleist, the move has a familiar MO. When Tiger Woods was rumored to be headed for Nike in the late 1990s the company released him early from his endorsement deal and did the same for Phil Mickelson when he signed with Callaway.

Photos: Golf's biggest breakups

“For Titleist to end the contract early is an incredibly intelligent decision,” said Casey Alexander, an analyst with Gilford Securities in New York. “If not, they would be paying a de facto contract for him to endorse Nike products.”

In short, that bridge had been burned. What remains in the void of the Rory sweepstakes is akin to business anarchy, a landscaped filled with questions and concerns and precious few facts.

If the reports are accurate, and there is little reason to think they are not, McIlroy’s marriage with the swoosh would create a powerful combination of the game’s top two endorsers playing for a single global brand. But to what end?

Nike Golf, for all its reach, is not the industry standard bearer when it comes to equipment. Never has been despite more than a decade of dominance by their franchise player Woods.

According to Golf Datatech, consider that Nike had 2.3 percent of the golf ball market share in 2000 when it signed Woods. In 2006 that number had jumped to 11.7 percent and has remained steady since (Nike currently has a 10.1 percent market share of the ball market). Although impressive, it is hardly the commanding presence one would expect.

“Nike could be spending a lot of money on the top two players right now and they suck at selling equipment,” Alexander said. “The apparel and footwear business is where they feel they have their edge.”

So if McIlroy’s reported deal isn’t about moving product – at least not big-ticket items like drivers and iron sets – that leaves only Nike’s brand association with the game’s best, whatever game that may be.

“Nike has always had the No. 1 players in every sport,” said one industry insider.

From Michael Jordan to Roger Federer and, yes, even Lance Armstrong, there is something to be said for being aligned with the best and that, at least fundamentally, seems to be the company’s motivation to pay McIlroy.

The down side, for both McIlroy and Nike, is a failed marriage. He’d hardly be the first Tour type to follow the money to a new bag only to see his game head in the opposite direction from his bank account.

“He has to be very cautious. It’s going to be a dangerous time,” six-time major champion Nick Faldo warned. “The equipment is part of your golf DNA. I would be really careful about that. He’s young and saying to himself he can adapt, but I promise you it will be different.”

Industry insiders estimate that McIlroy, like Woods, would have a “play in” period to adjust to his new equipment but that will mean little if he doesn’t play up to his ridiculously high standards early and often.

“What happens when a player makes an equipment change?” one industry observer asked. “All it takes is a little loss of confidence.”

There is also the question of complacency, or as one equipment representative once told me, “wealth doesn’t breed hunger.” Perhaps Woods’ greatest professional accomplishment, beyond the 74 Tour titles and 14 major championships, is that he was paid handsomely early in his career and yet maintained his competitive hunger.

With $20 million annually in the bank does McIlroy remain fixated on excellence? Given the standard he has set for himself it seems unlikely McIlroy would be impacted by such a large payday, but it is, nonetheless, part of the nuanced concerns when this kind of money is being tossed about.

There is also the question of how a potential Woods-McIlroy marketing campaign would unfold. Nike Golf, unlike Titleist – which markets the brand not the player – is personality driven. How then does the swoosh harmoniously weave together a campaign with a built-in personality disorder?

“When (Woods’) contract comes up and he feels like he’s played second fiddle what happens then?” Alexander asked. “It’s going to be fascinating to watch the interplay of this over the next few years.”

As one industry insider figured early Tuesday McIlroy’s potential move to Nike could be a “game changer,” for the Ulsterman and the industry.

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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 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.