Spieth, Under Armour a perfect match

By Rex HoggardSeptember 16, 2015, 6:44 pm

BALTIMORE – For the better part of the work day on July 20, the vast majority of Under Armour’s workforce was glued to a massive TV screen that stretched two stories high in the company’s space-age cafeteria.

Jordan Spieth - Under Armour’s Jordan Spieth - was closing in on the third leg of the single-season Grand Slam at the Open Championship and the Monday finish at St. Andrews had transformed a normally quiet day at UA headquarters into a frenzy of excitement and opportunity.

“It was crazy,” recalls Ryan Kuehl, the company’s senior director of golf. “Nobody could stop watching it.”

Spieth came up a few rotations short in that historic bid, finishing a stroke out of the playoff that was eventually won by Zach Johnson, but the 22-year-old had already made history for himself and the emerging athletic-wear company.

It was a similar defeat when Kuehl and Under Armour first started to realize the impact Spieth would have on a company that had enjoyed plenty of success in the team sports category but was still relatively new to the golf market.

“It was Augusta last year when he lost,” Kuehl said of Spieth’s runner-up showing at the 2014 Masters. “The impact of that was like, whoa, not only from a cash register perspective in the golf business, but just from the brand.”

For Kuehl, who played eight seasons as a defensive lineman in the NFL before going to work for Under Armour, Spieth is the quintessential franchise player, talented and competitive with enough humility to resonate with fans.

This is, after all, the same player who declined to talk about his humility earlier this year because, well, that wouldn’t be humble, and regularly answers questions with the rejoinder, “We had a good game plan.”

“People saw the power that if you can get a guy who looks, talks and walks like that to represent your brand on that type of stage, the impact of that, we've never felt before,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl signed Spieth to his original endorsement deal in January 2013 after convincing Under Armour CEO and founder Kevin Plank that Spieth possessed that rare combination of competitiveness and Q score.

“I sat with Kevin, I told him, ‘He's the Bryce Harper of golf,’” Kuehl recently said over lunch at Under Armour’s sprawling campus along the shores of the Patapsco River.

Spieth now shares space with Harper, the all-star outfielder for the Washington Nationals, and Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors’ guard and last year’s NBA MVP, on an enormous wall mural that greets guests when they arrive at the company’s campus.

Spieth's appeal is what prompted Kuehl to cancel the last two years of Spieth’s original deal and re-sign him to a new 10-year contract in January.

Although details of the new deal weren’t announced, like most contracts it is heavily incentive-based depending on his play in the majors – Spieth won the season’s first two Grand Slam starts at the Masters and U.S. Open – and his position on the Official World Golf Ranking, where he has been trading the top spot with Rory McIlroy the last month.

For a company that has grown its presence in golf at a measured pace – Hunter Mahan was the first Tour player the company signed to an endorsement deal in 2003 – it was a bold move considering that at the time Spieth had one Tour victory (2013 John Deere Classic) and was ranked ninth in the world.

But the potential for a massive payoff became clear to UA executives following Spieth’s runner-up showing at the 2014 Masters.

“We signed him in January of ’13, and we've almost tripled [golf product sales], so that gives you an idea, by the end of this year,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl declined to give specific sales figures, but the “Jordan effect” could be felt at UA headquarters as early as February when the company discovered it wouldn’t be able to meet demand for pant sales for the fall. “We were trying to figure out, how do we get our partners more pants,” he said.

Even as the company watched Spieth come up short on Monday at St. Andrews, his impact on the bottom line, to say nothing of the company’s growing influence in golf, could be felt.

“The storm sweater fleece he wore at the British [Open], it was a gray piece with borders on it - we sold out of grey on Monday morning,” Kuehl said.

Kuehl said the company has no immediate plans to get into the golf club business, instead focusing on what it considers its core accessory and apparel line like the launch of the third iteration of Spieth’s own golf shoe in the spring.

“I'm very involved,” Spieth said earlier this year when asked about his shoe line, and Kuehl added that it’s not unusual for Spieth to spend five hours a day going over product samples during his regular visits to Under Armour.

If Spieth’s heartbreak at the 2014 Masters set the tone for what was possible, it was his historic victory in April at Augusta National that solidified everything Under Armour thought they knew about Spieth.

“I think Kevin [Plank] said it after the Masters: ‘We grew up today,’” Kuehl said.

It seems both Spieth and UA’s golf division came of age in 2015.

Getty Images

Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

Getty Images

Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

Getty Images

Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

Getty Images

Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.