AskLav: Mo' money, fewer problems

By Ryan LavnerOctober 25, 2012, 5:00 pm

The rumor mill was cranked up to overdrive this week. Did you know that, according to several media outlets, it has been widely reported that there is much speculation from industry sources who have anonymously suggested that Rory McIlroy will sign a 10-year, $250 million endorsement deal with Nike when his contract expires with Titleist, though various people close to the situation – or, you know, at least the guys with knowledge of the discussions – cannot agree precisely when it is supposed to end?

Hey, they teach you early on in j-school to never let facts get in the way of a good story, or something along those lines. Logistical issues aside, we seem to be skimming over the larger point in this hypothetical Rory-to-Nike story: $250 million is a healthy chunk of change. So healthy, in fact, that it would become one of the most lucrative endorsement deals in history.

The number – $250 mil – is a mind-boggling one, no doubt. But it’s not unprecedented. Three times has the $250M threshold been surpassed in sports, but each was a commitment between player and team, not company. 

The first big player contract of this century, of course, was Alex Rodriguez signing with the Texas Rangers, for 10 years, $252 million. 

The lead paragraph in The Associated Press that day: A-Rod has a new nickname: A-Lot.

Adapted for this story, perhaps we might soon see: Golf's new king, Rory is McIl…rollin’.

Oh, whatever. It’s only money. Which reminds me: Tomorrow is payday.

Here are this week’s mailbag questions:

@RyanLavnerGC Do you think Tiger-Rors 'bromance' is a Nike ploy to woo Mop-Top away from Titleist? #AskLav

Popular question, now that the initial shock of a $250M price tag has worn off. Call me naïve, but I think Tiger actually enjoys being around Rory. This is a fascinating time in Tiger’s career – he remains highly competitive on a week-to-week basis, continues to factor in majors (however exasperatingly), but at age 36 and with a creaky body he must soon transition into the role of elder statesman. Like those who before him (Arnie, Jack, Watson, Norman), this, now, is Woods’ chance to graciously usher in the next generation’s dominant player. Could TW have gotten a little nudge from Nike? Could he have been told to embrace Rory a little more? It’s certainly plausible. But if this was all a marketing ruse by Nike, then this much is certain: At the Oscars, there’s a new frontrunner for Best Original Screenplay.

My opinion: @bovanpelt could be the most underrated guy out there. 20/24 cuts, 10 top10s + win at Perth - #asklav, who is your most underrated?

Completely agree. There is no logical explanation for why BVP has won only once on Tour, in 2009 at the now-defunct U.S. Bank Championship. His 10 top-10 finishes this season are tops on Tour. He ranks fifth in total driving, 11th in strokes gained-putting, 16th in scoring average and fourth in the all-around statistic. He’s always a trendy sleeper pick in majors, given his ball-striking prowess, but he has only one top 10 in golf’s biggest events. One of the sport’s great mysteries.

Nobody using a belly putter cracked the strokes gained top 20, but 3 of the last 5 majors were 'belly' wins. Ban or no ban? #asklav

Ah, citing the Webb Simpson Theory, I see, which states that anchorers experience no discernable advantage. I tend to side with Webb on this one, actually. Looking at statistics, we can deduce that anchoring doesn’t make a good putter a great one, but merely allows a poor putter to become an average one. They’re more consistent. Less streaky. (From a purity-of-the-game perspective, well, that’s an entirely different post.) As for the major streak, with three of the past five winners using an anchored putter, that is more coincidence than conundrum. But what do I know? I have a belly putter sitting in my trunk, waiting for its opportunity to resurrect my game.

@RyanLavnerGC #AskLav the main club I struggle with in my bag is my driver! The slice!!! How can I reduce it without lessons?

Watch. More. Golf. Channel. (Disclaimer: I’m getting paid $250 mil to type that.)

#AskLav Give me 3 names to watch out for on Tour in 2013.

Sir, yes sir! You’ve heard of all these guys, sure, but I will continue to herald the emergence of Bud Cauley, whose record in 37 career starts is worth repeating: 15 top 25s, 8 top 10s, a pair of thirds, $2.5 million in earnings. Russell Henley has won three times in 30 career starts on the Tour, a stellar win percentage for a 23-year-old. And I expect 2013 to be a huge comeback year for Jason Day, who this season welcomed his first child and battled various injuries and is still just 24.

Hey @RyanLavnerGC, the next time we play golf how many shots can I expect you to give me? #AskLav

If I say anything other than 12 strokes, which is fair (if not generous), am I at risk of being demoted? No? You sure? OK, good. Twelve it is, then.

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.