'DOUBLE D' GOES SWOOSH: While you were taking a well-deserved holiday break from golf news, David Duval is said to have suspended a pen over a new endorsement deal with burgeoning golf power Nike Inc. As of this writing, Duval's pen continues to hover above a deal that would have him wearing Nike clothes, headwear, gloves, shoes and carrying a Nike bag. When Nike clubs come along, he would play those too, sources say. (Nike won't comment on pending negotiations as a matter of company policy, and Charley Moore, Duval's agent, has not returned calls.)
The value of the deal is still a secret, but sources say $50 million over five years is not out of the question. But the significance of the change goes beyond the issue of what Duval and Moore would reap.
Duval's possible change comes with three years left on his endorsement deal with Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide, whose logo he has sported head-to-toe since his rise to prominence on the PGA Tour. The urban legend is that when Duval returned from his recent back injury, he started wearing Nike shoes instead of his usual FootJoys, and that things snowballed from there. It was likely more involved than that, but it may be that the shoes provided (pardon me here) a foothold for Nike.
Duval is the latest casualty for Titleist in Nike's endorsement blitzkrieg. It took an earnest one-on-one with Titleist chief Wally Uihlein to persuade Davis Love III not to jump ship when Nike came calling with a truckload of money, sources say. And Nike had expressed interest in Jesper Parnevik, who recently decided to stick with Titleist.
Titleist has not been above a little raiding of its own. It stole solid ball advocate Mark O'Meara from Spalding Sports Worldwide, where he had been hawking Strata balls effectively, just in time to add to the momentum of the new, solid-core Titleist Pro V1 ball.
Although Duval contributed significantly to the Titleist identity, Love would have been a worse loss. Duval will probably end up making one last contribution: Sources say he is in some television commercials that have not yet been used; chances are he will have to reimburse Titleist for production costs before he can be free of the current deal.
Expect Nike Golf, fully supported by the $9.1-billion-per-year sporting good juggernaut that owns it, to continue to try to poach big names. And expect Titleist to work hard to stand up to the combative challenge.