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Mid-Winter Miscellania and Other Dangerous Thoughts

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I know my desk is under here somewhere
 
- Tiger Woods has put a Nike driver in his bag. Now Iron Watch 2002 begins. Every Thursday, breathless phone callers, without even bothering to identify themselves, ask me, Is he playing them yet? Of course, hes not. But its just a matter of time, right? So if its a foregone conclusion, whats the big deal? Hell win, and soon. (But for what its worth, one Nike insider told me not to take my eyes off The Striped Ones bag.)
 
- By the bye, the real nut of the question is not whether Tigers endorsement will drive sales, but how much.
 
- My money says dont expect to see Titleist, FootJoy or Cobra at the 2003 PGA Merchandise Show. As show costs escalate, parent company Acushnet wont be able to justify the trip. Acushnet will be polling its key accounts this spring.
 
- Speaking of Cobra, the mid-1990s powerhouse is planning an aggressive run at the fair-price market for premium equipment this year. Case in point: An oversized titanium driver for $369.
 
- And speaking of aggressive, watch out for TaylorMade-adidas Golf. Flushed with the tour success of its 300 Series of drivers last year, TMaG now wants to push irons hard. That should make tour pros happy; word was TMaG paid as much as $1,500 tee-up money per week to any player who put a 300 Series club in his bag in 2001. So far, so good for TaylorMade: They claim to have led the PGA Tour count in drivers, irons and fairway woods at Pebble Beach.
 
- Grass gurus met in Orlando this week at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America annual show. If you like great big lawnmowers, sod cutters and clipping vacuums, this is the place.
 
Actually, the supers spend a lot of time discussing how to keep grass under our cleats. A one-hour seminar featuring the superintendents whose course will host majors this year had an overflow crowd.
 
- Never Compromise introduced a new line of putters in the $90 range. Company chief Vikash Sanyal said he recognized that NC was missing a lot of business in that price stratum. He shows the kind of business smarts a lot of bigger companies would want on their teams ' indeed, Sanyal is an Odyssey Golf veteran ' but one wonders if a well-run little putter company can ever hit it big in this rich-get-richer golf economy.
 
- Would it necessarily be a bad thing if small companies could thrive? A big-company-only oligopoly would cut consumer choice; the smaller companies add texture to the industry. Question is, can they pay the bills?
 
- All quiet on the equipment war front ' for the moment. The U.S. Golf Association just finished its annual meetings, at which it installed new president Reed Mackenzie. Among equipment manufacturers, Mackenzie has a hawkish reputation on equipment issues. The man himself insists that fairness and thoroughness are his goals. It will be interesting to see what the next move will be ' and who makes it.
 
- Overseas, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews finally took a stand on the issue of whether the effects of big and/or long clubs need to be studied. Read the memorandum from Rules Secretary David Rickman on the R&A website (www.randa.org) and notice how many times he makes clear that the R&A will move deliberately and listen to manufacturers. Sounds like the R&A is trying to keep tensions from rising any higher than they are.
 
- When I lived in Arlington Heights outside of Chicago, now was about the time of year I would start counting the days until we could tee it up. And just to keep myself sane, I would walk the holes at nearby Palatine Hills Golf Course as the snow melted, thanks to the indulgence of Raul Zaldivar and his staff. Thanks for the memories, guys. May the time be short.