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What the Masters Ball Proposal Really Means

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SPECIAL BALL FOR THE MASTERS?: Its all over the golf and mainstream media: Augusta National Golf Club, which presents The Masters Tournament, is considering controlling the length of invitees drives by insisting that they use a uniform, limited-distance golf ball.
 
Before anyone gets too excited, lets see this announcement for what it really is. Masters chairman Hootie Johnson and his colleagues dont say things lightly. If push came to shove, they would do it. As a private club answerable to no particular golf organization, Augusta National could do what it pleases, and would. The club feels it has done all it can with the real estate by lengthening the course by 285 yards. If players are still hitting short irons into greens that architect Alister MacKenzie meant to receive longer shots, the club will consider itself backed into a corner and forced to limit the length of tee shots.
 
But thats not whats really happening here. Sources close to the Masters say that between the lines of Johnsons announcement is the desire for golfs ruling bodies to get off the dime on the golf ball issue.
 
The U.S. Golf Association is working on a new overall distance standard to replace the one developed in 1975, but it could be months before the regulation comes out. And its unlikely the number would be less than the current standard of 291.2 yards of carry and roll (plus a 2 percent measurement tolerance) when a ball is tested on USGA equipment. In other words, balls may not get longer, but they wont get shorter ' and that doesnt solve Johnsons problem.
 
In any event, say sources close to the Masters, nothing would change for this years tournament.
 
Nobody in the sport argues with the idea that uniform rules would be best. But Johnsons call for some sort of golf ball regulation is the second equipment-concern announcement this year from a major tournament power. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has publicly stated he may need to make special PGA Tour rules if the USGA and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews Cant get together on spring-like effect of drivers, probably with the same goading intent as Johnson. But Finchem, too, can be counted on to walk the walk should the need arise.
 
And if it does, presumably manufacturers would be given specs to adhere to. And that begs the question: Who will watch over their shoulders in the plant? And if the ball is to be vanilla no matter who cooks it up why should the manufacturers even do it?
 
NICE BALANCE SHEET, EH?: Annual results look strong for ClubLink, Canadas largest owner, operator and developer of high-end golf clubs and resorts. In 2001, revenue was up to Can$118.2 million ($74.78 million) from Can$105.7 million ($68.67 million) in 2000. The company got to keep a fair amount of it, too. Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was Can$36.7 million ($23.22 million) in 2001, versus Can$25.4 million ($16.07 million) in 2000.
 
ClubLink shareholders will now get semiannual dividends. The first, Can$.05 ($.03) per share, will be paid in May.
 

TMaG POSTS NUMBERS: A mostly-metalwood year lifted TaylorMade-adidas Golf annual revenues 24 percent, the company said, from $386.6 million in 2000 to $477.8 million in 2001. Parent company adidas doesnt break out the exact numbers, but TMaG operating profit is up 43 percent year to year, the golf division said.
 
TMaG credits the 300 Series of titanium woods with the market penetration that led to the big numbers, as well as the good reception for the 200 Series, which are made of stainless steel. TMaG spent heavily in 2001 to get a foothold on the PGA Tour with the 300s; this year theyre following a similar plan for irons.