Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike GV jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore - a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter (me) and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
The assignment given to me by Golf Channel ' create a reporters first person video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.
Pivotal moments in lifeweve all had those. We store those memories up, good and bad, and they last a lifetime. The first time you tasted lobster, your first kiss, the first time you drove a car, your first eagle, your first hole-in-one, the first time you interviewed Tiger Woodssay what!!! Yeah, I said it ' to myself, that is. I said, Self, youre about to interview Tiger Woods. Dont mess it up.
Casey: Are we ready for a mic check? Good. Oh, Im so happy to be here with Tiger. And gosh, I hope Tiger invites me to play Isleworth cause I only live three miles away
Tiger: Do you really? Well, you can play Windermere Golf Center.
Casey: Oh great. Thanks. OK, were ready?
Tiger: Casey Kasemgo for it.
Casey: Tiger, Nikes Whistle Stop Tour extravaganza. What do you make of it?
Tiger: Its a little busy. And its a big deal. Obviously, were trying to gain awareness with what we are trying to do with our new drivers and I think Nike is doing a very good job of that.
Casey: Youve seen Nike go from a position of no golf ' literally, they were not in golf ' to becoming a leader in the golf industry. Has it been interesting for you to be part of watching them kick their considerable resources in to play to make this golf division happen?
Tiger: Its been very interesting and it started from the top. Phil Knight made it an initiative and said that he was going to put his effort in to Nike Golf. Well, there was Nike and then there was this little golf section over here. He said, no, were going to make it in to Nike Golf. And when it comes from the top like that ' when it comes from Phil ' as driven as Phil is hes going to make it happen. Over the ten years Ive been involved its been remarkable to see the transformation that has occurred. We were barely in the apparel and shoe business. We werent in the hard goods business. Now were in balls, clubs, bags, gloves, apparel, shoesyou name it, were in it. And we are a leader. Thats pretty exciting.
Casey: To see Nike as a brand ' one of the biggest brands in the world ' mobilize itself to make golf happen largely on your back. Do you feel a responsibility to help Nike get where they want to go in golf?
Tiger: I do feel a responsibility. But, really, its been symbiotic. Ive been fortunate enough to help them along the way but theyve really helped meworking with different fabrics and technologies to help me perform better on the golf course. Weve been lucky that Nike is such an enormous company so that all the technologies that the other divisions haveweve been able to take advantage of some of that and make it applicable to golf. Also, working with our team to develop new golf balls and new clubs is something that has allowed me to elevate my game and at the same time allowed consumers to elevate their games. So its been a lot of fun for both sides.
Casey: The Nike tour reps tell me you are actually one the easiest guys on the Nike staff to take care of. You know what you want and you tend to stick with the equipment youre comfortable with. Yet, Nike Golf is driven by innovation. Are you are comfortable with the process of testing new equipment?
Tiger: Innovation is the life blood of any golf company. So I will always be testing new equipment. But, I wont put a new product in my bag unless its better. Plain and simple. If it helps me win golf tournaments Ill put it in the bag. If its the same as what I have or not as good its not going in the bag. When Nike brings me something new there is usually a testing process to find something better than what I already have. I have always believed in this. When I was a little kid I always thought of my clubs as fourteen friends in my golf bag. I dont want one stranger in my golf bag. I have to have all fourteen as my friends because I have to rely on them at any given time to execute. So there cant be any strangers in the bag.
Casey: Are you optimistic about Nikes future in golf?
Tiger: Very. I am very optimistic. I was skeptical early on because there wasnt a directive from the top. But as soon as Phil sat me down and said, here, this is what were doingeverybody got fired up at Nike. And not just Nike Golf, but at Nike as a whole. All of a sudden people knew we were going to make this happen and low and behold here we are. Its going to be very exciting to see over the next ten years what happens and yes, I am very optimistic.
Hey, now, that wasnt so tough. Tigers like a regular guy. Well, sort of. Anyway, he was cool. I cant speak highly enough of how Tiger conducted himself. Not just with me but with everyone I saw him talk to. In my opinion he is the genuine article and what you see is what you get; a fierce competitor on the golf course and a fine human being and gentleman off the golf course. A model for all of our superstar athletes to follow.
That was it for Tiger and Los Angeles. We were next met by the former world number one, David Duval. Nike flew David in from his home in Denver to join us in Los Angeles and we all boarded the Nike Jet together en route to Scottsdale.
I know Im sounding a bit like a broken record here but I cant help it. When I meet nice, genuine people thats what I have to report. Duval, like Tiger, was incredibly friendly. Hes a little quieter maybe, more reserved, but he carries himself every bit as much like a true professional and gentleman. Someone the game of golf can be proud of.
The GV jet reached cruising altitude in a hurry. Allison served us a nice lunch. Everyone chatted away. Captain Blair and first officer Keith were all about smooth flying and getting us where we needed to be on time. There were a bunch of people at TPC Scottsdale waiting for Duval and the Nike Whistle Stop Tour to arrive.
I was really looking forward to talking with David Duval and watching him crush driver. Ive always loved his swing. Dont you just love Duvals swing? Hey, that roast beef sandwich looks good. I think Ill have one of those.