AskLav: Mo' money, fewer problems


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.