Clash of the Titans
Delivered with a bow Tuesday was Callaways gift, a ruling by a federal appeals court upholding an order compelling Titleist to stop U.S. sales of models of its Pro V1 golf balls that violated patents held by Callaway. But Titleist continues to insist that it will eventually prevail in the suit, which began in 2006 and turned dramatically in November, when Callaway won the order to stop Pro V1 sales.
But Acushnet Co., Titleists parent (which also owns the Cobra and FootJoy golf brands), fears no fallout from the decision. The company says that since September, it has been making Pro V1 balls with manufacturing methods that do not violate the patents involved in the lawsuit. Also, even newer Pro V1 models are due out in the first quarter of 2009.
'This decision will not interfere with Titleists ability to continue to manufacture, distribute and sell Pro V1 golf balls, said Joe Nauman, executive vice president, corporate and legal of Acushnet. Acushnet does not believe that the injunction order requires Acushnet to recall any Pro V1 golf balls from retailers, or that retailers are required to return any golf balls to Acushnet. However, Acushnet is prepared to accept returns of non-converted retail inventory if requested by retailers.
By non-converted, Nauman meant balls that had been made with the old manufacturing methods, as opposed to the new way. A limited number of non-converted balls may still be on retailers shelves in 2009, a company statement said. (Converted balls can be identified by a small black or red circular marking or sticker on dozen boxes and sleeves, Acushnet says.)
But Callaway wants to make sure no old balls are still available.
Callaway Golf believes it is time for Acushnet to accept its losses in court and get on with the task of helping retailers clean up their inventories over the next week, said Steve McCracken, senior executive vice president and chief administrative officer of Callaway.
The case, Callaway Golf Co. v. Acushnet Co., filed in 2006, arose from Callaways contention that Titleists Pro V1 balls infringed on a number of golf ball patents. After a December 2007 trial, the jury found all but one of Callaways patent claims to be valid. Callaway owns the patents through its ownership of the Spalding family of golf brands. Spalding filed for the patents in 1999 and 2001; they were granted in 2001 and 2003.
In November, the trial court denied Acushnets motion for new trial and granted Callaway an injunction stopping sales of the patent-violating Pro V1s in the United States as of January 1, 2009. Acushnet appealed the central merits of the case, and asked the federal appeals court to hold up the operation of the no-further-sales injunction pending the outcome of that appeal. A three-judge panel of the appeals court said no in the order that issued Tuesday. The appeal on the meat of the case ' involving the validity of the patents, and whether they should have been issued in the first place ' will continue.
If either party wants to continue to the next level after this appeal, the only court left is the highest ' the Supreme Court of the United States. As of Christmas Eve, neither party will predict its desire to continue should the appeal go wrong for them.
Beyond the exchange of legal artillery shells, some industry insiders (all speaking on condition of anonymity) see the real conflict as an effort to flatten the steeply tilted golf ball battlefield. Depending on how you measure it, and whether domestic or global, Titleist owns as much as 70 percent of the golf ball market, or at least 60 percent.
Callaway, which got into the business as the century turned, has worked its way into golfer consciousness by focusing on brand-building and innovation ' all the while chased by powerhouses Nike and Bridgestone, both of whom have similar goals. Still, neither Callaway nor those competitors has been able to displace Titleist, even though some of the chasers have at times managed to push their market share into double-digit percentages.
The patent conflict may be the best example of the best offense being a good defense. A bedrock principle of patent law is that a holder of intellectual property must defend it thoroughly, not selectively ' otherwise, the holder could lose or suffer diminishment of those hard-won rights. Callaway no doubt concluded it had no choice but to defend the Spalding patents. Its defense, which has taken on all the attributes of an attack against the market leaders marquee product, may change that market ' if not so much in percentage points, then perhaps in perception. After all, if the leading players leading innovation can be found susceptible to a legal attack in a tight patent universe ' is there any room left for anyone to innovate in golf balls?
The golf equipment industry ' particularly its strongest brands ' has always found a way to reinvigorate its products, and therefore its brand-loyal public. How it will do so when the smoke has cleared from this battle of the titans, will be one of the big stories of 2009.
Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.
The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.
Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.
Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.
Third-round tee times for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.
Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.
Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.
Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.
Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.
4:15AM ET: Gavin Green
4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed
4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose
4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton
4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley
5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner
5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson
5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)
5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood
5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello
6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford
6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma
6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele
6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood
6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na
6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin
7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim
7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira
7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters
7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li
7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker
7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink
8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook
8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris
8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim
8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari
8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson
8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell
9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka
9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott
9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren
9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone
9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett
10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler
10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell
10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau
10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen
10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele
10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood
11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson
Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.
He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.
“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.
At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.
Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.
“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”
Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?
Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.
Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.
“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”
Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.
Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.
“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.
More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.
“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”