E-Mail Bag Overflows After Mickelson Story
As you probably know by now, Mickelson and Titleist mutually agreed last week to end his $4 million-per-year deal 16 months early after a reported renegotiation attempt failed. Early this week, Mickelson signed a greater-than-five-year deal with Callaway Golf, presumably for more than he was getting from Titleist. Mickelson has some of the Callaway gear in his new Callaway bag for this weeks Bell Canadian Open.
I get e-mails after almost every opinion column, some agreeing, others critical. But the volume of this mail, responding only to a couple of straightforward news stories, was off the charts. I stopped counting at 400.
Here are some samples (some were signed, others werent):
Do people really buy product based on what a pro says? Come on! He had a deal with one company he touted as the best, wanted a better deal even though he had signed a contract, walked away from that sponsor 16 months early, and now, a week later he says use this new product, its the best.honest!
There were plenty of others who disposed of the issue by doubting the real value of endorsements, but even more who hewed to the idea of the sanctity of a contract.
I guess Phil thinks he's a pro basketball or football player now. Titleist carried his sorry tail when he was playing up and down for three years, probably never missing a payment, and now that hes playing great and [just when] they can get a return on the $12 million they've already spent, he wants to renegotiate. Boy, what a truly class act Phil turned out to be. All he needs now is tattoos from head to toe to make the transition complete. ' Terry from Texas
Not everyone was as harsh as Terry. But there were a lot of echoes of the above.
The very least I would have expected from Phil would be to see his existing contract out; sportsmen are supposed to be role models. Demonstrations of honour, integrity and courage are what the world needs from its role models, not greed, greed and more greed. ' Justin Henzie
Just thought golf was maybe still above some of the contract shenanigans we see in other pro sports, with players holding out and wanting to renegotiate because of one good year. A contract is a contract. I wonder what Phil would have done if Titleist wanted to renegotiate his contract because of his poor play last year? Also, why change your equipment when playing so well? He's playing with fire.
Most fans of the sport are not impressed with athletes who demand renegotiation of their contracts on the basis of one good year. Did Titleist demand to renegotiate when Phil had a non-winning year in 2003? He should have seen his contract through. Also, Phil has played the best golf of his life with Titleist equipment. How many players have switched equipment, only to falter badly after doing so? Now, next year when Phil comes up short in a few events, everyone (including him) will be wondering if the equipment or balls had something to do with it. From the gallery, it just doesn't seem like this was the right time to do this. ' Dave Jarvis, Syracuse, N.Y.
Looks like somebody is being greedy. He didn't seem to mind getting his 4 million a year when he wasn't winning the Masters, but now in mid-stream he can just demand more money. I thought professional golfers had more class than the typical NFL, MLB, or NBA stars! ' Paul Abdullah, Jacksonville, Fla.
As for me I am going out and buying new Titleist clubs this week and will never put a Callaway product in my bag again. ' Tim Johnson Tampa, Florida
Some were worried about Leftys timing:
Well...why not? After all, he finally got his game to where he used common sense and started winning. Why not go to a different company 16 months before you need to and have to go through the process of starting all over again; isn't that the way Phil operates, outside the box of common sense? What will he do next, start hitting his driver on every par 4 again? It's like, 'Lookie, I can hit a ball 320 yards! Maybe out of play, but look what I can do!' I like Phil a lot but have we not come to expect this type of behavior from him? I can't believe he'd pull a stunt like this just before the Ryder Cup. Yes I can. ' Michael Dent
Others took a more economic view:
We must remember these golf guys are independent contractors. They are self-employed. No play no pay. Any kind of muscular/skeletal injury or illness can mean end of career. Professional sports is not a game. It is a business. So the professionals must look out for their best interests first. I don't see this as greed, but good business tactics. Any business person should be doing the same to protect their interests and further the opportunities of their company. ' Jack Viskil, San Diego
And some insisted that Titleist, not Phil, bungled the situation:
I really think Titleist has made a huge mistake! Phil is THE poster boy for a great brand.
Thought they learned their lesson the last time they let Sign Boy go.
Some were just disheartened:
I suppose the real reason I am sad is I don't like to have my fantasy bubble burst, particularly by one of the players in my fantasy. ' Sadly, Guy Howard
What does all this say about big-time golf? Perhaps only that even in an election year, in a country at war, with baseball heating up and football getting started, people still find time to make themselves heard about golf and golfers. And this website is a golf fan destination, so perhaps its not surprising that the response was so voluminous.
But what if it says something else? Many of these people held golf above other sports in a moral sense; the PGA Tour and other organizations have been capitalizing on that esteem with sponsors for years now. But how about the guy who wont buy Callaway now? Or the one for whom endorsements are meaningless because of the effect of players switching?
And how about the one who was such a Mickelson fan that hes downright sad? The intimations that Mickelsons behavior, or that of his handlers, was unworthy of an honorable game?
It doesnt matter whether the allegations contained in the questions above are true or not. The real issue is, what will be the effect of people thinking those allegations are true?
Golf may never be like Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Football League. But if people believe it can be, the damage, whatever it will be, is done.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr
Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.
Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.
While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.
“It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”
Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.
“I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”
Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close
CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.
McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.
“I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”
The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.
“There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”
He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.
“I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”
Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence
CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.
Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.
Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.
It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.
“If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”
Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.
“It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection
CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.
Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.
Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.
“It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”
Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.
“I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”
Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.
“If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”