Firms Align Tour Resources Fight Golf Ball Wars
RE-AIMING THE ARTILLERY: Promises by Callaway Golf and others to pump up their golf ball counts on the pro tours have the market leader preparing for battle. Look for Titleist to adjust its endorsement strategy in coming weeks, especially on the LPGA Tour and the Champions Tour.
We didnt declare war, said Titleist chief Wally Uihlein, but we have no choice but to counterattack on all tours.
Defense of its high weekly ball use by pros, as well as tough business conditions, has prompted Titleist to offer less than full-line endorsements to players who previously carried Titleist clubs and bags. Karrie Webb, Kelly Robbins, Dottie Pepper and Deb Richard will all be offered less lucrative ball-shoe-glove (and perhaps cap) deals for next season. No word yet on who will accept and who will move on, but such cutbacks often chase players away. Expect only Pepper and Richard to remain from the above quartet, say inside sources.
On the Champions Tour, Jay Sigel, Allen Doyle and Lanny Wadkins will be offered narrower deals along the lines of what the ladies will see. Tom Kite, who has some time left on his current deal, will remain a full-line Titleist endorser. But you wont see Hale Irwin playing Titleist sister brand Cobra; that label is looking for a younger, edgier image.
Titleist will probably end up spending more on tour next year than this year, despite business conditions, but the concentration will be more heavily on golf balls.
Rumors hover around Callaway Golf like butterflies around a flower this time of year, but the company will neither confirm nor deny whispers that it plans to cut its LPGA staff to Annika Sorenstam, Rachel Teske and Kelli Kuehne. Callaways current staff includes those three and Alison Nicholas, Emilee Klein, Jane Geddes, Jill McGill, Leta Lindley, Liselotte Neumann and Rosie Jones. Insiders say Callaway is hammering out its player strategies on all tours this week.
USGA DISTRIBUTES FALL GRANTS: The autumn meeting of the U.S. Golf Association grants committee yielded 43 grants to programs in 26 states. More than $1.1 million went to game-growth initiatives, bringing the USGA grant total to more than $5.5 million this year.
Among the recipients from the fall meeting: The Boys & Girls Club of Central Georgia ($100,000), the Butler County (Pa.) Family YMCA ($16,000), the Mescalero Apache Tribe Recreation Dept. ($1,725) and the Mississippi Community Development Corp. ($75,000).
Schauffele just fine being the underdog
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.
Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.
Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”
Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.
“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”
Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1
Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.
So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.
Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.
Jordan Spieth: 7/4
Xander Schauffele: 5/1
Kevin Kisner: 11/2
Tiger Woods: 14/1
Francesco Molinari: 14/1
Rory McIlroy: 14/1
Kevin Chappell: 20/1
Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1
Alex Noren: 25/1
Zach Johnson: 30/1
Justin Rose: 30/1
Matt Kuchar: 40/1
Webb Simpson: 50/1
Adam Scott: 80/1
Tony Finau: 80/1
Charley Hoffman: 100/1
Austin Cook: 100/1
Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.
One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.
McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.
“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”
McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.
“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”
Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.
Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.
“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”
One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.
After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.
“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”
Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.
This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.
“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”