Tiger Boom Hold On
Its the question you can expect to hear muttered over and over among the Chief Felines colleagues, who have enjoyed a respite from his feral competitiveness. Also from the tournament segment of the golf industry ' but theyll say it with a smile, not a grimace. The only possible drawback for them will be the extra work needed to beef up security, media credentialing, parking, and the like.
Oh, and trust me: the electronic media are electrified.
Everybody who loves and/or covers the game, and isnt insane, is glad to see Tiger Woods back, and maybe pleasantly surprised that its so early, in a match play event. (Take the chance of going home Wednesday night? Very un-Tigerish. Come back and enter a tournament if, and only if, you think you can win? VERY Tigerish.) Sure, he has an economic relationship with Accenture, title sponsor of next weeks tilt. But we all know he wouldnt be doing this if he werent up-to-the-brim confident.
But the golf industry as a whole might want to go decaf on its confidence. Hate to be a downer, but it would be foolhardy to hope for too much of an economic spike out of this return. Thats especially true for the equipment industry.
History has shown that the primary beneficiaries when Tiger plays are the people who show it to us. Yes, TV ratings swell up like an injured knee when he plays, and they deflate like a toy balloon when he doesnt. The correlation has been shown too many times for it to be an accident. So next week, it will be NBC and yes, this network, that see the first returns.
The PGA Tour will reap rewards, at least in stature if not in immediate dollars. The knowledge that Tiger has returned and wants to compete will certainly make sponsorship sales ' and in this economy, retention ' less of an uphill climb. The Tour has done a great job of sealing up multi-year sponsorship deals against the flood of bad economic news. But good tidings in the form of Tigers return does a lot to plug the few leaks that were unavoidable ' Ginn Resorts yanking its sponsorships, Stanford Financials chief being suspected of fraud.
How about the rest of golf?
Dont get your hopes up. The economy, of course, is the primary barrier. Judging by the subdued mood at Januarys PGA Merchandise Show, the best most manufacturers are hoping for is to stay where they are. Big profit gains seem unlikely. While there will always be a small segment of the golf-equipment-buying public ' say, 4 to 6 percent ' that can be counted on to try whatever is new in the premium market, such a thin slice does not a golf economy make. For years now, even before the economy tanked, golf has been a near-zero-growth business in which the only way to get anywhere was to steal market share from competitors.
Of course, positive thinking is what drives success, not pessimism. For that reason, companies with the wherewithal to do so have been investigating emerging markets, countries where a growing middle class might be persuaded to spend its new leisure time on sports such as golf. China was the obvious choice, and India has been mentioned. But with the economic crisis that began in the United States creeping across the globe, international expansion plans are likely to slow, at least temporarily.
Here at home, rounds played were down 1.8 percent in 2008 ' not a lot, which is good. But red ink instead of black, which is bad. And golfs consumables, mainly balls, generally sell in lockstep with increases or decreases in rounds played.
But theres another reason we shouldnt expect the hard goods side of golf to benefit much, if at all, from Tigers return. Its this: It didnt happen the first time.
Remember 1996, Milwaukee, and Hello, world? The golf industry was giddy. We heard about rising tides raising all boats, about sports revolutions, about a new, perpetually sunny day. And we waited to count the money.
And then it didnt happen. There was some renewed media attention to the game ' but it focused mainly on Tiger. He was the newsmaker, after all. There was no significant or lasting increase in participation, as had been hoped. Spikes in equipment sales were episodic, almost faddish (Adams Tight Lies, Orlimars early hybrids) and unrelated to Woods. Nike Golf came of age and did well, becoming a power in a very short time. But they had what no one else did: the man himself.
Dont get me wrong. Tiger Woods has been good for golf, very good. Hes been good for sports, for kids (especially his foundation work and its emphasis on education and possibility), for athletics and fitness and inspiration and red-shirted Sunday afternoons. But to attach too broad a hope to even his prodigious power is unrealistic.
You want realistic? Check out the people in this game who have the courage to shift the paradigm of what can be fun in golf. The World Golf Foundations new Get Golf Ready adult development program includes a nine-hole game called PowerPlay Golf. It offers two flags on each green: one risk-reward, the other easier. Its a way to blend the games traditions with some new ways of thinking about how modern Americans want to enjoy sports.
Hmm. Blending respect for tradition with a new way of approaching the game? Sounds like
Yeah. The Returner.
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Watch: Woods uses computer code to make robotic putt
Robots have been plotting their takeover of the golf world for some time.
First it was talking trash to Rory McIlroy, then it was making a hole-in-one at TPC Scottsdale's famous 16th hole ... and now they're making putts for Tiger Woods.
Woods tweeted out a video on Tuesday draining a putt without ever touching the ball:
Coding with my mentee. Combine coding and a little art of green reading and you get YES!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/UTPRTuN79x— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) October 17, 2018
The 42-year-old teamed up with a computer program to make the putt, and provided onlookers with a vintage Tiger celebration, because computers can't do that ... yet.
Woods admits fatigue played factor in Ryder Cup
There was plenty of speculation about Tiger Woods’ health in the wake of the U.S. team’s loss to Europe at last month’s Ryder Cup, and the 14-time major champ broke his silence on the matter during a driving range Q&A at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach on Tuesday.
Woods, who went 0-4 in Paris, admitted he was tired because he wasn’t ready to play so much golf this season after coming back from a fourth back surgery.
“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”
The topic of conversation then shifted to what's next, with Woods saying he's just starting to plan out his future schedule, outside of "The Match" with Phil Mickelson over Thanksgiving weekend and his Hero World Challenge in December.
“I’m still figuring that out,” Woods said. “Flying out here yesterday trying to look at the schedule, it’s the first time I’ve taken a look at it. I’ve been so focused on getting through the playoffs and the Ryder Cup that I just took a look at the schedule and saw how packed it is.”
While his exact schedule remains a bit of a mystery, one little event in April at Augusta National seemed to be on his mind already.
When asked which major he was most looking forward to next year, Woods didn't hesitate with his response, “Oh, that first one.”
Podcast: Fujikawa aims to offer 'hope' by coming out
Tadd Fujikawa first made golf history with his age. Now he's doing it with his recent decision to openly discuss his sexuality.
Last month Fujikawa announced via Instagram that he is gay, becoming the first male professional to come out publicly. Now 27, he has a different perspective on life than he did when he became the youngest U.S. Open participant in 2006 at Winged Foot at age 15, or when he made the cut at the Sony Open a few months later.
Joining as the guest on the latest Golf Channel podcast, Fujikawa discussed with host Will Gray the reception to his recent announcement - as well as some of the motivating factors that led the former teen phenom to become somewhat of a pioneer in the world of men's professional golf.
"I just want to let people know that they're enough, and that they're good exactly as they are," Fujikawa said. "That they don't need to change who they are to fit society's mold. Especially in the golf world where it's so, it's not something that's very common."
The wide-ranging interview also touched on Fujikawa's adjustment to life on golf-centric St. Simons Island, Ga., as well as some of his hobbies outside the game. But he was also candid about the role that anxiety and depression surrounding his sexuality had on his early playing career, admitting that he considered walking away from the game "many, many times" and would have done so had it not been for the support of friends and family.
While professional golf remains a priority, Fujikawa is also embracing the newfound opportunity to help others in a similar position.
"Hearing other stories, other athletes, other celebrities, my friends. Just seeing other people come out gave me a lot of hope in times when I didn't feel like there was a lot of hope," he said. "For me personally, it was something that I've wanted to do for a long time, and something I'm very passionate about. I really want to help other people who are struggling with that similar issue. And if I can change lives, that's really my goal."
For more from Fujikawa, click below or click here to download the podcast and subscribe to future episodes:
Davies takes 2-shot lead into final round of Senior LPGA
FRENCH LICK, Ind. - Laura Davies recovered from a pair of early bogeys Tuesday for a 2-under 70 that gave her a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Senior LPGA Championship as she goes for a second senior major.
In slightly warmer weather on The Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort, the 55-year-old Davies played bogey-free over the last 11 holes and was at 6-under 138. Brandi Burton had a 66, the best score of the tournament, and was two shots behind.
Silvia Cavalleri (69) and Jane Crafter (71) were three shots behind at 141.
Juli Inkster, who was one shot behind Davies starting the second round, shot 80 to fall 11 shots behind.
''I had a couple of bogeys early on, but I didn't panic,'' Davies said. ''I'm playing with a bit of confidence now and that's good to have going into the final round.''
Davies already won the inaugural U.S. Senior Women's Open this summer at Chicago Golf Club.