Tigers Return an Economic 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 in the good news 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 back, and maybe pleasantly surprised that its so early, in a match play event. (Take the chance of going home Wednesday night? Very unTigerish. 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 economic bad 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.
M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead
LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.
Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.
Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.
Marina Alex was second after a 68.
So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.
Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.
Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.
Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36
SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.
He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.
''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''
Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.
They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).
Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.
Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.
Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.
It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.
Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.
The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.
Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.
''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''
The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.
''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.
The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.
Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut
It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.
Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.
When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:
Won't be needing this. pic.twitter.com/xbe9abvCjn— Skratch (@Skratch) April 20, 2018
It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.
Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.
Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.
Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2
RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.
Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.
''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''
On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.
''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.
Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.
''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''
Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.
''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''
Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.
First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.