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.
Sponsored: Callaway's 'Golf Lives: Home Course'
In this original series, Callaway sets out to profile unique golf locations around the country based on their stories, communities and the characters that surround them. The golf cultures across the series are remarkably diverse, yet in all cases it's the course itself that unifies and ignites the passions of those who play.
“Golf Lives: Home Course” focuses on three distinct home courses across the country – one in D.C., one in Nebraska and one in Portland, Ore. All have very different golf cultures, but are connected by a deep love of the game.
Click here for a look at all three series segments, as well as past Golf Lives features.
And here’s a breakdown of the three courses in focus:
Langston Golf Course (Washington, D.C.)
Opened in June 1939, Langston is steeped in a rich history. Known for its triumphant role in the desegregation of public golf, the course has been integral to the growth of the game’s popularity among African Americans. With its celebratory feel, Langston shows us golf is not unifies individuals, but generations.
Edgefield Golf Course (Portland, Ore.)
The air is fresh, the beers are cold and the vibes are electric at Edgefield. You'd be hard pressed to find a more laid back, approachable and enjoyable environment for a round. Overlooking stunning panoramic views of northeast Portland, two par-3 pub courses (12 holes and 20 holes) wind through vineyards, thickets of blackberry bushes and a vintage distillery bar. All are welcome at Edgefield, especially those who have never swung a club.
Wild Horse Golf Club (Gothenburg, Neb.)
In 1997, the locals and farmers living in the tight-knit town of Gothenburg decided to build a golf course. A bank loan, a couple of tractors, and a whole lotta sweat-equity later, their prairieland masterpiece is now considered one of the best in the country. Wild Horse is the soul of the community, providing unforgettable memories for all who play it.
Pepperell likely sews up Masters invite via OWGR
Eddie Pepperell received a trophy for his win Sunday at the British Masters, but another prize will be coming in the mail at the end of the year.
Pepperell held on to win by two shots at rainy Walton Heath, giving him his second win of the year to go along with a pair of runner-ups. The Englishman started the year ranked No. 133 in the world and was as low as 513th in May 2017. But with the win, Pepperell jumped 17 spots to a career-best 33rd in the latest world rankings.
It means that Pepperell, who finished T-6 at The Open while fighting a hangover in the final round, is in line to make his Masters debut next spring, as the top 50 in the world rankings at the end of the calendar year become exempt into the season's first major.
Another player now in the mix for that top-50 exemption is Emiliano Grillo, who went from 62nd to 49th with a T-2 finish at the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic. Grillo has played in two Masters but missed this year's event. Marc Leishman moved up eight spots to No. 16 with his win in Malaysia, while T-2s result moved Chesson Hadley from 75th to 60th and Bronson Burgoon from 162nd to 102nd.
There were no changes among the top 10 in the latest rankings, with Dustin Johnson still ahead of Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy. Francesco Molinari remains in sixth, with Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth rounding out the top 10.
Both Koepka and Thomas are in the field at this week's CJ Cup in South Korea, where they will have an opportunity to overtake Johnson for world No. 1.
With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods stayed at No. 13 for another week.
USGA, R&A unveil new limits on green books
Following a six-week feedback period, the USGA and R&A unveiled a new interpretation of the Rules of Golf and the use of green-reading materials on Monday.
The interpretation limits the size and scale of putting green books and any electronic or digital materials that a player may use to assist with green reading.
“We’re thankful for everyone’s willingness to provide feedback as we worked through the process of identifying a clear interpretation that protects the essential skill of reading a green, while still allowing for information that helps golfers enjoy the game,” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior managing director of governance.
Players will be allowed to continue to use green-reading books beginning in 2019, but the new interpretation will limit images of greens to a scale of 3/8 inch to 5 yards (1:480), and books can be no larger than 4 1/4 inches by 7 inches (pocket-sized). The interpretation also bans the use of magnification devices beyond normal prescription glasses.
The USGA and R&A will allow for hand-drawn notes in green books as long as those notes are written by the player or their caddie. The rule makers also dropped a proposal that would have limited the minimum slope to four percent in green-reading material.
“These latest modifications provide very practical changes that make the interpretation easier to understand and apply in the field,” Pagel said.
CIMB purse payout: Leishman earns $1.26 million
Marc Leishman never let off the gas pedal and cruised to a five-stroke victory at the CIMB Classic. Here's how the purse was paid out at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
|T5||Charles Howell III||-20||$237,300|
|T10||Si Woo Kim||-19||$175,000|
|T13||Byeong Hun An||-18||$122,640|
|T50||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-8||$15,365|
|T54||Ted Potter Jr.||-7||$14,280|
|T59||Davis Love III||-6||$13,720|