Tiger the Whistle Stop Tour Pt 1
Heres a recipe we havent seen before. Take the following key ingredients: one Nike G-5 jet, four cities in 48 hours, three PGA TOUR stars - Tiger Woods, David Duval and Jason Gore - a number of key Nike Golf executives, five print journalists, one television reporter and the launch of two new Nike drivers. Mix thoroughly. The result? Nikes Whistle Stop Tour (WST); a media junket extravaganza that, even by Nike standards, is unprecedented.
This was our itinerary:
Monday, November 27
Arrival of various WST participating media ' The Golf Channel interviews Bob Wood at Nike HQ
7:00 ' 10:00 pm Dinner with WST media, Bob Wood, Cindy Davis, Beth Gast and Tom Stites
Tuesday, November 28
6:15 am Group meets in Portland hotel lobby for transfer to Hillsboro airport
7:00 am Corporate jet departs for Los Angeles
7:45 am Breakfast on the plane
8:45 am Arrive L.A. ' Hawthorne Airport
9:05 am Product presentation and Tiger Woods press conference in hanger
9:45 am Tiger hits Sumo driver on airport runway
9:55 am Media hits Sumo and Sumo drivers on runway
10:20 am One-on-one interviews with Tiger Woods (Golf Channel 12:05 ' 12:15)
1:00 pm David Duval arrives at Hawthorne Airport
1:30 pm Nike jet departs for Scottsdale with WST passengers and David Duval
3:20 pm Arrive in Scottsdale ' ground transfer to TPC Scottsdale
3:30 pm Product presentation and David Duval press conference
4:00 pm David Duval hits Sumo driver on driving range
4:30 pm Media hits Sumo and Sumo on driving range
4:45 pm Golf Channel interview with David Duval
5:30 pm Hotel check-in, Scottsdale
6:45 pm Jason Gore meets WST passengers in hotel lobby, group transfer to dinner
7:00 pm Group dinner
9:00 pm Return to Scottsdale hotel ' end of scheduled day
Wednesday, November 29
6:30 am Group meets in hotel lobby for transfer to airport
6:45 am Nike jet departs for Teterboro Airport, New Jersey
8:00 am Breakfast on the plane
9:00 am Interviews on the plane (Jason Gore, Bob Wood, Cindy Davis, Beth Gast)
12:40 pm Nike jet arrives at Teterboro Airport
12:50 pm Group transfer to World Financial Center, New York City
1:30 pm Group arrives at World Financial Center, New York City
1:45 pm Group lunch
3:00 pm Product presentation and Jason Gore press conference
3:30 pm Jason Gore demonstrates Sumo driver in hitting cage with launch monitor
3:45 pm Media and general public invited to hit Sumo and Sumo driver in hitting cages
4:45 pm The Golf Channel interviews Tom Stites
5:00 pm WST conclusion
5:00 pm Hotel transportation
5:40 pm Hotel check-in / end of scheduled day
Thursday, November 30
WST participants who stayed over Wednesday night depart for home destinations
The assignment given to me by The Golf Channel ' create a reporters video journal of the trip. Roll tape as much as possible with three cameras. When in doubt shoot first, beg for forgiveness later. And, oh yeah, interview Tiger Woods. This was going to be fun.
For me the WST tour started Monday at 4:00 am in Orlando en route to Portland, Oregon. My initial task was to interview Nike Golfs president, Bob Wood, at Nikes headquarters in Beaverton, Oregonjust a fifteen minute ride from Portland airport. Well, its usually 15 minutes. In this case, however, it took 40 minutes. Bad weather was the culprit. What started off in sunshine turned to rain, turned to freezing rain, turned to snow, turned back to rainturned back to sunshineall in the span of 10 minutes. Kind of like New England; if you dont like the weather just wait a minute.
We were warmly greeted at Nike by Beth Gast, Nike Golfs public relations director in charge of the Whistle Stop Tour. In fact, the tour was Beths idea to begin with, hatched some eight months earlier. We interviewed Bob Wood without incident ' focusing half our questions on Nike Golf business, Nikes two new drivers and the Whistle Stop Tour itself. The other half of our questions centered on his thoughts in connection with Tiger Woods 1997 Masters championship. This in preparation for a special The Golf Channel will run next year commemorating Tigers record setting victory.
I noticed several things about Bob Wood while talking to him, interviewing him, and later that Monday evening, dining with him. His 26 year history with Nike ' the last eight or nine years running Nike Golf ' are filled with pride, passion, commitment, belief, and, a true sense of team. Not at the expense of, however, having fun and living a normal life. As normal as life can be in his position. His passion for and belief in Nike are as earnest as the day is long. The same is true for the people he has working on the team around him.
Bob Wood is opinionated; robustly so. What might strike someone initially as over opinionated or over confident would be an incorrect assessment. Yes, Bob Wood is opinionated, he is confident; but these are traits in the man that you quickly gravitate towards, not shy away from. The more he talked, the more I wanted to listen. Not just about Nike, not just about golf, not just about Tiger. Rather, about all kinds of things: life, music, wine, current affairs, business in general, family, outside interests, likes and dislikes. Hes got quite a few of those, come to think of it. I think it was the conversation about Tiger that so completely and involuntarily captured my attention. Bob has gotten to know Tiger quite well over the years. His insights were enlightening, clever, revealing.
This was of particular interest to me and for good reason. Come tomorrow at noon, I was going to have my first one-on-one interview with Tiger Woods.
Email your thoughts to Casey Bierer
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.