Nike Golf's equipment shutdown has ripple effect on industry

By Matt GinellaAugust 4, 2016, 1:42 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Goodbye, world … of equipment.

Almost 20 years since launching the iconic “Hello, World” ad campaign with a 20-year-old Tiger Woods, Nike is exiting the equipment industry. As of Wednesday, the mega brand will no longer be producing golf clubs, bags or balls.

Their focus, according to a news release, will be shoes and clothes.

Which leaves their tour pros, coming off of four major championships and into the Travelers Championship, scratching their headcovers.

“I can’t comment at this time,” Paul Casey, a Nike ambassador for 12 years said via text. “Wish I could, but I’m still digesting it.”

Tony Finau, who signed a five-year deal to wear and play all things Nike to start the 2015-16 season, had a similar reaction.

“My agent texted me today and said we needed to talk,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure it all out. It’s now on Nike to reach out and help each one of us understand the future.”

Being a publicly traded company, Nike was required to keep employees and ambassadors in the dark until something like shutting down a branch of their portfolio is public information.

Patrick Rodgers, a Nike player who made his pro debut at the Travelers three years ago, and his caddie, Thomas Maples, were at the Nike equipment truck Wednesday morning. They talked to staff about testing wedges. The two returned in the afternoon, after news had broken, and were met with: "I don’t think we need to do any more testing of wedges. We all just lost our jobs."

As Maples said, the players will be fine. They'll play what they have for now and move on. Sympathy is for those no longer employed.

After a day of Nike Golf laying off employees, including their tour reps, there were at least some industry insiders not surprised.


Timeline: Nike in the golf industry


“To be honest, I can’t believe it didn’t happen five years ago,” said Harry Arnett, Callaway’s chief marketing officer. “They’ve been throwing a lot of good money after bad for a long time now. And at some point you need to justify the spend. There needs to be a return on your investment.”

As Arnett pointed out, with only three percent of the U.S. equipment market and not much more globally, that wasn’t happening for Nike. What has been happening has been decades of seismic deals ending in lots of zeros.

Woods signed the first of his four deals with Nike in 1996 for $40 million. Then another contract in 2001, reportedly worth $20 million a year. After another contract in 2006, and another in 2013, it looked like Woods would finish his career with the company.

In 2005, at age 15, Michelle Wie signed a Nike and Sony contract worth an estimated $10 million per year. (More than $3 million more than what Annika Sorenstam was making per year, and Sorenstam had already won nine of her 10 major championships.)

And in 2013, under the lights and through smoke machines of a stage in Dubai, Rory McIlroy, who had won two of his four majors, became what many business insiders projected was Nike’s “$200 million man.”

Woods, Wie, McIlroy, Finau, Casey, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Rodgers and Nick Watney are all golf ambassadors for Nike. And there are more. But for how long?

"Just like his comeback to golf, I think timelines inhibit you,” Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent, told GolfChannel.com. "So we'll do this methodically, and in a proper way."

Given the context of the Tour season, Finau says he will also take his time if he were to make a change.

“I’m going to stay focused on golf right now,” Finau said. “I will finish the season playing Nike. I’m happy with my equipment right now and I need to keep playing for the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup.”

Arnett raised another good point.

“When you think of Jordan Spieth, what brand do think of?” he asked.

Under Armour is the clear answer.

“Exactly.”

What we see are hats, shirts, bags and shoes, to Arnett's point. And then we see the logos. And although we see clubs and balls, it’s not always easy to identify the equipment brand a player is using.

So, Nike is going back to doing what it does best: shoes and apparel. And thus, the potential for less money down and more coming back.

"We're committed to being the undisputed leader in golf footwear and apparel," said Trevor Edwards, president of Nike in a statement. "We will achieve this by investing in performance innovation for athletes and delivering sustainable profitable growth for Nike Golf."

Nike was not immediately available for further comment to Golf Channel.

So, how would a mega successful brand like Nike plug the public perception of loss or failure?

Some industry insiders say it wouldn’t surprise them to see Jason Day become a Nike ambassador for clothes and shoes, while continuing to play TaylorMade clubs and balls. Adidas announced earlier this year that it will be selling TaylorMade and Ashworth.

Nike has said goodbye to equipment, but it’s still difficult to imagine the company will not continue to offer more hellos to the best players in the world.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.



Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)


Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.