Tiger the Agent and the Agency

By Jason SobelMay 25, 2011, 8:08 pm
The scene: On his final day as an IMG employee, Mark Steinberg is ranting and raving through the home office. He undresses his erstwhile co-workers for a lack of manners, then implores them to join him as he walks out the door.

“Who’s coming with me? Who’s coming with me?” he wails as the room falls silent, not a single one offering up their services.

He is left holding only a purloined goldfish, until a lone person rises from a desk and accepts the proposal. Tiger Woods, wearing a walking boot on his left leg and brandishing crutches, meekly answers, “I will go with you.”

OK, so real life may not imitate 'Jerry Maguire' and Steinberg may not have had Woods at hello, but he has worked as the sole agent for him since 1999. Now out as the head of IMG’s global golf division, most ensuing discussions will be centered around whether the client will follow his representative out the door of the famed agency.

For the past dozen years, Steinberg has not only been the man behind Woods, but the man behind his brand – for better or worse. He was there when Tiger won the last 13 of his 14 major championship titles and there when he endured ridicule during a highly publicized scandal 18 months ago.

Since then, Woods has experienced uncertainty in both his personal and professional life. He may now be about to experience uncertainty in his business life, as well – and don’t underestimate the importance of that piece to the entire puzzle.

The juicy part of this story is about the relationship between the two men and whether it will continue. About eight hours prior to the announcement that Steinberg was leaving IMG, Woods reaffirmed his commitment to both the agent and the agency. He will now have to choose only one.

There is so much more at play here, though; so many moving parts in the scenario. Steinberg was once described by Wall Street Journal as “amongst the three or four most powerful people in golf.” Sure, that had plenty to do with his relationship to Tiger, but it had just as much – if not more – to do with the fact that he oversaw the entire golf division for IMG.

How far is that reach? The agency either owns and operates or has a consulting relationship with more than 40 golf tournaments worldwide, from heavy hitters on the PGA Tour to a bevy of big-time events on the European Tour to a joint venture that allows it to run 10 tourneys on the Asian Tour.

Dating to Mark McCormack’s founding of the agency, the IMG influence in the sport has been unprecedented and unrivaled. In recent years, Steinberg was the man responsible for it all. He was the decision maker and in every facet of the business, to proffer a cliché, the buck stopped with him.

Insiders will contend, however, that recently he had become too “Tiger-centric,” his responsibilities toward the former No. 1-ranked player surpassing his role as head of the division. The message from IMG offices in the aftermath is that in light of the previous situation, many others were helping to carry that load, the contention being that IMG Golf is bigger than just one person.

The division will now enter a new era, with longtime vice chairman Alastair Johnston continuing to oversee the business, joined by new co-heads Guy Kinnings in London and Robbie Henchman in Singapore.

While Woods’ impending future is the main topic of interest in the short term, there will be bigger and perhaps more important effects of Tuesday’s news in the long run.

With so much influence and power within the game, it will be worth watching how IMG continues to handle its current global business strategies. Employees of the agency maintain that while there will be an “adjustment period,” they should be able to keep the status quo for now.

And yet, in this ever-evolving golf landscape, there really is no status quo. From new tournaments on the PGA Tour to a growing popularity on the European and Asian tours, the game is always malleable and moving in new directions.

The most conspicuous domino that will fall in the wake of Steinberg leaving IMG is that of Woods’ impending future – whether he decides to remain with his longtime agent or agency. That is hardly the only domino, however. It may be both gradual and nebulous, but this move will have repercussions in the golf world well beyond that of a relationship between one player and his representation.
Follow Jason Sobel on Twitter @JasonSobelGC
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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

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Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."

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Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:53 pm

Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.

Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member. 

The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.

In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.

"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."

Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.

But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.

"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...

"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."