Speculation abounds with Tiger, Steinberg

By Randall MellMay 27, 2011, 1:51 am

With Mark Steinberg’s split with IMG official and with the company’s announcement of a reorganization of its golf division, the focus is now on Tiger Woods.

IMG has confirmed that Woods is free to leave with the agent who has represented him for a dozen years.

But will Woods leave with Steinberg?

“I'm committed to both, with IMG, and Mark's my agent,” Woods said Tuesday before news broke of Steinberg's departure.

If Madison Avenue laid odds, it would heavily favor Woods leaving with Steinberg. While more than one media outlet is reporting Woods will leave, Woods has yet to confirm he’ll do so.

“With most professional athletes, the relationship with their agent is typically a personal one,” says Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor who specializes in sports at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. “It’s a matter of comfort. I don’t know Tiger Woods or what’s going on in his head, but my instinct tells me if he’s comfortable with Mark Steinberg, he’s going to stay with him. They’ve gone through wars together. If he wasn’t comfortable with him, he wouldn’t have stayed with him as long as he has.”

There’s some speculation within the industry that Steinberg could join Creative Arts Agency if he wanted and take Woods with him, but Zimbalist says industry instincts point away from that.

“My guess is that Mark Steinberg feels like he’s a big enough name that he can start his own agency,” Zimbalist said. “I think it’s reasonable speculation he is going out on his own.”

With Woods in tow, Steinberg has considerable options.

Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing, which represents Phil Simms, Howie Long, Cal Ripken and Nick Faldo, said Steinberg’s decision likely hinged on knowing Woods would join him before he decided to leave IMG. Rosner sees Steinberg with four options:

1. Steinberg could set up his own sports representation/marketing business with Woods as his star client.

2. He could go into business with Woods, striking out on their own as partners.

3. He could join an established, smaller company where Steinberg could negotiate more freedom and power than he had at IMG and benefit from the company's established resources, or could even negotiate part ownership in the company.

4. He could join another large conglomerate.

“My guess is that at this point in his career, Tiger wants more control of his destiny,” Rosner said.

Rosner isn’t privy to the deals Steinberg negotiated for Woods with IMG, but he said IMG would continue to take a percentage of the deals inked under its umbrella through the life of those contracts, unless Steinberg negotiated specific provisions to the contrary, should Woods leave the company.

If not for the scandal that beset Woods, and now the injuries plaguing him, Steinberg might be striking out on one of the richest ventures in sports representation and marketing history.

As it is, Steinberg may be setting up his own shop with a damaged product with an uncertain future.

CNBC reported that IMG financial records showed that Woods lost between $23 million and $30 million in endorsement income last year. Woods lost Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade and Gillette as sponsors in the wake of personal woes that unfolded in Woods' life late in '09. The Associated Press and CBS Sportsline have reported that Steinberg’s been actively seeking a sponsor for Woods’ golf bag since last fall with no takers yet to his terms. Still, Woods continues to make an estimated $70 million annually in endorsements.

“I don’t think these two are going to go hungry,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, in reference to a new Steinberg/Woods venture.

Swangard said he wasn’t surprised by news of Steinberg’s departure.

“I don’t think it really had anything to do with IMG,” Swangard said. “I suspect it’s just Mark Steinberg thinking he has a better way of doing things.”

A better way to manage Woods even with their new challenges.

“While we would describe Tiger as a distressed product, he’s still a premium brand,” Swangard said. “If you were going to strike out on your own with Tiger Woods, you would be able to do some pretty good things. And being on their own, they’re going to be able to do some things they might not be able to do with IMG, possibly push the envelope as sole proprietors of a business, if they wanted, things IMG might be averse to doing, or things that might conflict with businesses that IMG has.”

Of course, Swangard said the reach of a new Steinberg/Woods business would be linked to Woods' success on the course. Woods hasn’t won a tournament in 18 months. The value and extension of current deals with Nike, EA, Upper Deck and other companies depend on Woods’ success on the course. Woods’ knee and Achilles injuries cloud the picture.

Business decisions are no small matters for athletes who resemble small corporations. Trusting a new business model for a successful professional golfer can be as daunting as trusting a new swing. There’s bound to be new demands and challenges for Woods in changing course with so many uncertainties in his game affecting his business.

While Woods is financially set for life, so much of his legacy hinges on the continued success of his brand.

As rich as Woods is, there’s still pressure to win.

As Woods thrives, so do his business partners and the charitable endeavors linked to the Tiger Woods Foundation.

“I think everyone feels he needs to win soon,” Swangard said. “The core brands maintaining associations with Tiger, led by Nike, are dependent on his ability to be a good golfer. If Tiger isn’t the player he was, there’s clear risk in that.”

Follow Randall Mell on Twitter @RandallMellGC
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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."