Nike deal puts McIlroy under microscope

By Rex HoggardJanuary 14, 2013, 8:22 pm

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – It seems about right Nike Golf and Rory McIlroy would have chosen this corner of the Middle East to tell the world what we have known for months – the Swoosh wants to be in the Rory business.

Unlike Dubai to the east, which became the center of Arab opulence in recent years and seems to have embraced sprawl and style or substance and sustainable growth, Abu Dhabi has deftly found a way to embrace old and new.

Let’s hope Rory and Nike have the same touch, because these mega-marriages rarely go to script.

Although estimates have been dramatically toned down since initial reports suggested the Beaverton, Ore.-based company was poised to sign the world No. 1 to a 10-year, $250 million endorsement deal – with various reports following Monday’s announcement suggesting the deal is closer to five years. Nike didn’t announce the terms of the signing.

What's in the Bag: McIlroy's Nike equipment

Video: Tiger-Rory Nike commercial

Photos: McIlroy through the years

Either way it is clear the Swoosh is all in for the Northern Irishman.

With a commercial featuring McIlroy and world No. 2 Tiger Woods set to debut on Wednesday on Golf Channel and ESPN it’s clear Nike, as it does in other sports, plans to capitalize on having the game’s alpha and omega under a single roof.

Seamlessly weaving two divergent personalities, and not roughing up any egos in the process, will be Nike’s biggest challenge, but there is an army of marketing types to climb that mountain.

The real challenge, the real concern if any exists, rests with the 23-year-old wunderkind and his ability to transition to a new set of Nike clubs. Beginning with this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship all 14 of the Ulsterman’s clubs will bear the company logo and, perhaps more importantly, he will play the Nike 20XI X golf ball.

By comparison it took Woods the better part of a decade to work his way into a full bag of Nike toys, with the last step coming at the 2010 British Open when he finally converted to a Method putter.

For McIlroy there will be no 10-year grace period, no safety net and, as far as the worldwide media is concerned, very little latitude.

As unrealistic as it may seem, if McIlroy doesn’t match his success of the last two seasons – including major victories in both – he will be questioned for making such a dramatic jump so early in his career.

“He has to be cautious. This is a very dangerous time,” cautioned Nick Faldo late last year as news built of the impending blockbuster. “Equipment is part of your DNA. The feel of them, how they sound, everything is about feel. I’d be really careful about that.”

On Monday in Abu Dhabi McIlroy said all the right things and given his performance over the past few years he deserves the benefit of the doubt and then some.

“To be honest, I’ve been blown away by the attention to detail when it comes to product (at Nike),” said McIlroy, who reportedly won’t carry a Nike golf bag. “Nike Golf is clearly committed to being the best and that gives me a lot of confidence in what we can achieve together on the golf course.”

Those who suggest the Ulsterman is in the midst of a money grab may also want to take a breath. You don’t get to No. 1 in the World Golf Ranking trying to cash a check and if his jump from International Sports Management to Horizon Sports in late 2011 was any indication he seems to be more big picture than we often give him credit for.

Still, the game’s trash bin is filled with well intentioned decisions. Graeme McDowell, who has become something of a mentor for McIlroy on Tour, readily admitted that he struggled in 2011 after making a wholesale equipment change following his U.S. Open victory at Pebble Beach.

Late last year after he’d earned his Tour card at Q-School Ross Fisher revealed he’d suffered a similar fate when he switched, like McIlroy, from Titleist to Nike Golf last January.

“It took me some time to become comfortable with the new clubs,” the Englishman said. “I feel comfortable with everything in the bag now, but it does take some time.”

Although Fisher’s comments weren’t directed at McIlroy, truth is the Ulsterman’s name never came up in the conversation, but his is a cautionary tale that seemed to loom over Monday’s proceedings at the posh Fairmont hotel.

Whether it’s fair or not, McIlroy, and Nike Golf, are officially on the clock. Officially on the hook to do what they’ve done so well in Abu Dhabi, mesh old and new together without making a mess.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”