Twitter: GeoffShac
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In my experience, the decision to increase green speeds has definitely hurt the game of golf. This development has not only caused many of the greens on the great golf courses to be nearly unplayable, but has really hampered the ability of a number of players to negotiate the new speed levels.  PETE DYE


    

Friday
May062016

"The Selling Of Jordan Spieth"

You'll be shocked to know that D Magazine is only on my reading list if I'm stuck in the Dallas airport...for about a week. So it was with relief that Kyle Porter at CBSSports.com caught Art Stricklin's in-depth look at the team behind Jordan Spieth's brand-building efforts.

As with any story that goes into depth about behind-the-scenes efforts to market and profit from a star's image, some of the details shared are eye-opening. In this case, considering how tight-lipped Team Spieth has been, the frankness is even more fascinating even if the B-speak is a little 2004ish.

But come on, there wasn't one mention of Jordan's "scalability," just agent Jay Danzi mentioning: “I’m the brand steward, the brand manager. It’s something I worry about every day.”

Jay, there's no worrying in brand stewardship! Or maybe there is...

Spieth currently reps Coca-Cola, AT&T, Under Armour, Titleist and Rolex. A who's who within golf marketing circles. It's why he reportedly makes $30 million a year off the course. His dad Shawn, who is part of Team Spieth, said the numbers are a little staggering sometimes.

“Most contracts we sign have bonuses and incentives, which roll up and roll down and can adjust the final total," Shawn told D Magazine. "It does make you shake your head some of the time with the money."

Dad's kind of bragging about the money! Calling the brand steward!

And then there's the Tiger Woods angle. Jordan is the one who overtook him on the highest-paid golfer list. He's the one who took the mantle of getting that AT&T logo on his bag after the company dropped Woods.

“I think Jordan probably looked at Tiger and said, ‘I want some of that on the corporate level,' said Matt Delzell who works for a Dallas PR agency. "But he also looks at him now and sees what he's not able to do because of what happened in his life."

Ca ching!

If there was any question about who signed off on Jordan's worldwide expedition at the start of a busy year that left the client tired, Stricklin's story seems to make clear that Jordan was a big part of the decision-making.

The “big three” of Team Spieth, as they’re known, are agent Danzi; Spieth’s father; and Spieth himself, who’s said to give the final yes or no on all endorsement deals. “I’m very involved. We’re all involved together,” Jordan Spieth says of the team’s business approach. “Jay is the expert. He’s gone through hundreds of [contract negotiations]. But every one is different, and so Jay learns a lot from me, too, and what I want and how we want to structure things. What can we do with our partners? I’m involved in every detail.

“I’m learning every day different aspects of what it takes to build my brand and, while I rely heavily on my team, the overall decisions are mine,” Spieth adds. “I know how many days and how many appearances we have. I know what we’re going to try and do together, the different activations, and I’m very informed with the contracts. Since day one, my team has kept our approach to business decisions the same. Everything needs to make sense to our brand strategy.”

Activations. I didn't have Jordan finishing off my B-speak bingo board, but a win's a win.

Now, I'm certain this was a reference to the high school, not Jesuits in general. It's a Dallas thing. Still...I'm picturing the brand steward screwing open a bottle of Ibuprofen when he reads this bragging...

Next, Spieth's team used its local connections to hook up with AT&T. “It was a Dallas company connected with a Dallas athlete. It made natural sense and it was something we wanted to do,” says Shawn Spieth. “They are one of the largest-spending companies on golf. We had a lot of family and Jesuit connections on the C-level to make it happen.”

But hey, at least he's insured, in case you were wondering...

Injuries, on the other hand, can hamper any golfer. “Do we consider a career-ending injury?” Shawn Spieth asks. “We don’t spend a lot of time at that, because that can take up all of your time and money. But we do have supplemental insurance. We are prepared.”

Friday
May062016

Johnny On Cue: Jordan's Bent Left Elbow Needs Work

Unaware of a comment Jordan Spieth's instructor made a few years ago predicting analysts like Johnny Miller would criticize his pupil's swing, Johnny mentioned during a Players Championship conference call seeing more of the bent left elbow at impact in 2016.

John Strege with both Miller's critique and instructor Cameron McCormick's prescient prediction.

“He has a tendency with that bent left elbow to come down with the face open,” Miller said in a teleconference call in advance of the Players Championship next week. “He has been doing it quite a bit this year. He really did it [at the Masters]. That was an amazing miss in the water and an amazing fat shot in the water.

“I’m looking forward to seeing if he and his teacher address that bent left arm. It seems like it’s more bent at impact and after impact than last year. It will be interesting to see if we see a little swing change to eliminate that shot to the right.”

Thursday
May052016

Wynn’s Desert Inn Redo Was Only Supposed To Last Five Years

Jason Scott Deegan talks to PGA pro Brian Hawthorne about his 10-and-a-half years as Director of Golf at Wynn Golf Club, the former Desert Inn Country Club. Steve Wynn plans to redevelop the last course on the Strip into “Wynn Paradise Park” and likely eradicate golf from the 137 acres.

Most amazing of all was that the pricey Tom Fazio redo was only supposed to last a short while. Deegan writes:

"He told me, 'You realize this is a five-year assignment. We have other plans for this space. We want this as special as it can be for as long as we have it,'" recalled Hawthorne, Wynn's former director of golf who left Wynn Resorts in February to work with Full Swing Golf. "I told him I totally understand and that I was excited to be working with him. I made it 10-and-a-half years (working there). Reflecting back, I feel like I beat the odds in Vegas."

Thursday
May052016

Future President Trump: I Never Golfed With De La Hoya!

The next President talked to AP's Tim Dahlberg and says he could not have cheated at golf with Oscar De La Hoya because he did not ever play a few holes with the boxer. Ever. Never. Ever.

From Dahlberg's AP story:

Trump told The Associated Press on Thursday he respects the game too much to cheat and is good enough to have won a number of club championships. Trump, who owns 18 golf courses, says De La Hoya is lying about him because he wants to sell tickets to a fight he is promoting.

But the main thing here is to note that he's taking a very presidential high road...

Asked if he would play with De La Hoya, Trump said:

"I don't like to play with men that wear stockings around their face."

The quip was a reference to photos that circulated several years ago showing De La Hoya wearing fishnet hosiery and heels while cavorting with a model. De La Hoya later underwent drug and alcohol rehabilitation twice.

Thursday
May052016

Taylor Made Sale: Looking For Clues In Past Acquisitions

Get ready to head down nostalgia lane with Golf Digest's Mike Johnson as he reviews eight recent equipment company sales, acquisitions, mergers and other bloodletting in search of clues for a possible Taylor Made sale outcome.

It's not pretty to see how many of these led to the demise of trusted (or semi-trusted) brand names in golf.

This one reminded me how a once solid brand could be unraveled pretty quickly:

Maxfli to TaylorMade 
In 2002, TaylorMade purchased Maxfli and its patent portfolio. Several issues followed as the company could not re-establish the Maxfli brand. A relationship with John Daly as its flagship spokesperson failed, while the ball’s premium reputation took a hit with less-expensive models such as Fire and Noodle making up the bulk of its market share. Six years later TaylorMade—opting to focus on its own ball business—pulled the plug on Maxfli, selling it to sporting-goods chain Dicks, while retaining the Noodle name as a standalone entity.

Wednesday
May042016

Under The Knife: Pebble's Beach 14th Green

John Strege reports that the long-anticipated but much-delayed restoration of Pebble Beach's 14th green is underway.

The scene of some memorable boondoggles in recent years, Chandler Egan's marvelous two-tiered green had become too severe with modern green speeds, rendering the front portion unusable for nearly two decades.

That will be changing with a move to 4,000 square feet of surface instead of the current, gulp, 3,200. Maintaining the original concept of the green seems to be the priority, reports Strege after talking to R.J. Harper.

"Through a collection of all the photos, we landed on something we think is the right way. We’re increasing it to the original size and we’re going to keep the general shape to the green. The big cavernous bunker remains, but we’re lowering the top lip that if your ball came down there it would shoot it to the back of the green. We're leveling off the upper part of the green, increasing square footing by going back, and recreateing the pin location back right that no longer had been available to us."

 John Maginnes Tweeted this photo of the construction:

Wednesday
May042016

Rory: We Have To Change Negative Olympic Golf Narrative

While reiterating his support and view that his time is now to win a gold medal, Rory McIlroy sounded like a wise elder statesman when talking about the state of Olympic golf.

From Joel Beall's GolfDigest.com report:

"It's obviously being played in Rio this year and it's being played in Tokyo in 2020. I'm not sure if we're going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that depending on what happens,” McIlroy said Wednesday at Quail Hollow Club. "I'm not sure if golf is going to have another opportunity to win a gold medal after that."

McIlroy later told reporters that, "If we don’t somehow change the narrative of getting people more excited about it...I’m worried."

Wednesday
May042016

Aussie Goes! Leishman Cites Zika Virus In Passing On Rio Games

Golf Australia first reported Marc Leishman's decision to join fellow Aussie Adam Scott in passing on Olympic golf in Rio.

Leishman cited the Zika virus and his wife's continued precarious immune system as the reason for his decision to pass up the games.

“Many of you may know that last April my children and I almost lost my wife, Audrey, to toxic shock syndrome.

“Since then Audrey has been prone to infection and is far removed from 100 per cent recovery of her immune system.

“We have consulted with Audrey's physician and due to her ongoing recovery from toxic shock and potential risks associated with the transmission of the Zika virus, it was a difficult yet easy decision not to participate.

“I missed playing in the 2015 Masters tournament to be at her side when she was originally stricken and I cannot risk placing her health in jeopardy."

Leishman went on to suggest the Olympics are the second most important event a golfer can be invited to. His decision to pass leaves Marcus Fraser as the current Aussie highest up the world ranking and therefore eligible.

Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen recently announced they would not be participating, and as I explained on ShackHouse, the Zika virus was at the forefront of their minds.

On a positive note, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler have reinforced their desire to play. Jeff Babineau reports on McIlroy suggesting this is his best chance to play.

Wednesday
May042016

" When Oscar De La Hoya says Donald Trump 'cheats in golf,' this is what he's talking about"

There have been a few "I won't vote for Donald Trump because I've played golf with him" stories, but also one Lou Holtz endorsement because he loved the service at a Trump golf property. Politics is dirty business!

Still, Oscar De La Hoya sharing his golf story from a day with the presumptive nominee at Trump National Los Angeles--as written up by Lance Pugmire of the LA Times--is fun to visualize. I'm just teasing you with the punch line...hit the link for the full story.

“We get up there [to the green] and he’s like, ‘Oh, my ball’s right here!’ Three feet away. ‘And by the way, I’m going to pick it up, it’s a gimme,’” De La Hoya said.

“You don’t do that in golf,” De La Hoya said, adding there were no side games in play where money was exchanged.

“No money at all, how can I win?” De La Hoya said. “I’m not [voting] for someone who cheats in golf.”

Of course, another former President was known to fudge the mulligan rules. Oh, and his wife will be running for President against Trump. What a world.

Wednesday
May042016

Who Will Buy Taylor Made?

The strategic review results are in and Adidas is selling the club company, its Adams golf division as well as the Ashworth brand.

Mike Stachura at GolfDigest.com with a rundown of the events as they've unfolded over the last year, and this from CEO Herbert Hainer. Get out our corporatespeak translators, I did my best here:

“TaylorMade is a very viable business.

So much so we want someone else to enjoy the profits! Go on...

However, we decided that now is the time to focus even more on our core strength in the athletic footwear and apparel market,” said Herbert Hainer. “With its leadership position in the industry and the turnaround plan gaining traction, which is clearly reflected in the top- and bottom-line improvements recorded in Q1 as well as recent market share gains, I am convinced that TaylorMade offers attractive growth opportunities in the future.

I smell a big "however" coming.

At the same time, the planned divestiture will allow us to reduce complexity and focus our efforts on those areas of our business that offer the highest return and where we can have the biggest impact in reaching our consumers and winning their loyalty for the adidas and Reebok brands.”

Aaron Ricadela's Bloomberg piece is accompanied by an interview with Hainer who says the Taylor Made driver is "#1 on the golf course" and that he's "doing what’s right for the brand."

This line by Ricadela won't help the efforts to get more money from a prospective Chinese buyer, if they care:

Adidas got into golf when it bought French ski and skate company Salomon in 1997, but younger consumers are staying away from the game, and it isn’t popular in emerging markets like China and India. Sales plummeted 13 percent last year as the industry has been beset by discounting.

‘‘The golf market is not growing at the moment but it’s also not falling further,” Hainer said during a call with reporters.

I was thinking of a poll on who the possible buyers might be, but it would seem more likely that it'll be a Chinese company like Wanda Group or private equity firm with a name like Majestic or Majestic Elm or Thoroughbred Capital, instead of something sexier, like Under Armour. Thoughts?

Tuesday
May032016

Nice: Chandler Egan's 1904 Olympic Medals Found, On Display

Nice work by Dave Shedloski to tell the story of Chandler Egan's medals having been found by his family and handed over to the USGA for display in Far Hills and the U.S. Open, before moving on to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Longtime readers know about Egan, the actual architect of Pebble Beach as we know it who, for mysterious reasons, is ignored by historians who apparently aren't as enchanted with his story as they are with the Neville/Grant/amateurs-make-good story. But Egan's life in golf was pretty impressive: Harvard man, Olympic medalist, U.S. Amateur champion, NCAA individual champion (and three time team winner), golf architect, beloved friend of Bobby Jones, etc.

Shedloski writes at GolfDigest.com:

Until a year ago historians believed that none of the individual medals from the golf competition in the 1904 Olympics at Glen Echo Country Club in St. Louis still existed. That changed when the silver medal of H. Chandler Egan, former U.S. Amateur champion, was discovered (along with his team gold medal) in the bottom of a bookcase in the former home of Egan’s daughter in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, about 25 miles southeast of Cleveland.

Tuesday
May032016

Rory Season Is Upon Us, Will He Step Up?

Rory McIlroy's game has been as good as ever at times but just a bit off too much to be racking up wins, but as I note in this week's Forward Press, the Wells Fargo Championship this week kicks off Rory's month.

Besides returning to Quail Hollow where he posted at 61 last year en route to winning, McIlroy then has two events he finds less compelling--The Players and BMW PGA--along with the Irish Open he hosts. We should have a pretty good idea where his game stands by month's end.

That and TV times on Wednesday's National Instruction Day, NCAA Men's Regional selections on Morning Drive, the European Tour and LPGA Tour this week.

Tuesday
May032016

SI's More Magnificent-Than-Normal Player Poll 

Sports Illustrated's annual anonymous players poll is always fun, but the questions were more clever than ever this year and the responses are all worth looking at as long as you can handle the motion sickness that comes with reading golf.com.

You won't be shocked to know that the male players are not Hillary fans, but the LPGA's finest also don't sound too excited. In the "If you were to be in a bar fight" question, Ernie edged Keegan. Congrats guys, you are considered the most likely to do damage when inebriated!

There are also some epic quotes--"I have a Twitter, but I have never twittered"--

The most alarming question may have been the apparent hostility many players have for paying caddies 10% after a win.

Does the caddie deserve 10% of a winner's check?

PGA TOUR

Yes 67%
No 33%

Loose Lips: "Maybe more like 8%."

The Donald seems to be embraced by the players, with Trump Doral surviving 45% to 39% in favor of keeping the Doral event. In the voting booth, Trump carried the PGA Tour votes 34% to 22% for Undecided.

The other shocking result that speaks to the vitality of the almighty dollar: players would rather win The Players than an Olympic medal.

The Players or a gold medal?

The Players 62%

Gold 38%

The Texas Open or a gold medal?

Gold Medal 76%

Texas 24%

Tuesday
May032016

The Olympic Golf Will Really Be On Golf Channel A Lot!

Doug Ferguson previews NBC/Golf Channel's upcoming schedule of big-time golf--The Open, Olympic Golf, the Ryder Cup and because he's a nice guy, even mentions the FedExCup Playoffs and their football-dented ratings--and says it doesn't get any bigger than this.

Ferguson writes in his AP notes column:

There won't be another summer like this one from the number of big events to two premier tournaments that the networks have never broadcast.

''We're fortunate enough to have a deep, talented bench,'' said Mike McCarley, president of Golf for NBC Sports Group. ''We've got a 12-week stretch of The Open Championship, the Olympics, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. It will be the busiest time we've ever had.''

It all gets started at Royal Troon in Scotland for the British Open, which NBC and Golf Channel acquired a year early from ESPN. Golf producer Tommy Roy and Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon began making trips to the Ayrshire Coast late last summer. Expect to see more graphics involving wind (the best defense of any links course) and a deeper sense of history of a championship that dates to 1860.

The Olympic viewing schedule was released and if you were worried about missing anyone in the 60-player fields, do not worry: 8 1/2 hours of coverage each day with 9 hour broadcasts set for the final rounds of both men's and women's competitions.

While those viewing windows will lead to lower Nielsen numbers, they shoud accumulate nice total audiences and more importantly, give golf fans nothing to complain about in the witholding/tape delay department. At least, that's my working theory.

For a quick update on the course, Brian Wacker talked to Gil Hanse about the test event.

Tuesday
May032016

People Are Praying For Spieth; He Still Holes Absurd Lob Shots

Sam Weinman at GolfDigest.com on Jordan Spieth resurfacing after his Bahamas vacation and suggesting the outpouring of grief over his plight as a Masters runner-up continues to surface in the strangest places.

Just the image of this is so surreal given what actually happened (a golf tournament lost)...

"I'm not taking it very hard. I've got ladies at the grocery stores putting their hand on me and going, 'Really praying for you; how are you doing?' I'm like, my dog didn't die. I'll be OK. I'll survive. It happens. It was, again, unfortunate timing."

I'm not sure what's more amazing to see here, Spieth making a lob shot off the green at Oakmont or that sunset sky! From Tim Rosaforte who will have more on Morning Drive Wednesday:

Monday
May022016

Stuard's Historic Putting Performance Salvages Zurich Classic

Let's not sugarcoat this one: the 2016 Zurich Classic was pretty much a nightmare on all fronts thanks to horrible weather and players who didn't seem to be in a big hurry to finish Monday with another storm on the way. That slow play at least prompted some great on-air moaning from the always-morbid Peter Kostis, who had to stay another day on swampier-than-normal New Orleans.

(Bad news too, the tournament is not going anywhere as (Jeff Duncan at the Times-Picayune explains).

And while a 54-hole win is not as great as a 72-hole win, especially wearing a t-shirt under a golf shirt, the stats from playoff winner Brian Stuard help justify the win and all that comes with it:

He's also only the fourth tour even winner with a perfect scrambling record (20 for 20).

Stuard also found time after his win to talk to A.J. Voepel about the big day:


The final round highlights:

 

Monday
May022016

A Glowing Review: Revamped MPCC Dunes Course

Future Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Chairman Emeritus Alan Shipnuck got a sneak peak at Monterey Peninsula's revitalized Dunes Course and declared it about the greatest thing he's ever seen in golf.

Granted, architects Jackson and Kahn were trying to improve on a Rees-toration that somehow managed to not improve the majestic site, but Shipnuck still sees greatness in a course that figures to join the AT&T National Pro-Am rota by 2018.

The Dunes’s signature hole has always been the par-3 14th, which demands a full-blooded carry over the Pacific. That remains unchanged but the hole has been enhanced by more natural bunkering, a larger green offering more pin placements and the importation of one tree to frame the vista; it has been so artfully placed that tourists are already confusing it with the iconic Lone Cypress.

Golf.com posted this slideshow with a few images of the course.

Monday
May022016

The Story Of An Impromptu PGA Tour Champions Wedding

They know a thing or two (or three or four) about weddings on the Senior Tour Champions Tour PGA Tour Champions, and Golfweek's Adam Schupak has the proof: Scott McCarron’s impromptu wedding to Jenny Klein, organized, officiated and witnessed by some of golf’s finest over-50 golfers.

And if you ever need a harpist in Branson, Faxon is your man!

During dinner that night, Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris, who also owns the Big Cedar Lodge, stopped by the couple’s table and confirmed that the chapel was available for a Saturday evening wedding. While McCarron played his Saturday round, Klein went into Branson and found a gown and bought two rings at Kohl’s.

Faxon had a friend who lived in Branson and knew a harpist. Morris provided the resort’s bagpipe player. The resort also supplied a wedding cake and hors d’oeuvres. The Stadlers pitched in with champagne and the Frosts with the wine. “Pretty soon we had a party,” McCarron said. “By the time I was on the ninth hole, the wedding was planned. It was how to plan a wedding in 24 hours.”

Monday
May022016

“Golf wise, this might be John Daly’s last chance.”

Jaime Diaz of Golf World kindly takes John Daly's Senior Tour Champions Tour PGA Tour Champions debut this week seriously, as has the PGA Tour, which arranged a conference call with the two-time major winner. Golf Channel even racked up the 1991 PGA Championship to launch Big John's Geezer Tour debut.

Mitzvah!

Funny how in the name of a dollar, the PGA Tour is looking past its mostly tortured, relentless negative relationship with Daly.

But as Bob Harig of ESPN.com notes, the numbers most associated with Daly are less than flattering.

Eleven times he was cited for conduct "unbecoming a professional," 21 times for "failure to give best effort." The missed cuts and withdrawals were only outdone by the sponsor exemptions that tournaments continued to give him, his drawing power still that great.

Four wives, nine lives -- the only thing left for Daly is another second chance at golf, and it comes in the form of senior golf.

Sunday
May012016

Li's China Open Victory A Win For HSBC's Grassroots Support

While the Volvo China Open didn't sport the greatest field in the tour's history, a tip of the cap to HSBC for getting to see the first European Tour winner from its CGA-HSBC China Junior Program, the only sanctioned program for aspiring players in the country currently hostile to the game.

"Grow the game" has become a tired and obnoxious phrase wheeled out way too often in the name of trying to justify greed or pandering, but when the results are tangible like this, I say let 'em pat themselves on the back. Especially after Haotong Li contended at last fall's WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai and looks to be headed toward big things.
 
From Giles Morgan, HSBC's man in golf:

“Haotong Li’s win clearly demonstrates just how far golf in China has come over the last decade and what an exciting future the game has. It’s an incredible story of human ambition and shows exactly why HSBC supports golf and why our junior programs are so important to our sponsorships around the world. A win for any golfer in their home nation is inspiring but for this to happen in China for a 20 year old is really special.”
 
“For HSBC he is proudly one of our own. Haotong was first inspired into the game as a youngster by attending our tournament, HSBC Champions in Sheshan and now he has the potential to inspire a new generation. He graduated through the ranks of the CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Program, a development program we started nine years ago with the ambition of supporting future champions. Today we have realised that ambition. We saw glimpses of his potential at WGC-HSBC Champions last year and now he’s advanced into the winner’s circle and we’re delighted for him. For Li and golf in China this is only the start. The CGA-HSBC Junior Golf Program offers a proven pathway to the very top of the game and I’ve no doubt with this victory many more will be inspired to make that journey.”

As Will Gray notes at GolfChannel.com, with this win Li likely vaults into the top place for one of China's male Olympic golf exemptions.

Nice setup:

A star in the making 🌟 #VolvoChinaOpen

A video posted by European Tour (@europeantour) on May 1, 2016 at 10:30am PDT

 

Full highlights from his win: