Golf Buzz

January 10, 2013 - 1:49am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Ryo Ishikawa
Courtesy of Callaway Golf
New Callaway staff professional Ryo Ishikawa was the youngest player ever to break into the top 100, and then the youngest to break into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

The signings have been coming fast and furious since the calendar flipped to 2013, and Callaway has made the latest splash.

Late Wednesday night, Callaway announced the signing of Ryo Ishikawa. The 21-year-old sensation remains overwhelmingly popular in his native Japan and across Asia, and is a fast-rising star in the United States, where he will play a full PGA Tour schedule this year.

Ishikawa, who has won 10 times on the Japan Golf Tour, will play Callaway equipment – including the company's new RAZR Fit Xtreme Driver and the Odyssey putters he has used for nine of his victories, the company said. He also will wear Callaway-branded apparel, caps, gloves and footwear.

Ishikawa played several events on the PGA Tour in 2009, and caught the broader public's interest at the 2010 U.S. Open with his pink attire and low scores. He tied for 20th in the 2011 Masters – about a month after he announced that he would donate his 2011 tour earnings plus an additional 100,000 yen for every birdie he made to the Japan earthquake relief efforts.

In May of 2007, Ishikawa became the youngest golfer to win a Japan Golf Tour event, capturing the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup at 15 years and eight months of age. He turned professional in 2008 and, by the end of that season, became the youngest player to break into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Rankings.

He went on to dominate the 2009 season in Japan with four wins to become the leading money winner and be named the circuit's MVP. Also that year, he became the youngest golfer to ever reach the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

He officially became a member of the PGA Tour last March, and had two top-10s in 18 starts while amassing $727,051 in official earnings. He will make his debut as a Callaway staff professional at the Humana Challenge next week in La Quinta, Calif.

 

January 10, 2013 - 12:30am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Vijay Singh's putting stroke
Alex Miceli via Twitter
Vijay Singh is working on a new putting grip that maintains a pendulum putting stroke without actually being anchored to his body, says Alex Miceli of the Golf Channel.

We've all been talking about the proposed ban on anchoring putting strokes for the last couple of months, but one man is doing something about it.

It's no surprise that our man is wily veteran and inveterate hard worker Vijay Singh. As our friend Alex Miceli of the Golf Channel notes, Singh has been spending hours on the putting green out at Waialae Country Club in advance of the Sony Open.

Not only is he working on his stroke, Miceli noticed, Singh is also testing out an interesting new grip – he's using an anchoring stroke without the anchor.

As you can see in this photo that Miceli posted on Twitter, Singh has his left hand low on that oversized grip, while his right hand holds the top of the club as if he were going to anchor the butt of the club into his belly. Except that he doesn't – he holds the club an inch or two away from his body throughout his stroke, which would be perfectly legal under the proposed rule change.

It'll be curious to see if Singh putts this way during the tournament itself. But whether he does or doesn’t, we have to agree with Miceli's assessment that this is "just the beginning of odd strokes we will likely see."

For more from Miceli, follow him at www.twitter.com/alexmiceli. And, of course, you can follow us at www.twitter.com/PGA_com.

January 9, 2013 - 10:09pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson
Getty Images
Where do Keegan Bradley and Dustin Johnson fit in Dan Talintyre's forecast of the year's best storylines? Check out his piece to find out

The 2013 season will be a huge one in golf, says Dan Talintyre, a featured columnist over at Bleacher Report. In fact, he says, 2013 is shaping up to be even greater than 2012, which of course, was bookended by Bubba Watson's amazing victory at the Masters and that record-setting European comeback at the Ryder Cup.

Why is he so enthusiastic about the year that's just begun? Well, he tells all in his column on the most exciting storylines of 2013.

At the top of his list is what he believes it'll take for Rory McIlroy to truly establish himself as the man to watch out for over the next decade. And, he wonders, who might break out of the pack to challenge McIlroy? He mentions Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia as possibilities, but has one specific player that he believes McIlroy really ought to keep an eye on.

Who might be the breakout star of 2013? Who will be the biggest flop? Talintyre has some interesting thoughts on those storylines, and his choices are certainly different from mine.

He also offers us some early previews of the majors, and even some preliminary predictions. Even with the Masters still three months away, it's not too early to give his thoughts some consideration. If nothing else, it'll get you even more fired up for golf's new season.

I encourage you to click on over, take a look at Talintyre's column and tell us what you think.

January 9, 2013 - 4:04pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Colin Montgomerie
PGA of America
Could Colin Montgomerie be the surprise captain for Europe at the 2014 Ryder Cup in Scotland?

Listen to anyone and they'll tell you: the European Ryder Cup captaincy for 2014 at Gleneagles is a two-horse race between Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke and Ireland's Paul McGinley.

In fact, some have suggested that when the announcement is made by the European Tour in the coming weeks, it will make its selection for both 2014 and 2016, with Clarke and McGinley captaining one or the other.

But, as college football analyst Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"

Colin Montgomerie, captain of the winning European side at Celtic Manor in 2010, has said that if he were ever asked to take the reigns for Europe again, he wouldn't turn it down... especially in 2014, in Scotland, where he's from.

Will Gray from GolfChannel.com reports:

The leading candidates for the 2014 job have long been Irishman Paul McGinley and former British Open champion Darren Clarke. It wasn't until recently that Montgomerie's name re-entered the discussion.

"I thought it was between Darren and Paul until Darren said something, then my name was mentioned," the Scot explained to reporters. "I've never canvassed, as I didn't last time. I've not spoken to anybody about this. But I've always felt that if I was asked I would do it, and that's still the case."

In what could be an awkward meeting of the minds, the 15-man tournament committee – of which Montgomerie, Clarke and McGinley are all members – will meet next Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, after which a captain for 2014 (and possibly 2016) is expected to be announced. The timing of Montgomerie's sudden surge in consideration is eerily similar to 2010, when his name was put forth by Henrik Stenson and the Scot was confirmed as captain shortly thereafter.

"We were asked to keep quiet, but the rumor mill spread and I became 1/50 from 50/1," he recalled. "Nothing to do with me – I don't know how to place a bet."

Montgomerie's name gained traction after comments last month from Darren Clarke, who noted following the U.S. announcement of Tom Watson as its leading man that the European counterpart would need a "huge presence."

Will that huge presence be Monty? If it is, it would surprise a lot of people.

To read the rest of Gray's report, click here.

You can follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tj_auclair. 

January 9, 2013 - 11:22am
Posted by:
John Holmes
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True Temper shafts
Courtesy of True Temper
Shaftmaker True Temper CEO Scott Hennessy says people tend to buy more drivers and putters because they're always looking for "some magic in their hands."

If you really want to know what's going on in the car business, you can ask the carmakers – or you can get a broader perspective by asking companies that supply them with parts and pieces.  The same goes in golf.

In that spirit, Terry McAndrew over at GolfBiz.net got a very interesting outlook on 2013 from Scott Hennessy, the CEO of True Temper, which holds a dominant position in the golf shaft business. As such, True Temper has benefited in recent years, first from the USGA's groove ruling prompting more sales of wedges in 2010 and, more recently, the sudden popularity of long putters juicing the sales of flat sticks.

"We don't anticipate that [kind of a boost generated by a specific club type] happening again in 2013," Hennessy told McAndrew. Even so, he doesn't expect the putter business to dip much this year.

"I don't think the category will be adversely affected even if the market softens," he predicted. "The two clubs out of the 14 in players' bags that have the most turnover are drivers and putters. Everyone is looking for some magic in their hands. Due to the price point and offerings in putters coming, I don't think the overall unit volume will change."

All in all, golf is "no longer a high-growth industry" and is "in a low churn towards upward growth," Hennessy said, adding that he's optimistic that the golf industry has seen the worst of its drop in course closures, equipment sales and rounds. Equipment makers must innovate to grow in this economic climate, he stressed, and offered some thoughts on what we'll see up ahead.

"I think you will see in 2013 and 2014 that no new product will be heavier. The move continues to be towards lighter as golf caters to aging baby boomers," he told McAndrew. "You will also see iron set make-ups evolve. The days of 3-PW [pitching wedge] are long gone, replaced by hybrids. … you will also see the number of wedges players carry increase."

McAndrew is one of the consistently best in his coverage of the golf industry. For more from him, visit www.GolfBiz.net.

January 8, 2013 - 4:35pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Nike Golf silhouettes
Courtesy of Nike Golf
Since Nike Golf tweeted this teaser on Dec. 31, Nike Golf has announced the signings of Kyle Stanley (far left), Nick Watney (second left), Seung-yul Noh (second from right) and Thorbjorn Olesen (far right). The middle spot likely belongs to Rory McIlroy.

The Jumeirah Group isn't renewing its five-year sponsorship with top-ranked Rory McIlroy, the luxury hotel chain has announced, which seemingly paves the way for the world's top-ranked golfer to finalize his much-rumored endorsement deal with Nike Golf.

Jumeirah was McIlroy's first corporate sponsor upon turning pro, and has had its logo on his cap for the past five seasons. McIlroy previously cut ties with Oakley, which has had its logo on his shirt, and with Titleist, whose clubs he has played.

These moves appear to clear the path for a “clean” Nike deal in which the Swoosh would be the only logo visible on McIlroy's clothing. Rumors abound that a Nike arrangement in which he wears Nike apparel and plays Nike gear, would be worth as much as $20 million a year. Such an agreement would give Nike both of golf's two biggest stars in McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who has been with the company since he turned pro in 1996.

McIlroy's deal, which likely will be announced next week as he begins his 2013 season at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, would be the climax of an active signing season for Nike Golf. In recent days, the company has announced new endorsement deals with 2011 FedExCup champion Nick Watney as well as rising stars Kyle Stanley of the United States, Seung-yul Noh of South Korea and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.

On Dec. 31, Nike tweeted out a mock-up of an ad showing five silhouettes. With Watney, Stanley, Noh and Olesen in place, that fifth and final spot – right there in the middle – likely will belong to McIlroy.