Golf Buzz

January 1, 2013 - 9:13pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson via Twitter
This photo that Bubba Watson tweeted out a few days ago was the first indication that Watson was changing apparel companies.

Earlier Tuesday, I posted an item on Nike's signing of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley, but they are just two big-league players whose changes for 2013 are becoming public.

Perhaps the biggest news outside of Watney's move from Titleist to Nike is that Bubba Watson has left Travis Mathew and signed with Oakley. Watson's success over the past three years – in particular his victory at the Masters – helped boost Travis Mathew into the upper echelons of the golf apparel world, at least in terms of visibility.

And Oakley, we all know, was ripe to sign a new superstar, having just lost Rory McIlroy. Already this offseason, Oakley had signed Zach Johnson, and there is speculation that the company could unveil another apparel ambassador over the next few weeks. Oakley, however, has yet to issue any kind of official statement regarding Watson.

Travis Mathew, for its part, will roll out its new lineup of endorsements between Jan. 4 and Jan. 11, according to a release it issued on Monday.

The first hint that Watson was making a move came in the photo posted above, which he tweeted from Hawaii on Dec. 29. In it, eagle-eyed apparel watchers note, Watson is wearing an Oakley shirt and has Oakley sunglasses propped up on his visor as he warms up for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. There was some initial speculation that the photo itself drove a wedge between Watson and Travis Mathew, but the company says the split was in the works long before the photo was taken.

Also, we have learned that:

--Chris Kirk has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--Gary Woodland has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2010 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh has gone from Ping to TaylorMade
--Ryan Moore has gone from Adams Golf over to TaylorMade (TaylorMade owns Adams Golf, so this is an in-house move)

 

 

January 1, 2013 - 4:06pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Kyle Stanley and Nick Watney
Courtesy of Nike Golf
Nike revealed its two new signings in a special announcement on New Year's Day.

The folks at Nike Golf aren't taking it easy on New Year's Day. Instead of sleeping in, the Swoosh has announced that it has signed Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley away from Titleist.

Stanley's story -- crushing defeat at Torrey Pines followed the very next week by a redemptive victory in Phoenix -- is a great one, but Watney is the big story here. He's a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, with the most recent of those coming at the Barclays, the first event of the 2012 FedExCup playoffs. And, of course, he won the FedExCup in 2011.

Watney, ranked No. 20 in the world, is making the first equipment switch of his 10-year pro career, Nike said. He will play a full bag of Nike clubs, use Nike accessories and wear Nike gloves, headwear, footwear and apparel as part of his multi-year agreement with the company.

In Watney's bag will be:

--VR_S Covert driver with 11.5 degrees of loft and in a neutral position
--VR_S Covert 3-wood with 14 degrees of loft
--VR_S Covert 5-wood with 18 degrees of loft
--VR Pro Combo irons (3-PW)
--VR Pro 55-degree and 59-degree wedges
--Method Prototype putter
--20XI ball
--Tour Performance Collection apparel
--Lunar Control II footwear

Stanley also has signed a multiyear deal to use Nike gear and wear Nike apparel. His bag will include:

--VR_S Covert driver with 9.5 degrees of loft and in a neutral position
--VR Pro Limited Edition 3-wood with 15 degrees of loft
--VR Pro Combo 2-iron
--VR Pro Blades (3- to 9-irons)
--Nike VR Pro 52-degree, 56-degree and 60-degree wedges
--20XI X putter
--Tour Performance Collection apparel
--Lunar Control II footwear

A few quick notes:

--Watney's 11.5 degrees of loft in his driver is the most loft of any top-level PGA Tour player that I'm aware of. Watney, who is switching to Nike from Titleist, had been using a 10.5-degree loft in his Titleist 913D3 driver.

--The list of Stanley's gear that Nike released doesn't include a putter. It's possible that he hasn't definitely decided on a new Nike model yet, but it's also possible that he's planning to stick with an old reliable putter of a different brand. I'm not sure what he's been using lately, but when he won the Phoenix Open last February, he used a Scotty Cameron Timeless GSS prototype.

--Both Watney and Stanley are scheduled to debut their new stuff in the PGA Tour's season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which starts this Friday in Hawaii.

--And finally, one more intriguing tidbit to start the new year. Nike is planning another announcement next Monday, Jan. 7, and the speculation is, of course, that it will be the official word on Rory McIlroy's much-reported switch to the Swoosh.

Update: Also, we have learned that:

--Chris Kirk has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--Gary Woodland has gone from Titleist to Callaway
--2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2010 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover also has gone from Nike over to TaylorMade
--2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh has gone from Ping to TaylorMade
--Ryan Moore has gone from Adams Golf over to TaylorMade (TaylorMade owns Adams Golf, so this is an in-house move)

 

January 1, 2013 - 2:40pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Caroline Wozniacki
Getty Images
Caroline Wozniacki spent her New Year's setting everyone straight about the status of her romantic life.

There was a buzz around the arena during Caroline Wozniacki's first-round match at the Brisbane International tennis tournament amid rumors that she and world No. 1 golfer Rory McIlroy had gotten engaged over the Christmas holidays, according to the Australian Associated Press. But alas, Wozniacki lost her match, and then splashed cold water on the speculaton of her romantic status.

Wozniacki, of course, was seen wearing a big diamond ring on her left ring finger upon her arrival with McIlroy in Australia a few days ago. But after her match, she explained that the ring was a gift and there was no change in her relationship with McIlroy.

''It was a Christmas present and it fit on this finger and I put it on, and all of a sudden I hear that I'm engaged. But I'm not,'' she said, without specifying who gave her the ring. ''So, yeah, it's already twice we've had to shut down engagement rumors. Don't worry, we will let you know if that time happens!''

So the engagement watch continues. Wozniacki plans to stay Down Under and get ready for the Jan. 14-27 Australian Open. McIlroy is scheduled to begin his 2013 campaign Jan. 17-20 at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship in the Middle East.

 

December 31, 2012 - 1:21pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Cabot Links
Courtesy of Cabot Links
The new Cabot Links course in Nova Scotia rates a well-deserved mention in Greg Nathan's year in review.

By now, I think most of us have about had our fill of reflections on the year in golf just past and are more eager to get the 2013 party started – I know I am. However, there is one last look back I'd like to share with you because it's different – and better – than any other I've seen.

This one was written by Greg Nathan, and I encourage you click on over and give it a look. He's the senior vice president at the National Golf Foundation, but likes to call himself "the Mayor of Crazy Town," and his perspective ranges far beyond what happens on the tours.

The No. 1 item on his list is 2012 as a comeback year for the golf business. Right behind that is his praise for the PGA of America's Golf 2.0 efforts to grow the game. Those things aren't as sexy as Tiger vs. Rory, but they're really more important to all of us on a day-to-day basis. (Tiger and Rory are both on the list, I should point out, but down toward the bottom.)

And while I appreciate the industry-wide focus of Nathan's topics, what I appreciate most is his perspective. On the anchor ban, for example, he comments that the "best thing about the issue is that it makes us all think deeply about the game and what's most important to each of us, as golfers, administrators, guardians… and as business people."

He even finds some good news in the downbeat fact that this will be the seventh consecutive year that more golf courses will close than open in the United States.

"Don't let the media tell you that closure of golf courses is indicative of the decline of demand to play. Simply not true," he writes. "Net reduction of 500 courses since 2006 (out of roughly 16,000), is not a story at all."

Closing more weak facilities "would improve the health of the existing courses and the impact on golf demand would be negligible," he believes. And he says, "There is plenty of supply to serve America's golfers… and the quality of that supply has never been better."

A positive yet sensible outlook on what seems like a negative story? Hey, that's the kind of mayor I want in charge of my Crazy Town.

December 30, 2012 - 11:25pm
Posted by:
John Kim
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Tiger Woods
The PGA of America
Tiger Woods celebrated his 37th birthday on December 30, 2012

Tiger Woods celebrated his 37th birthday today. I trust and hope it was a good one.  

Regardless of a person's views on Tiger Woods the person, there really is not much debate on Tiger Woods the golfer - he dominated the game in stretches that this generation has never seen - perhaps no generation has.  Even more, golf as an industry owes much to Woods - and still rely on his drawing power to help the health of the game on many levels.  

Television ratings, ticket sales and yes, website views, still move significantly because of Woods.  So both sincerely and a little selfishly, I hope year 37 is a great one for him.  Whether he catches Jack Nicklaus' record of major wins or not, whether he ever regains the form that made him the top sports star on the planet - his impact on the game has already left an indelible mark.  And it's created some great golf jobs as well.  So at the very least, I hope him this birthday note.  Thanks and once again - happy birthday. 

 

 

 

December 30, 2012 - 9:00pm
Posted by:
John Holmes
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Tiger Woods
Getty Images
Tiger Woods turned 37 on Sunday, and will be looking to build on his three-win 2012 in the upcoming season.

Today has been a bittersweet Sunday in our house. For one thing, it's the final day of the NFL regular season, which means the last day of my wife's favorite TV show – the NFL Red Zone. I can't help but chuckle at how much she loves it, even as I'm frowning over how my home-state Houston Texans nuked my chances of winning this final week of the office football pool.

But I'm also happy because today is the second and final Sunday without pro golf on TV for the year. Yes, after two whole weeks of no golf, the PGA Tour kicks off its 2013 season with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions out at Kapalua in Hawaii, and our global tournament golf cup will runneth over for 50 straight weeks all the way up to the middle of next December.

The Tournament of Champions runs Friday through Monday, in part to give the players a bit more time to get out to Hawaii and also to give us a Monday finish. The TV times for the first three rounds give us plenty of prime-time golf, while play is ending earlier on Monday so as not to run into the BCS National Championship college football game.

Seeing as how Monday is a work day, I'm a little disappointed that most golf fans won't get to see much of the final round. If it were up to me, I think I'd go ahead and play the final round in prime time, even opposite the big game – there are so many starts and stops and commercial breaks that it'd be easy to flip back and forth and not miss much of anything. But, hey, this is no time to be critical. I'm just happy golf is back.

And, oh yeah, today is Tiger Woods' 37th birthday. Happy birthday, Tiger, and we look forward to seeing what you have in store for us over the coming year.