Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Olympic Golf: Rooting for the Red, White and Who?

Published

on

It all started so well. Like building a new house, the blueprints were perfect. Well known builder… check. Money… check. Piece of land… check. Interest… check. Then as they started building, it all went wrong, sinking like a bad foundation.

Way back in October of 2009, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced with great fan fare golf would return to the Olympics at Rio for the first time since Canadian George Lyon won in 1904. At the time (2009 not 1904), Padraig Harrington went as far as to tell PGATour.com:

“I do believe in time the Olympic gold will become the most important event in golf, and I don’t believe it will take that long.”

Well, someone forgot to tell the rest of the players because players have been dropping like flies.

Vijay Singh, someone with no issue taking on the PGA Tour and its governing body, announced in April of 2016 he would not play for Fiji. A week later, Adam Scott said he had a busy summer schedule and personal commitments, which would not allow him to play.

Since those two, a proverbial who’s who of players have announced they will not attend. Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Braden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Shane Lowry, Charl Schwartzel, Marc Leishman, Graeme McDowell, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Hideki Matsuyama, Brendon de Jonge, Andy Sullivan and Tim Wilkinson have all bowed out. That’s a leader board any major championship would be happy with on a Sunday afternoon.

Of those not playing, the excuses have run the gambit from family (Day and others), schedule (Scott and others) and Zika, which has been the most prevailing.

With regard to the schedule, the chance to win gold comes at an inopportune time. The event will take place August 11-14, which is just two weeks after the PGA Championship and the week before the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship. There’s no doubt the Wyndham is a popular event. It attracts a top field, but we aren’t talking about the Quad Cities Open. This is the Olympics; it’s a once-every-four-year chance. Given the way the Tour has gone the last couple years, it may be a once in a lifetime chance. There is no telling who will be the best players four years from now.

Not to mention these guys aren’t flying United. They can hop on a private jet and fall asleep in Rio and wake up in Charlotte ready to go.

Now we come to the touchier subjects: family and Zika.

Mind you, family is just a code word for Zika, and it is seemingly a legitimate concern. Who is going to argue with a player putting family first? It is an easy out, maybe even a smart decision. No one is going to deny Zika is a risk. The photographs of Brazilian mothers holding a newborn child with microcephaly are sad and scary. But is health a real concern or just a convenient reason to get out of playing?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), yes, athletes are at risk of being infected by the Zika virus from infected mosquitoes, the same as any other Brazilian citizen. However, WHO has stated Zika usually only causes minor symptoms, with most persons not having any symptoms at all. The Center for Disease Control has said Zika should not cause any problems for women wanting to get pregnant after it has passed through the blood stream. They have recommended waiting for at least six months after the first symptoms to start trying to have a child just to be safe.

It’s up to the player to decide if waiting six months to have a child is worth a possible gold medal; only they can answer that. Not to get all Dr. Ruth but, if a player really needs to have a kid within the next six months, can’t they freeze a sample before heading for Rio? Plus if it is such a concern, why hasn’t Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park, or other top LPGA players backed out?

Other athletes have more concerns than Zika, and will be more exposed to contracting Zika than golfers will. Dead bodies are washing up on the shore where the beach volleyball games will be played — that’s right, dead bodies. The USA rowers are all wearing science fiction body suits to keep bacteria in the water from touching their skin. Just this week we learned the waters sailing events will take place in have super bacteria resistant to medicine.

“Every time you get some water in your face, it feels like there’s some alien enemy entering your body,” a German sailor told CNN.

Think he’s withdrawing? Nope. Let that sink in. Sailors, without million dollar salaries or endorsements, are willingly going to risk becoming infected with a bacteria medicine can’t help just for a shot at a medal.

Think about it: if the beach volleyball teams can play in bikinis and board shorts, can’t golfers take precautions? How about long sleeves and bug spray? Heck, use it to get sponsorship deal with Off!

The Red, White and Blue hasn’t been immune either. Just last night Dustin Johnson backed out citing family reasons, after previously stating he would play. And there could be more losses to follow; Jordan Spieth just last week said he is still gathering information and Rickie Fowler has been non-committal. It would be no shock if those two members of the #SB2K16 were waiting for another American to withdraw so they could, too.

And back to that list, poor Gary Player, captain of the South African contingent, has gone from having Oosthuizen and Schwartzel and a legitimate chance of gold to suggesting that he may have to play for South Africa in the Olympics.

So exasperated with the process, he went on Morning Drive recently and reiterated his belief amateurs should play instead of pros because they would appreciate it more.

And while amateurs would certainly appreciate it more (at this point, it would be hard not too), it’s not reality. People aren’t tuning in, and the PGA Tour, IOC and Brazil haven’t spent millions of dollars to find the next George Lyon. Fans and organizers want star power. Just like Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Magic Johnson brought to Barcelona in 1992. Without those types of names, enjoy the golf this year, because after 2020, it may be another 112 years before we see it again.

Your Reaction?
  • 7
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL5
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB1
  • SHANK3

Seth is an avid golfer playing year round in Florida.

Podcasts

The Gear Dive: Episode 100

Published

on

In this 100th episode of The Gear dive, Johnny looks back at his top 5 favorite moments and discusses what’s to come in the equipment industry as we come out of the lockdown haze.

Your Reaction?
  • 0
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: 3 keys to handling pressure

Published

on

Whether you play competitively or not, “pressure” is a big part of this game. Even if we are out for an evening practice nine, when we get over any shot, from drive to putt, we are putting “pressure” on ourselves to perform to our best capability.

So just what is pressure? My dad used to tell us the story about a guy who wanted to learn how to walk the tightrope. He strung a rope across his yard about a foot off the ground and started practicing—first just balancing, then walking, skipping—he got where he “owned” that tightrope. So, he decided he was ready for the big top, to join the circus. The circus manager says, “Well, climb up there and show me what you’ve got.” When he got to the top and looked down about thirty feet, he couldn’t even get off the platform.

Pressure!

Pressure affects all of differently, but it does affect all of us. How can we totally jack a two-foot putt sometimes? How can we chunk a chip shot? We don’t do that on the practice tee! But then, how can tour pros hit some of the gosh-awful shots we see them hit coming down the stretch? No one is immune.

So, I want to share my three keys to handling pressure. I’d like for all of you to chime in with your own personal keys that you use with success.

Here are mine:

  1. Recall success! The first thing that happens in pressure situations is that fear sets in. You may find yourself thinking of that last short putt you missed, or that chip you chunked, or bunker shot you skulled. In Dr. David Cook’s book/movie “Seven Days In Utopia”, the mentor tells his student, “See it. Feel it. Trust it.” See the shot you have and recall the dozens or hundreds of ways you’ve successfully executed it before. Take a few practice swings and feel the swing that will produce that vision. Then trust your skill that you KNOW you have and just execute.
  2. Get S-L-O-W. It’s a natural tendency to get quick when we are under pressure. As you begin to approach the shot, slow down a bit. If you are riding in a cart and approaching the green, pause for a count before you jump out of the cart. Take a breath before you pull the clubs from the bag. Walk a little more slowly over to your ball, which gives you time to think those successful thoughts we just talked about. Make your practice swings or strokes a little slower, more deliberately. And feel the end of your backswing. The quickness killer is not finishing the swing, whether it’s a full iron shot, a short chip or pitch, or even a putt. FEEL the end of the backswing to neutralize quickness.
  3. Lighten up! A nice relaxed grip is essential to a good golf shot of any kind, but pressure affects that first, most of the time. When you are feeling a little “amped up”, focus on your grip pressure and R-E-L-A-X. Your body will not let you hold a club too softly, but pressure sure can make you put the death grip on the club. And it is hard to swing too quickly when you have a nice soft grip on the club.

So, those are my “three keys” to handling pressure. Try them the next time you find yourself a little nervous, whether it’s for the club championship, or just beating your buddies out of a few bucks.

And let us know your keys to handling pressure, too!

Your Reaction?
  • 22
  • LEGIT5
  • WOW0
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK5

Continue Reading

Equipment

Coming out of the haze: What to expect from the OEMs in the second half of 2020

Published

on

As we slowly come out of the lockdown haze, it’s going to be interesting to see which OEMs are primed to come out swinging. From where I sit, there are a few companies that either kept the foot on the pedal or found new ways to interact with the masses. I have been tracking the major companies for different reasons, and I am optimistic on most fronts. Now, it needs to be said that everyone has been keeping the respective momentum going in their own ways—this has been a challenge for everyone, so this analysis is simply a commentary on what may come in the second half of the year.

Many good folks were either furloughed or laid off during this lockdown—that’s where we all lost. It needs to be acknowledged that we are talking about golf here, but the underlying reality of this is still devastating. I so look forward to getting into the trenches with these folks again either back where they were or at new companies.

TaylorMade became educators…and kicked off live golf again

Big giant club company or big giant marketing machine…it doesn’t matter what you label them as. TaylorMade Golf, in my opinion, turned the heartbreak of stalling one of the biggest first quarters in company history into an opportunity to start talking…and teaching. With the help of the tour team and TM athletes, TaylorMade focused hard on talking to us all during the lockdown. With multiple initiatives through social media, the Driving Relief event, and the tour staff engaging way more than usual. I believe TM created a runway to start moving quickly once stores and pro shops open up again.

Let’s face it, with the social media presence, the most robust tour staff maybe ever, and the driver everyone seems to have reserved for the top big stick of 2020, what’s not to be confident about? On the flip side, a company that big could have really taken it on the chin hard, but how they handled the lockdown—from my chair—was fun to watch and will ultimately ensure a quick restart. There is something to be said about having guys like Trottie, Adrian, and Hause in the fold informing and keeping things fun.

Rumor has it new irons are dropping in the fall/winter, which could spell two awesome bookends to a bittersweet 2020.

PXG leaned in

Why online sales for all OEMs spiked is no mystery. Boredom, desire, and a credit card are keys to any great online buying experience, but PXG made certain that if you were not a buyer previously, you may be now.

The price tag has always been a key topic with Bob Parsons’ Scottsdale-based company. It’s no secret that the clubs aren’t cheap, but during this lockdown, they did multiple strategic initiatives to not only crank up direct-to-consumer buying but also expand the PXG conversation into different areas, namely fashion.

Price cuts across the board started early and, rumor has it, enabled PXG to achieve sales numbers unlike any other period in the company’s short history. Yes, cutting prices helps unit sales, but in the case of PXG, it brought in the club customer that ordinarily shied away from PXG for financial reasons and ultimately made them buyers. That’s where PXG seems to shine, once they finally get you in, they are very effective at keeping you in the family. Mercedes-Benz AMG is like that: once you have had a taste of the Kool-Aid, it’s hard to go back to Hawaiian Punch.

In addition to the aggressive price-cutting, PXG fashion, spearheaded by President Renee Parsons, launched a new collection that is designed and manufactured by PXG. Fashion in times like these is always a risk from a financial standpoint, but this launch has been on the calendar since the BOY and the current lockdown did not disrupt that. It speaks to the confidence that Bob and Renee have in what they are doing. Now, is it a guarantee that PXG garments will fly off the shelves? No. but that’s not the point, it’s the fact that this current climate didn’t scare them into pivoting or holding off.

Point to this pick is PXG looks healthy coming out of this and it was possible to believe that perhaps this would have taken a toll on the custom fit brand. There is even a commercial produced during lockdown to attract even more club builders to the fold. Not normal behavior in times like these, but is anything that PXG does normal? No, and that’s what makes them fun to talk about.

The company also released its Essential Facemask with 50 percent of proceeds going to Team Rubicon.

Ping was quiet…but don’t be fooled

Yes, they did some rare social media engagements with Kenton Oates and the tour staff, which were fantastic. But the real magic here was the quiet way in which Ping slipped into 2020 and the mystery they have in hand and what’s to come next.

There hasn’t been really any new Ping product in a good while, and I anticipate a big winter for the Solheim crew. Sometimes, silence is golden and from what I can gather, what Ping has coming in irons and woods will be yet again a launch that gets people talking.

Ping from a business standpoint is a company that gets one percent better every year. Never any dramatic shifts in strategy or product. It’s always good, it’s always high-performance, and it’s always in the “best of” category across the board.

Watch out for them over the next six to nine months…a storm is brewing. A good one.

Cobra introduced the “Rickie iron”

Cobra Rev 33 Irons

Compared to 2019 and the runaway success that was the F9 driver, Cobra Golf seemed to cruise along in the first quarter of 2020. The SpeedZone metal wood line was an improvement tech-wise from the F9 but seemed to get lost in the driver launch shuffle with an earlier release—and frankly everyone in the industry took a back seat to TaylorMade’s SIM.

It’s not placing one stick over the other actually, I have been very vocal about my affections for both, it’s just some years, the story around a club can generate excitement, and if the club is exceptional, boom. Cobra was that cool kid in 2019.

What Cobra decided to do in the downtime is slowly tease and taunt with a “Rickie Fowler” iron. Players blades aren’t typically the driving element of any business model, but what Cobra did was introduce to a beautiful yet completely authentic forging that will not only get the gear heads going nuts but also entice the better players to start looking at Cobra as a serious better players iron company. No small feat.

Point is, Cobra has generated buzz. It helped that Rickie’s performance at Seminole was just short of a precision clinic. Beyond the Rev 33, its rumored Cobra has a new players CB coming and some MIM wedges.

It should be an exciting last half for the Cobra crew.

The Titleist train chugged on

I mean, what else is there to say about Titleist? They are as American as apple pie, have a stranglehold on multiple tour and retail categories, and one of the best front offices in golf. The company is a well-oiled machine.

So what do I expect from them in the last half? Well pretty much what I would expect on any other year, solid player-driven equipment. A metal wood launch is coming, the SM8 was a huge hit in stores and on tour, and the ball portion is the biggest 800-pound gorilla in golf.

It was also nice to see a little more social media interaction beyond the traditional. Aaron Dill has been very active on the social media front and a good portion of the tour staff, namely Poulter, JT, and Homa were proactive in engagement. Might seem trivial to some, but specifically, Titleist and Ping are not super active in the organic interaction game, so it was nice to see both companies dive into the fold.

Cleveland/Srixon should have a lot to look forward to

Let’s be honest here, 2019 was a quiet year overall for Srixon. Shane Lowry won The Open, but in the golf mainstream it was a leap year for them in regards to any launches. The anticipation from me personally of what is to come is quite strong. I adore the irons. I have yet to meet one I didn’t love, and fitters across the country will speak to that in sales. The Srixon iron line has become a popular yet-sort-of-cult-classic among fitters and gearheads and rightly so. They are phenomenal.

The recently teased picture of the new driver on the USGA site more or less teased us of what is to come for the overall line. New Cleveland wedges are coming shortly and the golf ball has always been a solid component to the Huntington Beach company.

As much as anyone in the market, I believe Srixon could finish the year with some serious momentum going into 2021. The irons and ball have always been firestarters. My only wish for them, selfishly, is a more aggressive tour strategy in regards to landing one of the perennial top 10. It seems like a dumb thought, but I have always felt Cleveland/Srixon was always a serious hitter that at times seems to get lost in the conversation. Having a big gun on staff or a couple of them will remedy that quickly.

Callaway has an eye on big things for the golf ball

Callaway, a company that seems to do it all well, was actually a bit quiet since the lockdown started. After a solid release of the Mavrik line and some momentum in the golf ball area, I’m sure this lockdown probably felt like a kick to the shin.

However, this company is shifting in a good way. The idea that they were a golf club company that happened to make golf balls is slowly turning into a company with multiple major components that stand alone. TaylorMade is on a similar shift, and honestly it’s very interesting to watch. Do I think that anyone will ever catch Titleist in the ball category? No, I don’t. All of these mentioned golf balls are ridiculously good, but 75 years of trust and loyalty are hard to compete with. But that’s not the point, Callaway is a monster company that takes the golf ball conversation very seriously, and I believe this will serve them very well coming out of this craziness and help the momentum going into 2021.

 

 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 55
  • LEGIT10
  • WOW2
  • LOL3
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP3
  • OB3
  • SHANK18

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending