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Friday, August 5, 2011

More Opinions on Hot Topics

Oh yeah, I'm in an opinionated mood now! Not about Tiger this time, but about a variety of other topics in the news...

1) The most likely reason for Rory's change of heart about joining the PGA Tour: Holly Sweeney. Hardly anybody's been talking about this, but I think she's been a big factor in Rory's relationship with the Tour.

Why did Rory say he originally gave up his Tour membership? Back in a January ESPN blog post Bob Harig cited Rory's "desire to spend more time with girlfriend Holly Sweeney" as one of the reasons, then commented on the irony that the two broke up anyway. Rory has since been quoted as saying it took "a lot of begging and grovelling to get her back" (quoted in this post from the Sun).

After Rory announced Tuesday that he would probably reclaim his Tour card in 2012, Emily Kay over at Waggle Room wrote (quite accurately):
"As recently as June of this year, Chandler told the Irish Times his client would not retake his PGA Tour card because of the FedEx Cup, a series of four events that begins with The Barclays in August and ends with the Tour Championship in late September."
Now here's the twist: Holly and Rory broke up again in July, just a couple of weeks before the Open but well after the Chandler announcement. This Golf365 post puts the date of the official announcement from Rory's management company as July 18th.

So I suspect Holly deserves as much thanks for Rory's decision to play here in America as anybody else. If nothing else, she clearly made the decision easier for him. Rex Hoggard has noted this possibility as well. And it's just a gut feeling, but I wouldn't be surprised if Rory's next girlfriend is American.

2) Is Chubby Chandler really playing hardball with the PGA Tour? Originally I thought he might, but now I'm not so sure. I think he's just capitalizing on opportunities to give his players more options -- exactly what a good manager ought to do.

There's been no "unified front" to this supposed game. Although Westwood and McIlroy didn't take Tour membership in 2011, several of Chubby's other clients did -- Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, and Charl Schwartzel, just to name a few. If Chubby was trying to force the PGA Tour to "dance to his tune," this is certainly not the way to do it. Westwood and McIlroy both had their own reasons for not joining, and Chubby is too savvy not to recognize a superb chance to bargain with the Tour in order to get them more playing options.

There's no evidence that Chubby made any effort to talk Rory out of regaining Tour membership in 2012. In fact, based on the Hoggard piece I linked to earlier in this post, it's likely Chubby had already made plans to help Rory find a house in Florida, which Rory said he planned to do the week after the PGA Championship.

All I'm saying is that I think Chubby is just trying to give his clients every negotiating advantage he can. If that makes him look like the new European Godfather of golf, he's probably fine with that... as long as it gives him the clout he needs to do his job.

3) Will the LPGA really have 5 majors? Perhaps not. I wrote two posts on the topic last month -- this post on both Steve Williams and Evian, followed a week later by this post specifically about the LPGA. In that second post I wrote this:
"To be honest, in this economy I'm not so sure the Kraft-Nabisco will survive as a major. If KN can't see the value of what they have -- a well-defined sports icon in a competitive advertising marketplace -- they probably don't have the vision to stay in and capitalize on it. I'd be surprised if Whan hasn't weighed that into his decision. In another few years this whole debate may prove useless as we find ourselves still playing only 4 majors, with the Evian replacing the KN and Michael Whan being hailed as the man who kept the majors intact."
Because Whan went to such lengths to compare Evian's vision to the original Colgate-Palmolive vision -- an attempt to remind them what they have, perhaps? -- I felt this was a logical assumption.

Then during an earnings conference call yesterday Kraft announced plans to split the company into two independent public companies. You can read this article yourself, but I think the key statement is this: "Specifically, detailed review by the Board and management has shown that these two businesses would now benefit from being run independently of each other, rather than as part of the same company. " You see, the plan is to split KN into two distinct businesses -- a "high-growth global snacks business" and a "high-margin North American grocery business."

I don't think Whan had any way of knowing about this plan, but he had to wonder why KN was dragging its feet about re-upping as the Kraft-Nabisco Championship's sponsor. Other statements he made indicate that he was seriously considering the possibility. (Again, Emily Kay was on top of this.) Plans to keep the championship alive don't automatically mean that it will remain a major -- witness the evolution of the du Maurier Classic into the CN Canadian Women's Open.

So it's not a given that Whan's move will actually create 5 majors -- at least not for more than two years, since the Evian becomes a major in 2013 and KN's sponsorship contract is currently destined to run 2014. We'll have to see how this all plays out.

BTW, if KN doesn't re-up and one of you other companies out there wants to take over this major, may I make a suggestion? Rename it "The Dinah Presented by [your company's name]." This tournament is the only major besides the Masters attached to an iconic figure, and the players still tend to call it the Dinah. The value of that icon is much greater than any promotional value your company's name might get by calling it "The [Your company's name] Championship." Capitalize on the history and the power of that icon, and your company's name will be clearly associated with it soon enough.

4) I could also ramble on about how much I like the way the Adam Scott / Steve Williams partnership is shaping up... but you've all probably had enough of my rants for today. However, given what we now know about their "discussion" before Steve agreed to become Adam's full-time caddie, I will say that I wouldn't be surprised to see Adam win a major in the next 12 months or so. (Yes, you read that here first.)

I'll shut up now. Have a good day!