May
11
2017
Tidbits from Wednesday at The Players: It’s hot in herrrrre (*Updated)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Oh man, I actually have a decent amount of random notes, observations, and fun inside-the-ropes type of stuff to share, but alas, it’s almost 3am (WTF??) and I just finished a very important (that was way too long) post on Tony Romo and his golf pursuits — dude has game.

And then I have no one to blame but myself that I allowed myself to get lost in the abyss of catching up with what I missed during the Wednesday news cycle. I understandably spent the entire day talking to players, caddies, swing coaches, etc. to provide you with random but good info that you won’t find elsewhere, but wow, I spent way too much time in the Florida heat.

Notable: I haven’t seen much of this thing called the “sun” in the past six weeks in NYC since Mother Nature insists on delaying the start of Spring and refuses to let up with this awful trend of crazy rainstorms. So, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to control myself if I started or even allowed myself a taste of reading *one* article, I opened Pandora’s Box, anyway, and proceeded to read every article here (this is a *great* resource, if you want to keep up with our ongoing national nightmare/soap opera), along with others that popped up in my various social media feeds.

I know, I’m a moron. And I should know better, but I genuinely care too much about our country and the increasingly scary and dark path we’re headed. Don’t tell me to stick to sports because if you want to use education and/or majors as a barometer to measure someone’s expertise, I’m definitely WAY more qualified to speak/write about politics and political history than golf!

I need sleep since I didn’t really get any last night and I have an early morning ahead of me, but don’t you worry, these tidbits aren’t like time-sensitive.

Well, okay, I guess perhaps the results of the caddie contest are. I discovered in 2011, the first time I covered The Players, that the best part of the week is Wednesday on the famed par-3 17th, where the caddies partake in a closest-to-the pin contest. It’s the place to be and so much good content… if only I could share video… good thing so many players, caddies and other media provided footage via social media, so that’s better than nothing!

For now, here are the final results:

Ian Finnis (Tommy Fleetwood) – 6 feet, 11 inches
Joe Greiner (Kevin Chappell) – 9 feet, 10 inches
Chris Berry (Brian Gay) – 13 feet, 1 inch
Matthew Kelly (Marc Leishman) – 13 feet, 11 inches
Brandon Antus (William McGirt) – 14 feet, 2 inches

I will update this post with quality content at the first chance possible. I’m also juggling and wearing a few different hats this week… and man, I am out of practice. Oh, those good ol’ days…

Good night and Happy Players Week. Apologies for the delay and thanks for understanding and your continued support!

Cheers,
Stephanie


**UPDATE**

Obviously, I’m a few days late and I apologize; I’m an asshole and idiot. Turned out I had heat stroke and I should just delete everything I wrote and this post altogether, but I am sticking with it, dammit. I spent endured heat stroke from all that time I spent in the sun gathering these random tidbits!

I know better than to write in a delirious state — well, you’d think I would have by now. Throw in heat stroke symptoms and boom, the result is rambling nonsense! Who knew that it would sound like I was on some seriously good drugs?? If only.

Let’s see, what did I want to share. Well, I think I’m still recovering because my memory is shot to hell! OK, obviously, there’s the caddie contest and also the major overhaul and renovation of TPC Sawgrass, notably the par-4 12th. As you may recall, this was just not a good hole, so I didn’t even need to talk to anyone to know that there was a good chance it was much improved without any knowledge of the changes.

However, this hole seemed like the most popular one to talk about because it’s been touted for its risk-reward and drivability. Thing is, every player, caddie and swing coach I spoke with on the 12th — except perhaps one looper — were kind of like, meh, yeah, it’s a better hole, but meh.

In real words, the unanimous consensus was that 80-90% of players would not pull out driver and felt it was almost an automatic 4-iron-wedge hole.

“These (players) are so good and precise with their wedges that it’s not worth the risk and the reward isn’t great enough (to hit driver),” said Pete Cowen, swing coach to nearly every top-ranked European pro.

He also felt that it would make for a better risk-reward hole if it was in the closing stretch.

“When it’s in the middle of the round, it’s in the wrong position,” said Cowen.

Cameron Tringale, who had only played it once when I spoke with him Wednesday, said that in his practice round, he hit a perfect drive that was in line with the center of the green. His ball landed 20 or so yards short and rolled up straight up the middle and then he watched as it turned left and kept going until it stopped in the first-cut of rough, about a foot away from the water hazard. He said Keegan Bradley hit an identical shot with the same result.

Unanimous consensus that if in contention on Sunday, no player in the right mind would pull driver — there’s simply no point. However, sure, if you’re 4-5 back, it’s a risk worth taking. We’ll see.

In the first round, 26 players went for the green with a 3-wood or driver on the par-4 12th. Only three guys found the green: Tony Finau, Derek Fathauer and Freddie Jacobson. As I mentioned in the scenario above, it sounds virtually impossible, so no surprise to hear that stat.

With 144 players in the field — Kevin Na, who had been incredibly ill and even went to the ER on Wednesday — withdrew after the 12th on Thursday — that translates to 18%. So, a bunch of the guys called it almost on the number (20% which was a much more popular answer than 10%).


Meanwhile, as I mentioned above, the most entertaining of festivities during The Players occurs Wednesday on the par-3 17th for the caddie contest. Every year since I’ve covered this event (2011), you know where to find me that day. Fairly certain just about every player live-streamed and/or took video of their caddies while providing great color commentary. No doubt the result is pure comedy and most entertaining stuff you’ll see all week.

I happened to walk over the rope on the 17th tee about a minute before Henrik Stenson’s caddie Gareth Lord stepped up for his turn.

The club almost went the same distance as the ball, but I loved the delay between the first splash (the club) and the second (ball).

Next up, Mark Urbanek, who loops for James Hahn, performed his annual tradition of moonlighting as an MLB pitcher. From the edge of the hazard of the back tee where the pros hit — which is farther back than the caddie tees — Urbanek successfully threw a golf ball onto the green. *Update: That was actually Bill Harke, Jonas Blixt’s caddie …I’m fairly certain 3-4 years ago he nearly aced it with his throw, but it ended up two feet from the hole.

Then, Urbanek stepped up to the tee to hit a ball with a club.

As he noted, he is more accurate using his arm than a club.

Finally, ESPN.com’s Michael Collins filmed pure gold with so much quality footage! — he had the players call the action as their caddies stepped up and then afterward, the three gathered to discuss the result. I don’t think this video shows that because he mentioned that it would go live on Sunday, I believe.

Shout-out to Robert Garrigus, the most generous guy on Tour who doesn’t publicize the huge amounts of money he shells out for the caddies and charities and other good causes. For as long as he’s played The Players, he throws in a bonus prize for the winner of the Caddie Contest — a 60″ flatscreen TV (and it can be any brand, any model, whatever the champion desires). Best part is he does it quietly.

It is sometimes appropriate to tweet or RT your charity-related stuff, like if you’re promoting something via a social media contest, but I love when celebrities and athletes humblebrag (closest phrase I can think of?) about their charitable contributions. Like I said, it is not always douche-y, but sometimes it is weird to randomly tell people that you just donated a shitload of money to x-charity. Let your agent/ PR person leak it to the media or what have you.

And I truly shouldn’t be giving a sanctimonious speech on proper Twitter etiquette because I can’t stand those douchebags are way worse than any charity humble-braggers.


 

Because more than one player told me this, I feel like Brian Harman deserves the recognition and credit. I already thought he deserved more of both because he truly gets every bit out of his game. With his impressive clutch win this past Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship, Harman now has two wins on the PGA Tour. He is like 5’6″ and 130 pounds — total guesstimate — but he hits it a good ways for his size.

What’s more, Harman switched balls the previous week in NOLA when he partnered in the team event with Johnson Wagner. Though Wags has a TaylorMade bag, he only plays the woods. Harman plays TaylorMade and the ball. Wags plays Titleist ProV1s, so Harman offered to play it. He liked it. And a week later, he won.

I don’t know if I can properly emphasize that it’s quite an impressive feat. Not many guys win after putting a new ball in the bag, no less an entirely different brand.


 

A day after Rory McIlroy revealed he had signed an big-money, long-term equipment deal, Adidas AG announced it had agreed to the sale of its golf brands TaylorMade, Adams and Ashworth to private equity firm KPS Capital Partners for $425 million.

Adidas put its golf businesses on the market last May. In 2012 Adidas golf was crushing it in the golf industry, recording $1.7 billion in sales. But TaylorMade was considered as the leader in over-saturating the market, with its release of new equipment every coupe of months, because of the advances in technology. Other equipment manufacturers were irritated that TaylorMade was forcing them to do the same to remain competitive, and some tried to keep up, but Titleist, which is seen by many as the tried-and-true leader, held out and continued its tradition of only releasing new models once every two years.

Well, ultimately, TaylorMade’s business model was unsustainable, and in March 2015, the CEO announced a slowdown in its product cycles four years later, it recorded revenue was slightly over $500 million.

However, signing McIlroy to its roster, TaylorMade has contracts with the biggest names in the game, including the top-three ranked players in the world, with Dustin Johnson, McIlroy and Jason Day. Recent Masters champ Sergio Garcia is also a longtime TaylorMade staffer.

“TaylorMade is a leading global golf brand with an exceptionally strong market position. We would like to thank all TaylorMade employees for their many contributions to our company and wish them all the best for a successful future under their new ownership. At the same time, we welcome all Adidas Golf employees who will be integrated into our Adidas Heartbeat Sports Business Unit,” said Kasper Rorsted, CEO of Adidas AG, in a release. “Within our long-term strategy ‘Creating the New’, our focus is clearly on our core competencies in footwear and apparel and on our two major brands Adidas and Reebok.”

The deal is expected to close later this year, with half the purchase price paid in cash and “the remainder in a combination of secured note and contingent considerations.”

Whoa, just had flashbacks to the days where I worked on these types of deals, which included writing the releases announcing them, in my first two jobs out of college — first as a paralegal at major global white-shoe corporate law firm and then as an analyst in private equity at an investment bank. Oh, no, gotta run before this triggers a panic attack!