Westwood and Kuchar turn back the clock. Who’s next?

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Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The latest news in the golf equipment business has World #1 Justin Rose leaving TaylorMade after 20 years and moving to Honma when his contract expires December 31st. History has shown that not all of these moves lead to continued success and in some cases have been disasters. While the players always say that the move isn’t about money, it almost always is. Comment on the regular shuffle of players and equipment sponsors and how do you think this will work for Rose?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I agree with you that these changes in equipment can often mean the downfall of a player.  I wish I could think of a few examples, because there are several, but off the top of my head, I can only remember when Nick Price was still in the Top 5 of the OWGR, and his management company (which I nearly went to work for, but that’s another story) got him hooked up with a company that made one-piece metal woods.  He tried these things for several weeks, and they kept tweaking them, but it was like trying to hit a golf ball with a lamppost for Nick.  He ditched the contract, but his game never recovered.  I wish Rosie good luck, but honestly, TaylorMade’s made you a multi-millionaire, old boy, so I wouldn’t have tampered with that success!

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): It blows my mind he’d leave at this point in his career and W#1. It looks as though he has everything figured out and fine tuned. Why he would want to mess with that at this point is a head scratcher. Doesn’t take much searching to find cases where it doesn’t work out: Bubba and ball, etc. It’s never an immediate success either, just look at when Nike shut down and players eased their way into other equipment, deal or not. Even though Nike had Tiger for such a long period, it never translated into significant sales of their hard goods (not enough anyway). I think the only way this changes is if manufacturers come to the realization that these deals may not necessarily mean more sales, so future deals would not be as lucrative, and you’ll see a more stable long-term commitment of players and manufacturers. Case in point is Lee Westwood, who won this past weekend, and has been with Ping (through good and bad) for 20 years.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Honma has been around for quite a while but not a strong brand in North America. Their public outlet store in Markham has been closed and their web page is unresponsive. I hope Rose gets paid up front. From Honma’s point of view, what a coup! As far as other players signing unusual deals there is a lot available when the top 7 or 8 players are paid the amounts they receive. IMO Outside the impact of a few certain select few this money would be better spent on ‘grassroots’ marketing instead. You only have to go back a few months to the Volvik deal with Bubba Watson to see what happens to an artist who tries using a fork to paint with rather than a brush.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): Nothing says relatable sponsorship deal like a top-ranked player using a set of clubs that 99% of golfers couldn’t afford in their wildest dreams. And yes, of course this move is about money. Why else would Rose just suddenly stop using the clubs that got him to #1 in the world!? Personally, I never take any of the sponsorship deals seriously because in almost every instance, with a few notable exceptions, it makes no difference which brand of clubs the pros play. I used to work at Golf Town, and you can believe me when I say that every brand uses similar technology and calls it something different. They’re all the same! In fact, a vast majority of golfers wouldn’t be able to tell which club was in their hands in a blind test if they all had the same grips and the faces were taped up. As for how Rose will fare, I have no clue. But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was barely any statistical ball-striking discrepancies between the clubs he is currently using and the ones he will be using next season.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Rose has come a long way from the 17-year old kid that turned pro and missed 21 straight cuts. He has a major, an Olympic Gold Medal, a World #1 ranking and probably more money than he can spend in several lifetimes. He was never going to be the big dog at TaylorMade, not with DJ, Tiger and Rory in the mix. So why not a new challenge? It’s not like he’s taking up cricket at age 40. It’s still golf and Honma will find something that works for their new global ambassador. Of course it’s about the money, but I think life will get a little more interesting now for Rose and his family too.

At European PGA Tour Q-school, Gian-Marco Petrozzi was denied a spot in a playoff after being assessed a 2-shot penalty for raking a bunker he had walked through when stepping off yardage on his final hole. (Rule 13-2 Improving Lie, Area of Intended Stance or Swing, or Line of Play). Petrozzi thought he was returning the bunker to its original condition, but the Rules see it otherwise. At a time when the Rules are being amended to make them easier to understand and more equitable, is this one they missed?

Deeks: Yes, I’d say so.  This is just another example of “the rules is an ass”.  Even if the guy topped his shot into the bunker he had raked, in goof faith, how was his raking improving his lie?  Honestly, the R&A has to understand that this, and so many other rules and interpretations, are making a mockery of the game.

Loughry: Bottom line with Rules is everyone has an opinion on what works and doesn’t. Can anyone say they love all hockey rules (instigator, high sticking, missed calls, goalie interference, please take your pick). Curling: I recall a major controversy last year in the world championships when Rachel Homan kicked out a burned rock when there was another option, and everyone was up in arms about sportsmanship, right or wrong, it was a controversy? NFL Football: pass interference? NBA: Foul? Travelling? Boxing: scoring by judges. NEED I PROVIDE MORE EXAMPLES? There is always controversy in any sport with regards to rules, golf is no exception. The one thing all sports and rules have in common when an issue comes up is that it makes for entertaining banter between fans, friends and media who all eat it up like candy.

Schurman: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again the major tours around the world spend so much money to manage events and they miss one of the most obvious, low cost, ingredients imaginable. They should have an Appeals Committee that is part of the Tournament Rules Committee where a player can state his/her case when there is no intent. I understand there’s a fine line between no intent, ignorance of a rule and an accidental breach. But this is clearly a case where the player was not trying to gain an advantage. However, IF he had missed his next shot and it went into the bunker after he raked it then that’s a different story.

Kaplan: They definitely missed this one. What a stupid rule! How can raking a bunker between yourself and the green—one that you intend to carry during your shot—be considered improving your line of play? That’s outrageous and the type of rule, if invoked, that would cause an alteration to break out between two amateurs in a match. This rule needs to be clarified ASAP.

Mumford: I can see it being a penalty if he hit his next shot into the bunker, but a nothingburger if he didn’t. The Rules always want to be as concise as possible, leaving no “grey” areas open to interpretation. However, that means they’re not always equitable. While Petrozzi clearly violated Rule 13-2, it didn’t gain him any advantage, and I think most would say “no harm, no foul.” Clearly, the blue blazers still have some work to do before they get them all right.

On Sunday, 40-year old Matt Kuchar and 45-year old Lee Westwood both won golf tournaments on their respective Tours. Co-incidentally, the last time both players won was on the exact same day 1,666 days ago (April 20, 2014). The coincidence is even more remarkable in that neither player used his regular Tour caddie in this weekend’s victory – Kuchar used a local caddie while Westwood had his girlfriend on the bag.  Definitely feel good stories for both veterans. What other player would you like to see deliver a nostalgic late-in-his-or-her career win & why?

Deeks: I would LOVE to see Dame Laura Davies, at age 55, turn back the clock and win a regular LPGA Tour event. Laura still plays the regular Tour, even though she’s old enough to be GRANDMA to a few of the rookies!  She’s still out there because she hasn’t yet qualified for induction into the LPGA Hall of Fame, even though she’s been in the WORLD Hall for several years, is a Dame Commander of the British Empire, and the first Honorary Woman Member of the R&A.  Getting into the LPGA HOF is extremely important to her.  She’s recently won two Senior LPGA events, but apparently they don’t count toward LPGA HOF criteria.  One more win would do it… otherwise, she has to retire, wait five years, and get elected in the Veterans Category, which she does NOT want to happen.  So, press on, Old Girl!!

Loughry: This was an amazing weekend for golf even in November, and the coincidence is uncanny! Certainly, two popular winners amongst players and fans. I wonder if this means THE MATCH between Tiger and Phil might have some zest to it after all? Very happy for both players, neither a super star, but solid career players. Other vets I’d like to see win? Tiger, at least one more Major, four more would be a dream. I’d be Ok with that, pretty sure I’m not alone there either. Furyk would be another, and although a “senior” now, Steve Stricker. How do you cheer against either (Furyk/Stricker) of those life long high achieving career guys who competed in the same era as TW and Phil (who scooped up well over 130 events between the two of them)? Those would be popular wins.

Schurman: My late in life story isn’t another player, it’s Lee Westwood. I’d love to see him win the British Open as my first choice or the US Open as my second.

Kaplan: Mike Weir. The most accomplished Canadian player in PGA Tour history loves competing so much, but just hasn’t come anywhere close to winning since his victory at the Fry’s Electronics Open in 2007. Of course, the southpaw doesn’t need to win another green jacket … any PGA Tour event would do. I’m not greedy.

Mumford: Watching Steve Stricker or Lee Westwood win a major would be great to see, because they deserve it and it would upset the space-time continuum, but it requires more than a leap of faith to make it happen. That said, I’ve always been a big fan of Geoff Ogilvy. He’s one of the more intriguing personalities on Tour and about as far from the prototypical robo-golfer as you can get. He recently moved his family back to Australia and is contemplating his future as something less than a full-time PGA Tour player. He has a golf course design business and on any given day says more smart things than all the talking heads on TV combined. At 40, he’s not past his prime, but in his own words, he’s past the point where the weekly grind of the Tour holds any fascination for him. He desires more balance in his life and different challenges. That may make it even more difficult to eke out another win but if he does, you know the victory speech will always be more interesting with Ogilvy on the microphone.

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