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Home 2009 Archives Archives VOLUME 12, NUMBER 2

Web Street Golf Report


Monday, January 12, 2009

STREET SIGNS: As the 2009 calendar year gets started an early theme that appears to be in play is size. As markets attempt to determine what businesses are in store for, on a company level it’s a question of being aligned for the appropriate head count based on future potential revenues. Golf isn’t immune to this either. Late last year the Acushnet Company initiated a two-part (part a is voluntary and part b is involuntary) program to reduce its employee base accordingly for the year ahead. Now evidence of another heavy weight in golf is also facing the same harsh realities.

TaylorMade-adidas Golf Company (TMaG) announced a workforce reduction of 70 employees from across all areas of the company. It said the decision was a direct response to today's uncertain global economic climate.

"We have to align our resources appropriately to meet the unique challenges ahead," said Mark King, TMaG Chief Executive Officer and President in a prepared statement released by the company. "That means taking a variety of critical actions to make our organization leaner and more cost-efficient. We regret that one of those actions is to reduce our workforce, however difficult times require difficult decisions. We're confident that the steps we're taking now will allow our company to remain strong during these turbulent times."

TIME FORE A CHANGE: The American people voted by a majority, back in November, they wanted a change in Washington. While it’s still more than two weeks from when president-elect Obama is sworn in, the platform he was successful in his campaign was centered on the idea of change. A couple of big names in golf are following through on this concept as well.

Cleveland Golf/Srixon announced that Vijay Singh has signed multi-year contracts with both brands. Singh, the winner of 57 tournaments worldwide, including 3 majors, and over

$60 million on the PGA Tour alone is changing to play Srixon golf balls. The reigning FedEx Cup champion also extended his equipment contract with Cleveland Golf, although the Cleveland Golf logo that donned the front of his visor has been moved to the side making room for a new corporate sponsor.

"I’ve thoroughly tested Srixon balls and I’m convinced that they’re better than what I’ve been playing. This also virtually assures that I will be playing Cleveland Golf clubs, a Never Compromise putter and Srixon golf balls for the rest of my PGA Tour career, and I am very happy about that," said Singh, who has endorsed Cleveland Golf since 2000 and Never Compromise since 2004.

“We are extremely pleased to keep Vijay in the clubs that have brought him such great success over the years,” said Greg Hopkins, President/CEO of Cleveland Golf/Srixon. “Vijay is very excited about playing our new Srixon balls, which tells us that 2009 will be another big year for him.”

Boo Weekley has also signed with the company to play Srixon golf balls and continue using Cleveland clubs and a Never Compromise putter. “Cleveland clubs have gotten me where I am today,” said Weekley. “And I really love this Srixon golf ball. Now these boys know how to make a golf ball!”

Continuing on with the carousel of equipment changes, Stuart Appleby has struck a deal to represent Callaway Golf Company (ELY: NYSE). The winner of eight PGA Tour events will endorse all Callaway Golf equipment and golf balls, carry a Callaway Golf branded bag and feature the Company's logo on his headwear.

"Stuart is a quality person who embodies everything Callaway Golf looks for in a partner," said Nick Raffaele, Vice President of Sports Marketing, Callaway Golf. "He's a proven winner and we're excited to have him on our staff as he pursues more success on the PGA Tour and ultimately, a major championship."

Appleby, 37, recently completed a successful 2008 PGA Tour campaign that included a career-high seven Top 10 finishes and 14 tournaments in which he finished in the Top 25. In addition, he concluded the season playing some of his best golf, posting a Top 10 result at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, the season's final playoff event.

This one has a bit of an angle to it. Destination Cellars, which calls itself the first and only luxury destination wine club, announced that it will sponsor Parker McLachlin for the "West Coast Swing" of the 2009 PGA Tour season. The deal, which for now only covers the start to the PGA Tour schedule on the left coast, came about due to time off at the end of last year. McLachlin and family embarked on a luxury destination wine tour from Destination Cellars to Montalcino, Italy to experience the world of wine. McLachlin's trip to Italy was considered so successful that Destination Cellars has named the customized itinerary after the PGA Tour pro. The Parker Package - Destination Tuscany is a weeklong adventure exploring the culture, history and vineyards of Italy from Rome to Montalcino to Florence. Each step of the journey is customized based on personal preference, down to handpicked restaurant recommendations.

"The best thing about experiencing Italy for the first time with a trip arranged by Destination Cellars is that they have genuine relationships with the vineyard owners, meaning that we were welcomed at the winery as if we were extended family," said Parker McLachlin. "I'm looking forward to my next trip to Tuscany just as much as I'm looking forward to starting the '09 season next week. One thing I learned on my wine vacation is that appreciating truly great wine is very similar to playing a great game of golf, it takes patience and is best enjoyed one sip -- or one hole at a time."

Well time will tell if the two parties remain enamored with each other since the deal for the time being appears to be temporary. Web Street sources indicated details of a longer relationship are being discussed now and McLachlin is expected to be sponsored by Destination Cellars at the Tiger Wood’s AT&T Challenge in July. Stay tuned.

IN PLAY: Callaway Golf (ELY: NYSE) began the New Year by closing out some business from last year. The company announced the acquisition of uPlay, a Carlsbad, California-based developer and marketer of consumer electronics devices. The transaction was completed on December 31, 2008, the company said. Terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

"The acquisition of uPlay makes sense for us on several fronts," stated George Fellows, President and CEO, Callaway Golf in a company press release. "We've said that we would look for acquisitions to help accelerate our growth, and the combination of uPlay with its innovative GPS platform and Callaway Golf's technical leadership in club and ball development will do just that by creating incremental new business opportunities, while also enhancing golfers' experiences on the golf course."

THE OTHER HALF: One person who isn’t surprised PGA Tour players will be competing for more money in 2009 is Zach Johnson. Despite a difficult economy, to put it nicely, Johnson said he had a bird’s eye view of the inner workings of the Tour heading into the new campaign. “I was chairman of the PAC last year so it will be my first year on the board. So just understanding how thorough and how in-depth and the breadth to which they handle their business, it doesn't surprise me,” Johnson said in response to the potential pay increase in ’09. “What Tim and his staff does, the international board of directors that we have, just the knowledge and the overall reign of the Tour, it doesn't surprise me. They position themselves for times like this.”

The Business Management and Marketing major at Drake University relocated his residence recently, from Orlando to St. Simons, Sea Island, and perhaps further testimony that his business isn’t going to be affected by the economy in the near term. He did acknowledge he took a bit of a hit on the sale of his house due to the times we all live in. “ A little bit,” he said, “But I think the other factors outweigh that, as far as I'm concerned. Fortunately, my wife and I put ourselves in a position where we can pretty much live where we want to live. My thing is I'm comfortable with the decision, and it was a hard decision for me to make. If it's not, we'll know and we'll go elsewhere. But I'm content with the decision. Plus, I've paid enough Georgia taxes for the last five years, it's all right. They can cut me a break, somehow.

Winning has its perks and owning a green jacket has allowed Johnson to be able to keep another option open for his earnings potential in 2009. “ I signed up for it (Race to Dubai), but because I won the Masters, that gets me a membership (European Tour). And for me to renew, it was like 60 bucks for something like that. Nothing against The European Tour, but honestly, the way we discussed it with my manager, it's easier for me to get in an event that I'm already a member; otherwise, I have to go through some formal ties that I just don't want to have to deal with. That could be a sponsor exemption, appearance fee exemption, or sponsor exemption plus an appearance fee exemption,” he explained. “ It's one of those things, I don't know if my schedule is going to hold through the middle of the year, and it's based on how I play. My priority is FedEx Cup, without question. If I have a sour beginning like I did this past year, who knows what will happen.”

SIDENOTE: The 2007 Master Champion’s schedule has given him much time to work with the new ball from Titleist. The company has stated it has a new version of the popular ProV1 and ProV1X coming and has altered its production of the models in September due to its patent litigation with Callaway Golf, which it has publicly stated hasn’t changed the performance of the product. “I haven't had the opportunity. I had a pretty congested fall, so the last two weeks, holidays, family, that sort of thing, and we moved, so I really have not had that much time to practice with the new ball,” said Johnson in advance of the season opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii.

A STAR IS BORN: Cleveland Golf / Srixon has added a couple of new golf ball models to its product line to start 2009. The Z-STAR and Z-STAR X, both backed by Srixon’s Money Back Guarantee program, are built with the mid to low handicap player in mind.

The Srixon Z-STAR ball lines both feature new Energetic Gradient Growth core technology, the company said, which promotes increased ball speed, as well as high launch and low spin. Srixon’s newly developed 324 large seamless dimples also help reduce wind resistance for the potential of increased distance, while the new coating on their urethane cover significantly improves spin performance from the rough, Srixon promises. The company line is that both models use ultra-thin urethane cover technology, a larger core and a softer cover to improve distance, spin and feel.

Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk are now playing the new Srixon Z-STAR ball line, according to the company. It has already found the winner’s circle as Henrik Stenson used the Z-STAR at the 2008 Nedbank Golf Challenge and the 2008 Omega Mission Hills World Cup, as well as Tim Clark’s win at the 2008 Australian Open, the company reported.

“The new Z-STAR and Z-STAR X balls have been tested on tour by our entire PGA and Nationwide staff and the feedback has been tremendous,” said Greg Hopkins, President / CEO of Cleveland Golf / Srixon. “If our tour staffers are as pumped up as they are about these new balls, we can’t wait to get these into the hands of golfers everywhere. Besides, with a money back guarantee, they’ve got nothing to lose by comparing them against what will instantly become their former ball of choice.”

The balls will carry a $39.99 price tag and will be available at retail starting on February 5th.

STATUS QUO: No word yet (being the operative word here) on Callaway Golf finding a replacement for its apparel vendor. The Company had a licensing deal with Ashworth, which was acquired by TaylorMade late last year. Callaway’s rival in the equipment business picked up the storied brand for $72.8 million, which included the assumption of $46.3 million of Ashworth debt. However, its believed Callaway has opted out of its deal based on the change of ownership.

FOLLOW THE BOUNCING BALL: The Callaway versus Acushnet legal tussle over alleged patent infringement with respect to the ProV1 franchise has found its way onto the PGA Tour last week. Tour players are prohibited, by court order to use the product that has been found to infringe on the patents in question. Titleist has taken steps around this by building a modified version of the ProV1 and ProV1X that it says doesn’t incorporate the patents in dispute. However, golf balls to a large extent all appear the same and while the ProV1 models have undergone alterations since it was first introduced, the name has remained the same. Therefore, using the term ProV1 doesn’t upon itself differentiate between the models that do or don’t infringe. Case in point, Geoff Ogilvy attempts to articulate the differences between the models prior to his start of the season at the Mercedes Championship. “The new-new one, I'm not going to use this week. And the new one, of the old one, if that makes sense, that one is fine. I don't notice a difference,” he said. If you need further clarification, Ogilvy added, ”There's a new-old one, and there's a new-new one, which is the new one -- (laughter) -- which is the model in front of the old one. The other one is a 2007 ball and this is a 2009 ball. There's a version of the 2007 ball, but doesn't breach the patent, so I'm using the non-patent-breaching version of the 2007 ball, these two weeks.” Clear as mud!

“They never make a bad ball. They are always pretty good,” Ogilvy added perhaps in an attempt to save face in describing the recent trials and tribulations of the ProV1. The 2006 U.S. Open Champ also has a new driver to go with a new-old ball in his arsenal of weapons for 2009. “ We have got a new driver. First time ever it's going straight in the bag. I've used it three or four times,” he said. “ It's the new Cobra -- I'll have to ask the rep what it's called, Speed 9.1 or something, I don't know. It goes really good. It's like the composite carbon on top, and it's less spin for me, so it's basically going a bit further. It only got approved in September. So if it makes it in the bag this week, which I think it will, it will be the first week it's been out.” And its been said the tools of ignorance are those employed by a baseball catcher...

IF I TOLD YOU THEN I WOULD HAVE TO KILL YOU: Titleist is tight lipped about its latest golf ball and understandably so given the legal angle as well as the fact the product has yet to be introduced to its retail accounts. However, the company did make a point to share last week, the number of players in the field at the Mercedes who used the 2009 version of the ProV1 or as Geoff Ogilvy called it the new-new version. According to the #1 ball in golf, of the 20 players teeing up a Titleist at Kapalua's Plantation Course last week, 10 of them are relying upon the New Pro V1 or Pro V1x for the first time in PGA Tour competition. The company said it was a 50/50 split between the two models with five players each using the new ProV1 and ProV1X.

Davis Love III put the ProV1X into play and spoke about its performance after his first competitive round of 2009. “When I get a new ball I always seem to get excited and play well,'' Love said. "I drove great with it and the little shots under the wind worked real well. A hard wind at Kapalua is a tough place to test a new ball but I've been practicing with it for a couple of months and have been real excited about getting it in. To get in at four-under was a good start for the ball." The interview is accessible by visiting

WHO KNEW? Its been said many times that business is the equivalent of a marathon, not a sprint. The truth of the matter is there is a little bit of both of those analogies involved in the real equation. The sprint is often felt in monthly or quarterly time trials, especially for public reporting companies. The marathon aspect is grueling and compared on a year over year basis. The reality of the latter component is that there isn’t a definitive finish line unless a sale of the business is consummated or worse a liquidation. Perhaps the greatest testimony that any business can achieve is through longevity, which is determined ultimately through profitability. After all sustainability can be elusive, especially in difficult economies as well as world conflicts. In good times it rarely enters the stream of consciousness. Nevertheless, it is how the good old days are managed that can influence greatly the longevity of any business.

With the beginning of any new year it often fosters optimism that with its arrival also comes new opportunities. In 2009 that won’t change despite public perception. But 2009 also marks a remarkable moment for one business that embodies the ultimate American dream.

“In the early days I thought of it as building something with my dad. It wasn’t big business,” John Solheim, Chairman and CEO of Karsten Manufacturing shared with Web Street in a face-to-face conversation back in December. What started under very modest beginnings will see an unexpected but pleasant milestone on January 15th as it is the anniversary, 50 years ago, when the very first Ping putter was shipped to a retail account. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Innovation is a term that often gets overused and even sometimes abused in describing golf equipment in today’s modern era. However, this is a cornerstone that the company was founded on as it introduced to the industry such concepts as investment casting, heel-toe balance, perimeter club weighting, custom fitting, cavity back design and the ANSER putter, to name but a few.

It all started in an unlikely place and by an even unlikelier person. From a Redwood City, California garage belonging to Karsten and Louise Solheim where Karsten, a frustrated golfer, set out to design a putter to improve simply his own golf game. He ended up revolutionizing the golf industry while making the game easier for some and more enjoyable for a lot more who played it.

Today, located in Phoenix, Arizona, the company has more than 1,000 workers who leave their marks on Ping products every day and it is under the leadership of the youngest son of Karsten and Louise. “Its worked out awful well,” said John A. Solheim.

Time flies but no one knew what was in store for the Solheim family when a hobby would turn into a big business. “It seems like only yesterday that Karsten came running into our kitchen and exclaimed, ‘I’ve got a name for my putter!’” recalled Louise Solheim, Ping’s chairman emeritus. “I looked up and said, ‘that’s nice, honey,” Mrs. Solheim replied and except for the “ping” of the putter, there were no bells that rang. “We ate our hamburgers and vegetables without any particular celebration,” she said. The next day Solheim went to a local putting green to try his putter, and people walking past kept saying: “Listen to that putter ping.” The name would eventually serve for the brand.

Solheim knew he had something, but what he didn’t know is that a company was being born. To accomplish keeping his putts online or straight, he maximized the weight distribution by making both ends of the putter head heavier. By virtue of less weight in the middle of the putter, there was less twisting on off-center hits. Today this is often referred to as moment of inertia (MOI) or resistance to twisting. But Solheim had discovered the world’s first heel-toe balanced putter. When his own putts began disappearing with regularity into the cup, the game of golf was changed forever not only for him but for many others too.

On March 23, 1959, Solheim filed paperwork for his novel and improved putter head with the United States Patent Office. Three years later, he received Patent No. 3,042,405 for his 1-A putter innovation. While many people know Ping today as a major manufacturer of golf clubs, from its humble beginnings this wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion.

In the early days, Solheim continued working as an engineer for General Electric and in the evenings he transformed into a putter craftsman with his sons Allan and John in his Redwood City, Calif., garage. And when the pro tour came to town, Solheim spent endless hours around putting greens attempting to get the top players to try his product.

In 1961, Solheim was transferred to Phoenix, Ariz., where he and Louise looked for a house with a big garage. With more room to work, the business began to grow. By night, Karsten made putters. By day, while he was at GE earning a living, Louise managed the business. She kept the books, took orders, mailed putters and handled correspondence. It was also in 1961 that Solheim developed his first cavity-back iron, the Ping 69. It was a forged iron, which he gave to his son, Allan, who milled out the back. By distributing the weight to the extremities of his clubs, similar to what he was done with his putter, Solheim was among the first to increase the size of the sweetspot of irons.

Conventional wisdom implies that necessity is the mother of inventions. For Solheim, he was looking for a way to compete against others and in 1966, after attending the Los Angeles Open, Karsten returned home and declared: “Louise: I’ve got to find an answer to those other company’s putters.” He had a design but needed a name. His wife suggested “answer” in reference to his prior remarks. “That’s no name for a putter,” its been reported Solheim said. “Besides, it’s too long, it won’t fit on the club.” The next day, Louise again suggested “answer,” only this time, she said, “Leave out the W.” Thus, the putter was christened ANSER. It would go on to account for more than 600 of the more than 2,400 Ping putter pro tour wins worldwide. Solheim’s putter-making success led him to design irons, woods, grips, shafts and a variety of golf accessories.

The company has gone on to enjoy a number of commercial successes. Some were even controversial such as when Karsten Solheim pioneered the modern U-shaped or square grooves when he first introduced them in his highly successful Ping EYE2 irons in 1982. “We had our difficult times in there with the USGA when they outlawed all of our clubs. Business went to zero,” John Solheim acknowledged.

Business can appear easy from the outside looking in, especially when times are good and a hot product is the focus. But every business faces challenges regardless of the times. Some go by unnoticed while others receive more attention. “The USGA was a challenge. There were different things that we had to learn in business also,” the CEO said. “In the early days there was a 10% hidden tax that my folks never knew about. Then one day they were informed by the tax accountant about this tax and they owed all this back taxes and penalties. After the USGA problems, my dad decided he better get acquainted with the industry, the golf club manufacturers association. To get a better feel of how to do things. He found out some things that he kept to himself for a long time about how some people were influenced. I won’t go into that. Its probably the reason he did fight for the EYE2,” he added.

Solheim believes the company would still be alive today regardless of the outcome of its highly publicized lawsuit over the potential banning of the EYE2 irons. “Ping would have still been here today. The saddest part about the EYE2 and the legal problems is what it took out of my dad. Years he could have been much more productive designing clubs were lost as his mind was spent on the groove issue. That’s one of the reasons why I won’t let that happen to me. Things burn me from time to time but I’m not going to let myself get fully indulged into that because I saw how costly it was. Over the years there has been a lot of challenges from clubs showing up going out the back door of an outside foundry. It’s been a constant lesson in business. There are a lot of things you have to do that you don’t always think about when you’re getting into this business. For example, people do business differently in various parts of the world,” he said. “My dad had a good friend who was our distributor in Thailand. He was also the president of the PGA of Thailand and he was a really nice guy. All of the government officials and military people pressed him on the price and he never made any money. He would end up selling it at his cost. You can’t do that. You have to set the standard to have the margins to be able to get things done,” Solheim shared.

Business on the best of days is tricky and often times more difficult than it appears. Sometimes the challenges can be good ones to have. “The growth of the business, we did pretty good at keeping up with things. The growth has been phenomenal (over the years), quite often doubling every year,” said Solheim.

Looking back over 50 years of existence, the CEO recognized that Ping could have done a few things differently even with its success. “There are a couple of major things. We should have gotten involved in metal woods much earlier. We didn’t because of the fault of the test that I did,” he said. Solheim explained he used a ball test to determine how hot it was but also to check materials out. “Stainless steel was not anywhere close to what our epoxy faces on wood clubs were,” Solheim said. “Titanium was even slower. Later on when the USGA came out with their COR test I realized the fault that I had in the testing. We had already been in metal clubs by this time. They didn’t mount the test plate solid instead they let it float. So when you hit the ball it would go flying and you get a completely different result. Some little things can be critical and I’m sure they (USGA) went through the same thing that I did to get to their way.” The exercise proves that there can be more to learn from errors at times than from success.

However, the underlying reasons for Ping success over the years hasn’t changed even if the times have. “Its the product and the quality of it. That’s something my dad set the standard on pretty early on. It revolutionized the industry both in design and in quality and consistency. Our goal is to keep leading in that and set the standards at how well clubs are built.”

Whether it was 1960 or today, Ping and its holding company, Karsten Manufacturing has an advantage that no other company in golf can boast. Its management group and its vision have been consistently lead by the Solheim family. It is the epoxy to its business. “Family can be very difficult and rewarding. Our goals are the same but there can be different ways to get there. After I settled the USGA lawsuit, my relationship with my dad was never the same even though he had agreed to it,” said Solheim. Navigating a large company requires a special talent and one that is family owned and involved in its day to operation requires even more. Today, there are 12 family members (third generation and spouses of third generation) that work for Ping and more in the wings. The number of fourth generation Solheims (great grand children of Karsten & Louise) that could someday work for the company stands at 39 with another one on the way. At this time, none of the fourth generation is working as they are all young children and teenagers (with the exception of one in his early 20s who doesn't currently work there). “They (the family) work hard. They don’t pull any punches. They throw out their thoughts the way they feel and they really want what’s best for the company and what’s best for the consumer,” Solheim said. With a blueprint of quality and innovation supervised by generations of Solheims with a legacy to live up, its shouldn’t come as a surprise how well the business has fared in its first 50 years. “Its amazing how well its worked,” Solheim added.

STRAIGHT FROM THE TOP: PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem acknowledged with the media last week prior to play at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, tougher times lay ahead but he remains optimistic the Tour can weather what’s in front of it. “As we come into 2009, obviously the economy has continued to decelerate. We are going to have more challenges, just like all other businesses and all other sports are going to have,” he began. “We continue to believe that we are well-positioned to deal with the challenges. If, in fact, this downturn turns out to be, from a cyclical perspective, similar to historic downturns, we should be able to come through it. Our major focus is to position ourselves to be stronger coming out than we were going in. That is our focus.”

He continued, “It's going to be a tough go. A lot of companies are cutting budgets, cutting advertising, cutting sponsorship across the country and around the globe, and it is going to make our work more challenging. But our value is still there. We just have to continue to work hard and hope that we start to come out of it during 2009, or into 2010.”

His optimism is fueled by past performance in down economic cycles. “The reason we have been fully sponsored over these years, and the reason we have been fully sponsored through the downturn is because of the players, because of what the players do on the golf course, off the golf course, dedicated to charity, working with customers.

“So what I said at the end of the year (video message to players asking them to play one more event on their schedules) was just to reinforce that we have got a lot of challenges right now and we just need a little bit of extra effort. It's not like I had to explain to them why. If I didn't do that, we still would be in good shape. These guys operate under a huge stress level. We have over 200 exempt players, and we have another couple hundred that play some. They have families; they are on the road all the time, and they are trying to win. It's just blocking and tackling. We want them to spend more time with you (the media); and we want them to spend more time with television; and we want them to spend more time with sponsors; and we want them to make sure they are delivering a good experience in the Pro-Ams. We want them to push their schedule a little bit if they can, play an extra event here or there. These are not new concepts or things,” Finchem stated.

The Commish is particularly upbeat about the viability of the product, which should help to attract new sponsorship opportunities down the road. “On the competitive side, there are two reasons we are excited. One is that not only do we have Tiger coming back at some point in the year, but we have had this great batch of really stellar performances the last few months that we think are going to excite fans as they watch these players play and get ready for Tiger's reemergence on the scene,” he said.

“And then secondly, we do like the reaction we have gotten to the changes to the FedEx Cup this year. We think we are in a situation now where we have three levels of the FedEx Cup competition. You have the regular season, which is a little bit more important than last year, because you carry the points. You have the first three events of the Playoffs, which are very important, because they position the players for how they are going to come into Atlanta. Then you have a re-seed going into Atlanta, so it will be very much of a shootout in Atlanta. We know it's going to be more exciting. We also think that, as a couple of players have suggested since we have announced the changes, this could be one of the toughest things to win in the sport, when you combine all three of those things that you have to excel at for a period of time,” Finchem remarked.

As far as vulnerability the Tour is potentially exposed to beyond 2009, Finchem said taking some hits comes with the territory. “In the last two (economic) downturns, we took hits but we replaced them. We came out of those with a better, stronger set of sponsors than we had going in; because we were successful, when we lost a sponsorship, of replacing it with a better company and with a company that was more engaged and a company that wanted to help build things, not just put their name on things,” he stated. “We were 100% sponsored on those downturns, and coming out of it were even stronger. If you don't replace or make adjustments, we can see some impact at the tournament level. We could see some impact in our television structure. But it's way too early to assume any of that, because, knock-on-wood; we continue to move along reasonably well. But if the economy is going to continue to worsen, and we have a lot of sponsorship up for renewal, it's hard to manage in that we are not going to have some turnover in some fashion. Really, it has a lot to do with how that's handled. There are a lot of variables.”

There is the potential that charitable contribution levels could be impacted in the event the sponsorship is impaired due to economic conditions. “It could,” Finchem answered to direct questioning on the topic. “We were moving right along in moving our charitable numbers up for a good number of years, and we monitor it very carefully. It's very important to us that we are doing whatever we can, because now it's not just something we do; it's part of our mission.”

STOCK WATCH: The economy doesn’t appear to be getting stronger; instead it’s much weaker as more American continue to join the soup lines. The U.S. economy lost 524,000 jobs in December, closing out the worst year for job losses since World War II, the Labor Department said Friday. Nearly 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, with 1.9 million destroyed in just the past four months, according to a survey of work places. It's the biggest job loss in any calendar year since 1945, when 2.75 million jobs were lost as the wartime economy was demobilized.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC all reported steep drops in December U.S. vehicle sales, closing the books on one of the toughest years the domestic auto industry has ever seen. It hasn't been much easier for overseas rivals Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., either. Chrysler was the hardest hit of all the major manufacturers as its sales plunged 53% in December to 89,813 vehicles.

U.S. stocks ended the first full week of trading in 2009 with deep losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded a loss of 4.8%, the S&P 500 Index fell 4.5% and the Nasdaq lost 3.7%.


THE STAGE IS SET: The Stadium course at the TPC Scottsdale is taking its name, literally for the upcoming FBR Open. The 16th hole at the TPC Scottsdale, the PGA Tour’s loudest and most enthusiastic golf hole, will also become the Tour’s first-ever true Stadium Golf Hole when the 2009 FBR Open tees off January 26th – February 1st.  Tournament hosts, The Thunderbirds, have added close to 3,000 new general admission bleacher seats behind and to the right of the green on the 162-yard, par 3. The 16th is now fully enclosed by bleachers and skyboxes and has a daily capacity for between 15,000 to 20,000 golf fans.

“As tournament hosts and organizers, we know we have something pretty special and unique here in our 16th hole,” said 2009 FBR Open Tournament Chairman John Felix.  “There are certain holes on TOUR that are identified simply by their number. When you say 17, you know people are talking about the island green at TPC Sawgrass. When you say 16, you know it’s the FBR Open and the TPC Scottsdale.”

In addition to the new bleacher seating (also known as tip-up seats) a new tunnel has been added underneath the new seats from the 16th green to the 17th tee for the Tour professionals to walk through. A separate tunnel from the 15th green to the 16th tee, underneath the skyboxes, has been in use for years.

The 16th hole fan experience will also be enhanced at the 2009 FBR Open as a video board display has been added to the west side of the hole. The 51 ft. x 19 ft. video display will be located behind the tee box and will give fans an up-close view of all of the action regardless of where they’re seated.

“Bleacher seats will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis just as hillside space was in previous years,” added Felix. “Fans will not need any special tickets to sit in the bleachers. Entrance to the Skyboxes, however, does require a distinct Skybox badge.”

The FBR Open is the best-attended golf tournament in the world and has raised more than $61.7 million for charities, with more than $33.6 million generated in just the last five years alone. The 2008 FBR Open raised a PGA Tour record $8,652,542 for charity. Annually sporting by far the largest crowds for any golfing event in the world, the FBR Open has gained legendary status for being a unique stop on the PGA Tour. The 2009 edition, to be played January 26th through February 1st, will mark the 74th playing of the event, and the sixth as the FBR Open, making it one of the five oldest events on the PGA Tour. This year’s version has a few more bird’s eye seats waiting when it rolls around.



Last Updated (Wednesday, 03 February 2010 10:40)