Tour Confidential: Tiger-Nike split, Rory McIlroy expectations, executive shakeups

Did Tiger play a role in that? For sure. Will he make much of a different in their sales moving forward? Probably not. Would anyone? Also probably not. I think it’s likely we’ve seen the company sign its last professional golfers. They’ll probably let their deals with Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Nelly Korda, Scottie Scheffler and co. expire just like they did with Woods and make a quiet exit from the sponsorship space. Interesting, considering they just added Korda and Tom Kim last year. As for Tiger’s next brand? I’m sure he wants to go into business with himself. He’s got all the rights to his TW logo, might as well just add a clothing company to the TGR Ventures portfolio.

Are we short-changing Arnold Palmer’s canned beverage with this “most famous sponsorship” chatter? Anyway, the point stands — the end of TW and the swoosh is a big, big deal. What does it mean for Nike Golf? I’m with Jack. There are deals in place, and when those deals expire, maybe the whole operation will fizzle out, too. Nike will still make golf shirts; they just won’t pay too many golfers to wear ‘em on Sundays. From what I understand the TW brand will live on, though I’m unclear on whether it’ll be the umbrella of an existing apparel company. My biggest question: will World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler keep wearing TW post-Nike?

I always thought they named Arnie after the drink … But yes, in all seriousness, I think the end of the Tiger era at Nike — combined with the company’s stated plans to cut some $2 billion in costs over the next few years — means the time of Nike Golf as a legit power-player is coming to a close. Sad, considering the legacy, but this opens a world of opportunity for luxury athleticwear companies like Lululemon, Rhone (and perhaps even On?) to enter the space.

It sure seems like Slumbers and Pelley are experiencing the same thing many other golf fans are: fatigue. For Slumbers, the past year of dealing with feedback on the proposed golf ball rollback had to be exhausting, not to mention the years of research and discussions that preceded it. For Pelley, he’s probably sick of being the subject of ire, along with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, related to the ongoing negotiations with Saudi PIF. The timing of these two announcements isn’t really conspicuous, it’s understandable.

Colgan: It sure seems like a strange coincidence that both men — each intimately involved in the conversations surrounding the future of pro golf — would announce on the same day that they are leaving their posts. But, assuming it is a coincidence, it’s still interesting to think about how the two men will be remembered. Slumbers will go down as a visionary leader at a time the R&A badly needed one; but Pelley’s legacy is less clear. He stewarded the DPWT into a partnership with the PGA Tour that shored up its  Covid finances but has had dubious effects on the league’s talent pool and standing in the golf world. Pelley’s efforts at leaving his league better than he found it, presumably via a deal with the PIF, will be crucial.

Dethier: Well said, James. I guess their departure has me wondering one thing: who’s next? Golf’s leadership is in flux. PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has an uncertain future, but who would take over for him?! Yasir Al-Rumayyan is likely to be a figure in the pro game’s future, but in what role?! What’s next for Greg Norman? Who will lord over this new PGA Tour Enterprises? The extent of golf’s leadership upheaval is still a relative unknown…

Hirsh: He’s retreated from his role as the defacto PGA Tour spokesperson, he’s even softened his position on LIV Golf. Going into 2024, I think there’s just one thing on McIlroy’s mind and it’s the same thing that’s been on his mind since 2015: Completing the Career Grand Slam by winning the Masters. The circumstances surrounding McIlroy this year are completely different than 12 months ago and I think that can only help him. Obviously we’ll over-analyze his three-putt or his hook on the 72nd and chalk it up to rustiness, but the fact of the matter is only one thing should matter to him anymore in golf and hopefully for him, he’ll enter the Masters with a clear focus on that objective.

Colgan: I think 2024 is a glorious opportunity for Rory to rewrite the second act of his playing career, which to date has been much more about his role as an ombudsman than as a player. With the LIV stuff mostly off his plate, there’s never been a better time for the major breakthrough. At 34, he’s not getting any younger.

Dethier: McIlroy doesn’t actually need to win the Masters — but he does need to win a major. Is that a fair expectation? Probably not. It’s a brutally high bar. But McIlroy has spent the last decade contending in majors and winning just about everything else but still hasn’t gotten across the line for No. 5. Maybe he’ll do that at Augusta. I’m sure he’d be delighted by one of the other three, though.

Hirsh: Sponsor’s invites were as good as gold to last year’s WM Phoenix Open and that was a 136-man event. Giving ceremonial sponsor’s invites to a limited-field event with just 60 opportunities is borderline criminal. I would understand it more if it was a young, up-and-coming pro or amateur trying to make a splash, but Weyland had never made a start in a worldwide event before in his life. At 54, he probably isn’t looking for some-sort of career renaissance. If you try to compare this situation to Michael Block, don’t, because Block earned a spot reserved for club pros in the PGA at the PGA Professional Championship. This is totally different. I have to agree with Eddie Pepperell’s take, it really didn’t matter who Weyland was (or was friend’s with), he didn’t deserve his spot.

Colgan: Epic move from our King Ken, whose performance this week is a brilliant glimpse into the “what would a 10-handicapper shoot?” allegory. Should he have said no? Maybe! But I sure wouldn’t have if I’d gotten invited.

Dethier: Look, it’s not great. It’s perhaps even a little bit stinky. It probably takes away slightly from the legitimacy of the bottom of the limited-field Dubai Invitational. But then again, nobody was calling this the fifth major. It’s tough for me to summon much outrage but easy for me to get some joy out of those scorecard screenshots. Shoutout to Ken for jumping in the arena. And credit to him for finishing all four rounds!

Dethier: Boo Weekley seems like a fella who could draw support from both sides of the aisle. If not him, then yeah — it’s Tiger.

 

 

Gideon Canice

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