The Primary Cut
One day this will be an answer in Trivial Pursuit, so pay attention: Who was the second in a string of successive agents to quit representing Michelle Wie? That would be Greg Nared (pictured with Wie), the former University of Maryland basketball player who spent a decade as a Nike representative working on, among other things, the Tiger Woods account, before being snatched up by the William Morris Agency to handle Wie after her original agent, Ross Berlin, got the heave-ho (or did he just get fed up and quit?) after only a year at the healm.
Though unconfirmed, its well accepted that both Berlin and Nared quickly fell out of favor with Wie’s father, B.J., which is like being Pinochet’s chef and serving him an overdone steak. You’re out. Nared “resigned” as VP of golf at William Morris, who insisted that Wie’s “core group” of agents remained intact. But Nared has resurfaced after forming his own agency and taking on Nicole Castrale as his first client. Castrale, a 28-year-old who was a three-time all-PAC 10 player at Southern Cal, got her first LPGA victory at the infamous Ginn Tribute last year, where Nared and Wie made headlines when he “advised” her to withdraw as her score inched oh-so-close to the dreaded “88.” Castrale finished 15th on the money list last year with seven top-10 finishes and was also a standout for the victorious U.S. Solheim Cup team in Sweden, so congrats to Greg Nared.
For her own part, Wie returned to LPGA competition this week at the Fields Open in Hawaii, and has indicated that she will (finally) curtail playing on the men’s side while she tries to rediscover her mojo. And according to her swing coach, David Leadbetter, she will also leave Stanford University when the winter quarter ends next month in order to focus on golf. Wie’s return, writes Ron Sirak, can already be deemed a success.
According to SI’s Michael Bamberger, the phrase “collective bargaining” is being tossed around the driving range these days in response to discontent over the PGA Tour’s new drug policy, which will take effect in July. “This is the kind of thing that could push for a real players’ association to speak with one voice,” said Paul Azinger, this fall’s U.S. Ryder Cup captain. While the players don’t have a “union” per se, they do hold four seats on the Tour’s nine-man policy board, which voted to adopt Olympic drug-testing rules last year after receiving “input” from an all-player, 16-man Player Advisory Council. But the general feeling is that as of this moment, the players’ collective voice is basically just given lip service. Azinger, for one, is fed up. “[PGA Tour commissioner] Tim Finchem is ignoring us. He has his own agenda.”
CDW Corporation continued its foray into golf endorsements when it signed a long term sponsorship with Sean O’Hair, No. 23-ranked golfer in the U.S. and 2005 PGA TOUR rookie of the year. The partnership expands CDW’s role as the “Official Technology Partner of the PGA TOUR,” announced just last month. And this announcement comes right on the heels of CDW’s sponsorship of LPGA star Paula Creamer, the fifth ranked female player in the world.
“I’m proud to join with CDW in this partnership. As a golfer, I am always working to improve my game and utilizing technology has become a vital resource for me and the PGA TOUR,” O’Hair said. “This is a great fit for me because CDW is known for consistent performance and progress, both of which are the ultimate goals in golf and for me.”
CDW is a leading provider of technology products and services to business, government and education, and states that it will support O’Hair through technologies that can help analyze and advance not only his game, but fan experience as well. As part of the partnership, O’Hair will participate in CDW sponsored events and initiatives throughout the year.
In the words of Larry David, Charles Howell III’s endorsement portfolio, put together by agent Thomas Parker of Professional Advisory Group down in South Carolina, is starting to look “pretty, pretty, pretty, good.”
Howell, who finished 18th on the 2007 money list, recently signed a three-year deal with Lexus, according to Ed Kiernan, executive VP and chief marketing officer of Peter Jacobsen Sports, which represented Lexus in the negotiations. Financial terms of the deal were not made available.
Howell will display a Lexus logo on his apparel and make appearances at Lexus events. It’s the second significant deal for Howell in just more than three months. He opted out of his equipment deal with Callaway in early December, ending a seven-year run in order to sign with Bridgestone Golf. His other sponsorship deals are with Rolex, The Hartford and Marquis Jet.
As entertaining golf blogs go, you can’t do much better than Chris Lewis’. Lewis is a one time SI golf correspondent and author of The Scorecard Always Lies: A Year Behind The Scenes On The PGA Tour.
A recent Lewis post takes a shot at the recent shoddy Golf Channel coverage of the European Tour, and questions why the Golf Channel, which receives its feeds from European Tour Productions (a joint venture between IMG and the European Tour and the world’s most prolific producer and distributor of golf programming with an annual output of 700 hours) doesn’t just rely solely on the IMG crafted feed? To that extent, writes Lewis, “who’da thunk the media could treat IMG like this and get away with it?”
Get ready for a new ‘MDF’ policy on the PGA Tour.
The 16 player Tour Advisory Board met this week and offered an alternative to the current policy, which is about as popular as a root canal. Over at GolfWRX.com, R. Hetzel writes that “the board will reportedly seek that the players want to return to the traditional 36-hole cut of the top 70 and ties. This could possibly result in more than 78 players making the cut. In many instances, it will. [But] in that case, a 54 hole cut would be placed into effect to further reduce the number to 70. At least the guy who goes low on Saturday, still has a fighting chance for Sunday.”
Historically, the cut at PGA Tour events have been the top 70 scores, including ties. However, at times upwards of 92 players were making the cut thus, causing slow play during the final two rounds and thus headaches for television, tournament and Tour executives. But even with the MDF policy, whereby players who would have previously made the cut are credited money for their play but not the opportunity to better themselves over the weekend, slow play continues (see J.B. Holmes) and worse, players are (rightfully) grumbling. There are plenty of instances in Tour history where a player who made the cut on the number, or by just one shot, continued on during the weekend to finish in the Top 10 or even the Top 5. If the Tour had any chutzpah, it would forget the MDF policy altogether and instead actually enforce draconian slow play penalties on its worst offenders. Until then, stopgap measures such as modified MDF policies will continue.
Kelli Kuehne is one of many golfers represented by IMG’s Sherry Way, and it’s nice to see Kuehne playing well again in 2008 after years of relatively mediocre play. The 1995 and 1996 US Women’s Amateur champion also has a British Amateur title to her name, but strangely only one professional victory. A lifelong diabetic, Kuehne is started to finally again show flashes of the brilliance she once displayed on a weekly basis. As for Whay, she may always be best remembered for the following, head-scratching exchange:
“You drink vodka. You’ve always drunk vodka.”
— IMG’s Sherry Whay, to her client, Retief Goosen, who said he did not drink vodka after signing a deal with Bacardi’s Grey Goose (SI, 2/28 issue).