Nike Golf had a pretty good weekend, with staffers Michelle Wie, Stephen Ames and that guy named Tiger all winning with a full bag of Nike equipment on Sunday. Actually I think Tiger’s win actually came on Sat for us, but who’s keeping track? Nike has built a solid stable of top players on the PGA and LPGA tours, so it’s no surprise that they have had success. This sort of thing has happened before, but not with Wie and Woods. With apologies to Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, who won in Hong Kong this weekend and plays for Titleist, the spotlight in the US and Australia was clearly on Wie, Woods and Ames.
Tiger Woods has traveled all over the world in his quest for victories, but Australia hasn’t been one of his most frequent stops. In fact, last week’s Australian Masters appearance was the first time he had played in Australia in 11 years! Tiger took a reported $3 Million just to show up, but quickly justified it by winning. Many may scoff at paying someone that much money just to come to play, but the record crowds and the fact that they sold out the practice rounds proved that to be the right choice. in the end, the economic impact for the Melbourne area was estimated at over $20 million. Tiger has vowed to come back much sooner next time, and at the very least he’ll be back in Australia in two years for the President’s Cup.
I attended the Children’s Miracle Network Classic at the Disney World Resort lasy week, and while observing many players on the driving range I thought Nike staff player Justin Leonard was hitting the ball great and picked him to win. It turns out fellow Nike player and Canadian citizen Stephen Ames took the victory in a playoff against Leonard and George McNeill. It was Ames’ 4th career victory, but probably the first with his son walking along all the way. The atmosphere of the week was relaxed, as it probably should be at Disney. Most players probably spent more time at the magic kingdom with family than at the driving range. It’s the end of the season at a fun venue, so why not enjoy it?
To round out the Nike trifecta, Michelle Wie claimed her first victory as a professional in 65 LPGA starts at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, beating Paula Creamer by 2 shots. It was a good week for LPGA fans for two reasons: Michelle Wie has broken through finally, and if that first victory has the same effect it had on fellow Nike staffer David Duval when he finally broke through, the wins should start coming in bunches now. Secondly, Paula Creamer was back in contention after a year of illness and mediocre finishes. It was at this tournament last year that she fell ill and it took a full year to figure it out. Not to take anything away from the talented foreign players on the LPGA, but women’s golf in America needs Paula and Michelle to be contending, not just making cuts. Congrats to Michelle on her first victory!