2003: Nike adds Faldo to fold with 3-year deal

By Dave Seanor

Nike Golf announced Jan. 10 the addition of Nick Faldo to its tour staff.

Faldo said he will have a set of Nike Forged Pro Combo irons, the Nike 400 cc driver and the company’s new Tour Accuracy 2 (TA2) ball in play when he begins his competitive season Jan. 30 in the PGA European Tour’s Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne in Australia.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, other than its three-year duration.

Nike also has signed John Morgan, the unheralded 25-year-old Englishman who qualified for the PGA Tour and the European Tour in his first season as a professional.

Faldo said he became attracted to Nike after seeing some of the products developed by clubmaker Tom Stites, and Nike’s offer of partnership in the Faldo Junior Series, a developmental program for young golfers in the United Kingdom, sealed the deal for the six-time major winner.

Details of the arrangement, aside from a “generous” allotment of product, still are being finalized. “Top secret right now,” Faldo quipped.

Faldo said he was impressed with Stites’ ability to customize groove specifications in the Forged Pro Combo irons. Proper groove configurations are critical to a highly skilled player’s ability to hit a “controlled flier” out of rough. Faldo said he hopes the Nike irons “will bring back more of my shotmaking capabilities.”

There are two versions of the TA2 – LNG (long) and SPN (spin) – and Faldo said he expects to play both, depending on course conditions.

Stan Grissinger, product manager for Nike golf balls, said the TA2 has been three years in the making.

Starting in 1999 with Nike’s first premium ball, the Tour Accuracy, and progressing through balls designed for Tiger Woods and David Duval, the TA2 is “the absolute evolution to what we believe is the best ball on the market,” Grissinger said.

The TA2 will begin shipping to retailers Feb. 1. With a suggested retail price of $40 per dozen, it’s the first premium ball introduced by Nike since it acquired the full-time services of lead engineer Hideyuki “Rock” Ishii, a 13-year Bridgestone veteran who helped orchestrate research and development for Bridgestone’s Precept balls.

A softer cover differentiates the TA2-SPN, making it more suitable for players seeking increased feel off the tee and around the green.

Nike officials said they expect to have more than 40 PGA Tour players using the TA2 ball this year, which would make it the No. 2 ball on Tour, lagging well behind perennial leader Titleist but leapfrogging Callaway.

Among that group will be Morgan, whose achievements last season were made to order for the Nike marketing machine. The son of a dock worker, he began 2002 as an amateur working at a practice range in southern Spain.

In April, he started playing for pay on European mini-tours, and ended up winning the Challenge Tour Championship – and a spot on the European Tour. In his first attempt at PGA Tour Qualifying School, he led after four rounds and hung on to tie for 11th and earn his full-time card.

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