Is Tiger Good for Golf? Not Everyone Thinks So
Has Tiger Woods been good for golf? "I don't think he's had any effect on the economics of golf."
That astounding sentiment comes from the always blunt Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade-Adidas Golf. The first day of the Masters has been good for TaylorMade—sponsored player Sergio Garcia ended the day in the lead with Dustin Johnson, also sponsored by TaylorMade, not far behind.
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Tiger Woods is coming into the Masters playing well again; he won the World Golf Championships in March. I asked King if Woods, even though he uses Nike clubs, helps the entire sport when he plays well.
"Golf has been on a 16-year continual decline since Tiger came into golf," King said. "Now, has he had an impact on people watching TV because he's maybe the greatest athlete of our generation? Absolutely. But are those people running out, taking golf vacations, buying a home on a golf course, buying a new driver? No, they're not. So Tiger, play well, get people watching TV, sell more spots, but it's not helping us."
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King's company TaylorMade, based in Carlsbad, Calif. ("This is the Silicon Valley of golf"), reported record sales in 2012. It now holds nearly half the U.S. market share in woods, according to one industry estimate, and 25 percent of the irons. How does the company keep growing in a sport that has struggled, especially during the recession?
"We decided a while ago that if golf wasn't going to grow as a category, we had to really be disruptive in the marketplace, not once in a while, but every year," said King.
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So every year the company comes out with a new must-have item—think the golf version of Apple. Even changing the color of the drivers from black to white drove sales. "I think we surprised the industry, we surprised golfers, we surprised ourselves," laughed King.
See more of what King has to say about golf and innovation in our interview.
As an added bonus, I asked King some of your questions from Twitter, everything from his thoughts on anchored putters to driver colors to promises of better performance.
—By CNBC's Jane Wells; Follow her on Twitter: @janewells