The Phil Mickelson U.S. Open storyline has been building ever since Lefty hoisted the claret jug at Muirfield last July. A win at Pinehurst would give Mickelson the career Grand Slam as well as his first U.S. Open crown after six frustrating runner-up finishes. It also would give one lucky everyday golfer a check for approximately $1.5 million.
Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
That's because Callaway Golf is taking advantage of its star player's popularity as well as the high interest in Mickelson's U.S. Open quest with "The Big Bertha Payday."
The promotion, which runs through the final round of the Open on June 15, is strikingly simple: For demoing (not buying, demoing) the company's Big Bertha Alpha (the model Mickelson uses) or Big Bertha drivers or a Big Bertha fairway wood at a participating golf store, the customer will receive a code to enter a drawing for a chance to win the same dollar amount that Mickelson pockets at Pinehurst.
The contest is just the latest example of companies leveraging their endorsement relationships with players. In 2009 TaylorMade and Golfsmith partnered on a deal where anyone who purchased a TaylorMade R7 Limited, R9 or Burner '09 driver from Golfsmith through Friday of Masters week would receive a full refund if Sergio Garcia won the Masters that year. Although an insurance policy was taken out to protect the companies, it wasn't needed as Garcia finished T-38. Still, the idea generated interest and sales.
A year later Callaway ran a similar promotion with Mickelson: Those who purchased a Big Bertha Diablo Edge, FT Tour or FT-iZ driver up to the day before the start of the Masters would be eligible for a refund should Mickelson win. Unlike Garcia's flat effort, Mickelson came from a shot back on Sunday with a final-round 67 to claim his third green jacket and, according to Golfsmith, give some 15,000 golfers a free driver -- a hit of several million dollars to the insurance company but a marketing home run for Callaway and Golfsmith.
So, what can a lucky fan expect to reap this time around? In 15 U.S. Open starts beginning with Lefty's first runner-up showing at Pinehurst in 1999, Mickelson's paycheck has topped $300,000 seven times. His low was $16,199 for a T-55 in 2003 and his only missed cut came in 2007 at Oakmont after hurting his wrist during practice. His largest payday came last year when his T-2 brought in $696,104.
Another runner-up finish this time around might be the ultimate disappointment for Mickelson, but it likely would be just fine for the person who is going to collect the equivalent of his paycheck.
RORY MCILROY // The right combination
Achieving the correct ball-driver combination is a key for any tour player. But when you produce a ball speed of 179 miles per hour it's even more crucial. Since signing with Nike at the start of the 2013 season, Rory McIlroy has worked to find the best setup for him. About eight months ago he settled on a workable combo -- surprising because it added rather than reduced spin.
"The [Nike VRS] Covert 2.0 spins a little more than the original Covert, and that's a good thing for me," said McIlroy. "With how I like to shape the ball from right to left, I want to see that ball stand in the air for a bit so it was good to get a little more spin. I know some guys like to be on the lower side of spin, 2,100, 2,200 [rpms], and that's great on TrackMan and great on the range. It's nice to hit it long and maximize your distance, but I like higher spin because I feel like I can keep my ball flight a little tighter. Out on the golf course with the length I'm hitting it, it's key for me to hit fairways. But I've also picked up ball speed with this combination. Driving the ball well is the foundation of my game. When I'm driving it well, I generally tend to produce good results. It's been a huge improvement."
Callaway Big Bertha
PRICE: $500 (Lofts: 9, 10.5 adjustable)
Colin Montgomerie used this driver, which has an adjustable "gravity core" that can alter the center of gravity, in winning the Senior PGA Championship.
Nike VR X3X
PRICE: $110 (Seven loft/bounce options)
The toe sweep grind has a wide toe and narrow heel to let the leading edge stay closer to the ground. Rory McIlroy used a 59-degree at the BMW PGA Championship.
It's not often a player wins a major championship using irons with a design attribute of maximizing ball speed on mis-hits. But that's what was in Colin Montgomerie's bag as he used Callaway's RAZR XF irons in winning the Senior PGA Championship. . . . Prior to the start of the Crowne Plaza Invitational Adam Scott tested some Scotty Cameron by Titleist Futura X7 prototype putters. The prototype has "wings" similar to Odyssey's popular #7 model and an aluminum sole plate (which allows saved weight to be placed elsewhere). . . . Hideki Matsuyama finished T-10 at Colonial with some new irons. Matsuyama, who used Srixon's Z945 most of the year, changed his 4-PW to the company's Z925, a muscleback model but with more weight taken from the heel and toe areas of the back cavity.Follow @EMichaelGW