Apr 27

Stance hopes to make golf socks more than an afterthought

Whether it's in your bedroom, on the tailgate of your car in the parking lot or in the locker room of your golf club, you probably don't think much about the socks you put on your feet before your golf shoes.

Sock-maker Stance hopes they can change that.

The company first got into performance socks some three years ago, eventually realizing that a number of pro surfers and action athletes, a core part of the company's image appeal, loved golf. After weighing the pros and cons of jumping into the sport, Stance's executives, many who love golf as well, decided to dive head-in and has been slowly expanding its golf presence.

Before coming to market, Stance spent a year-and-a-half researching and developing the socks, figuring out what they could offer in a performance sock that would make them stand out from the competition. The output is a fascinating mix of pizzazz and performance. The socks are cut symmetrically for each foot, coming in heights ranging from just over the heel to up the shin. Some of the socks have silicone anti-skid padding on the soles. They wick away moisture and have reinforced padding in the places where we put the most stress on our feet. They all have unique designs, ranging from merely color-coordinated to outrageous. In other words, each sock isn't simply a carbon copy of the last save for a different visual design.

Buyers liked what they saw from Stance's modest booth at the PGA Merchandise Show in January -- which I literally stumbled upon on the back of the show floor -- and awarded the company with one its three Best New Product awards.

Just as golf shoes have evolved dramatically in the last dozen years, Stance hopes its technology will bring a sophistication to the category.

Stance's primary competitor in the space is Kentwool, whose socks offer a comfort and durability that are tough to beat. However, for as good as Kentwool's socks are, they remain a brand that relies heavily on word of mouth from evangelizing golfers and repeat customers who, somewhat unfortunately, can hold out a while before they need new Kentwool socks.

Stance has somewhat of a built-in edge as an established brand that a good number of people under a certain age know. The problem is that the size of the Venn diagram crossing over the circles of people who know of Stance and also play golf is fairly small.

Further, golf is a conservative sport -- not only in terms of political values, which shouldn't influence sock purchases whatsoever, but also in terms of adopting new things. There were scores of golfers who held out on switching from persimmon woods. Tiger Woods was supposedly taking a chance when he played Nike's precursor to Titleist's Pro V1, giving him a big equipment edge for the better part of a year, which, in Tour terms, was worth a lot of money. Golfers jazz-handed with fear over golf shoes that looked like tennis shoes.

Then there's the matter of trying to get golfers to notice socks. Stance's designs might stand out on a shoeless model wearing shorts, but that's not typically how golf is played. Golfers wear pants a lot -- male pro golfers do it year-round -- so it's not as though a Stance-wearing golfer is a walking billboard for the company.

LeBron James had worn Stance's performance basketball socks during the NBA All-Star weekend, and the stark contrast became glaringly clear.

"I could pull up 2,000 press images of NBA players like LeBron wearing our socks at the All-Star game and millions of people saw them wearing the socks on TV," said Clarke Miyasaki, Stance's executive vice-president of business development, "but we can't do that in golf."

There wasn't going to be an overnight surge in demand, and there probably won't be a moment where millions of TV viewers see an unpaid touring pro point to their ankles on camera and inspire millions in sales.

He joked, "I wish the Tour would allow shorts for an event here and there, but we know that's not going to happen anytime soon."

All of these reasons convinced Stance it needed to play a long game in growing its business.

"We can't pay Tour players to wear our gear," Miyasaki said. "We're not going to do big ad buys. What we wanted to do was get the product into the hands of people, let them try it and then let the product speak for itself."

However, all of that calculation made, Miyasaki said the company hopes to be having a different conversation next year.

"I don't know if it's 12 months, 36 or 48 months from now, but I hope we're building a brand that can do for socks what Levi's did for jeans," he said. "I hope someone has their casual socks, their work socks, their running socks and their golf socks they wear on Saturday."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 27

A Team Effort

The debut of the U.S. men’s and women’s Four-Ball Championships—the USGA’s first new events in nearly 30 years—is the culmination of forward thinking and hard work
Posted in Uncategorized
Apr 27

Lydia Ko defends Swinging Skirts LPGA in playoff over Pressel

Lydia Ko gave herself a great birthday present: a successful title defense.

Ko won the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic for the second consecutive year on Sunday, making a birdie on the second playoff hole to defeat a game Morgan Pressel and win her seventh LPGA Tour title. 

Both players finished regulation at 8-under 280, with Ko shooting 70 and Pressel firing 72 to send the tournament to overtime. Ko made a birdie on the par-5 closing hole to set the water mark, with Pressel missing a birdie bid to end the tournament. 

The playoff format called for the players to continue playing the 18th until there was a winner. Ko and Pressel made par on the first go-round. The second time, Pressel stuck her third shot to 10 feet, while Ko was closer to 5 feet. When Pressel couldn't make her birdie putt, Ko cashed in to lock up the victory.

Brooke Henderson, the 17-year-old former world No. 1 amateur, faltered to 74 on Sunday to finish tied for third.

It wasn't a bad week for Ko, who turned 18 on Friday. This is her second LPGA win of the year and it marks the second time in her career she has successfully defended a title, following her back-to-back wins in the Canadian Women's Open as an amateur. 

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 27

Phil Mickelson withdraws from WGC Match Play for ‘personal reasons’

Citing "personal reasons," Phil Mickelson has withdrawn from the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.

Mickelson told the PGA Tour on Sunday that he won't play at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, according to Golf Channel.

Not a fan of the prior venue and handcuffed by a former date that conflicted with his kids' school break, Mickelson has skipped the match-play event since 2011. However, in a one-off situation, the Tour had moved the date from February to May and the venue from Dove Mountain in Arizona.

Mikko Illonen, the No. 68 player in the world, will take Mickelson's spot. Tim Clark (injury) and Luke Donald (wedding) had already pulled out from the event.

Mickelson is still expected to play in the ensuing two weeks at The Players Championship and Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte.

Apr 27

Justin Rose inspired by Steph Curry to Zurich Classic win

At one point on Sunday in the resumption of the third round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Justin Rose had made six consecutive pars -- no good on a soft and vulnerable TPC Louisiana. 

Frustrated, Rose turned to his caddie Mark Fulcher for some counsel.

"I started off hot, had gone cold and [Fulcher] said, 'Come on, just remember Steph Curry. He went cold but he kept wanting the ball. He kept shooting threes. He kept believing in himself','" Rose said to CBS. 

The Golden State Warriors guard had gone cold late in Thursday's playoff Game 3 against the New Orleans Pelicans. However, the likely NBA MVP made an incredible three-pointer to send the game to overtime, eventually leading to a Warriors 123-119 win.

The inspiration worked. Sure enough, Rose made a 12-foot birdie on that hole, the 10th, and the next as part of a 7-under 65 in the third round.

The strong play continued in Round 4, which began almost immediately after wrapping up Round 3 as the PGA Tour chose to keep the players in the same groups for the final round. Rose forced himself to remain aggressive for the final two holes, shooting 6-under 66. The frantic Sunday was good enough to hang on for a one-shot win over Cameron Tringale.

Rose, who finished T-2 at the Masters, has clearly found his form -- even if it took a little inspiration to rediscover it on Sunday.

“Great athletes you look up to, that’s what they do,” Rose said. “In the big moments they want the ball. And they make big shots and big putts and that’s luckily today what I inspired myself to do.”

Curiously, Rose is now bound for where Curry plays. He's headed to the Bay Area as a favorite in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 26

Brooke Henderson can get LPGA membership with Swinging Skirts win

Sunday is the most important day in the young career of 17-year-old Brooke Henderson.

The Canadian former world No. 1 amateur carries a one-shot lead into the final round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. Were she to survive at Lake Merced Golf Club and pick up her first LPGA win, it would give her a foundation from which to launch a long career. 

"If someone told me at the beginning of the week I would be leading going into the final round, I would've taken it," Henderson said Saturday evening.

Henderson has no LPGA status, denied the opportunity to play in the tour's Q-School last December. Commissioner Mike Whan declined to give Henderson a waiver that would have allowed her to play despite being younger than the tour's age floor of 18. Whan has been consistent in refusing to grant that exception unless a player has already won an LPGA event.

If Henderson wins on Sunday, she would earn a two-year exemption but would still need to petition Whan for that exemption. He'd likely grant it.

There's a lot on the line for Henderson, but she feels carrying the Canadian golf banner has prepared her for Sunday pressure.

"Back home in Canada I have received a lot of pressure from Canada for the last couple years," she said. "If you have pressure it means you're doing something right. I try and use it to my advantage and try and use it to help me get better. "

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 26

Get ready for a marathon Sunday at the Zurich Classic

It's going to be a long Sunday for the weekend field at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. 

After weather delays limited third-round play on Saturday at TPC Louisiana, the field resumes play with the hopes of completing the tournament before sundown. Of course, a short fog day has already pushed back the festivities further, but the chase is now on in earnest.

Jason Day stands out from the field, which is otherwise very tightly bunched. However, on this Pete Dye-designed track and in favorable, quiet weather conditions, a lot of ground can be made up quickly.

While Day is looking for his second PGA Tour win of the year, the likes of two-time heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton, Honda Classic playoff loser Daniel Berger and Brendon de Jonge are looking for their breakthrough victory. 

Though there's an expectation that play will finish on Sunday, there's the possibility that rain could hamper progress for a fourth day in a row. Were play to spill over into Monday, that would pose a problem for a number of players -- and contenders -- in New Orleans, as they'll head immediately after to San Francisco for the WGC-Cadillac Match Play Championship, which begins on Wednesday.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 25

Ben Crane made a creative par at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans

Tee box, fairway, then green. That's usually the ideal way to play a golf hole. Not for Ben Crane, though, at least on one hole on Friday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

In Round 1, Crane played the 476-yard, par-4 sixth at TPC Louisiana as designer Pete Dye intended, and it left him some 250 yards to the hole for his second shot. He made par, yes, but, in Round 2, he wanted an easier way to make 4.

So Crane decided he would aim not down the fairway, but over some trees to the left of the tee box. His ball landed on the 12th hole, leaving Crane a better angle and just 163 yards into the hole. From there, Crane hit the green and two-putted for an easy par.

Just remember: Where there's a will -- and a line -- there's a way.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Apr 25

17-year-old Brooke Henderson takes Swinging Skirts LPGA lead

World No. 1 Lydia Ko, who turned 18 on Friday, made last year's Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic site of her first LPGA win as a pro. 

Now Canadian prodigy Brooke Henderson is hoping to enjoy her own pro breakthrough at 17 in just her 10th LPGA start.

Henderson, who has no status on the LPGA Tour and was denied the right to play in Q-school last year because of her age, shot 7-under 65 on Friday in Round 2 at Lake Merced Golf Club. It was good enough to give her a two-shot lead over Na Yeon Choi at 9 under par halfway through the tournament.

An eagle at the reachable par-5 14th coupled with six birdies led to a tournament-record score. The question, however, is if Henderson is ready to parlay that into a win.

"I think I'm ready. Yeah, 17 is young," Henderson said. "As you've seen with Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson and even Jessica Korda, there are a lot of great names that have been able to do it. I'm hoping that I'm one of them."

For her part, Ko is in contention to defend her title. She shot 72 on Friday, which leaves her four shots back of Henderson.

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.