With 2010 coming to an end and the New Year just around the corner, the NGN staff has been thinking about Nike Golf’s roster of athletes for the 2011 season. The contracts of a few of the game’s more notable players are up at the end of this year, and this got our brains going about who we would like to see with a swoosh on their gear for 2011 (whether or not their contract is up at the end of the year). We’ve each chosen five players — three from the PGA and European Tours, one from the LPGA and one wild card pick (Nationwide, Champions, Challenge, Ladies European Tour, etc.). Here are our picks for the five players we’d most like to see on Nike’s staff:
I thought Matteo would be a good fit for Nike before he picked up his first win on the European Tour in October. However, the kid is still a phenom. Of course, the tri-fecta would be if Nike could have Francesco and Edoardo Molinari then added Matteo. However, Matteo certainly has a lot of wins in front of him and could be a great staple on the European Tour for years to come. Matteo has also only played in 2 majors and finished T13 and T36 as the Low Amateur in each. The kid’s got major game.
I think Ross fills a great void for Nike’s current staff of athletes. Ross is a grinder on the European Tour and plays well in all the big events. He’s the quiet killer who just gets it done week in and week out. He’s consistent, like Stewart Cink, but younger. He clearly has some majors in front of him and would be a great addition to the Nike roster. I’ve always liked Ross Fisher. I liked him more after his showdown with AK in the Volvo World Match Play Finals and even more when he needed to fufill his fatherly duties. Ross is a professional, through and through.
Ever notice how there isn’t an Australian on Nike’s roster? This former rookie of the year winner has flown under the radar since he’s been on the PGA Tour and is poised to pick up his first win on the PGA. He got his first taste of the majors in 2010 and finished T60 and T48 in The Open and PGA Championships. Leishman has the game. Nike tends to like young guys who have done well with accomplishments and Leishman was a big winner from 06-08 with 7 wins on three different tours. I thought about Michael Sim here, but I think Leishman will get his first win in 2011.
Nike’s current females on staff include 2 of the Top 10 in the world and a rookie in the LPGA. On the European Tour, we have Carly Booth, the future women’s #1 player in the world, and Frances Bondad, who’s good for constant Top 30’s. Brittany has major distance and game. I think the only thing she is missing is some exposure. Brittany, 25, already has 3 wins on the LPGA Tour. Two of those are huge wins in the Women’s World Match Play in 2006 and a major in the 2009 Kraft Nabisco Championship. She’s 25 and has already played in 23 majors (1 win, 6 Top 10’s, 11 Top 25’s). She’s only 21st on the Rolex Rankings, but I think she’ll be in the Top 10 before long.
The young scot is a straight up stud. James, 21 from Scotland, is currently at 18th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and attends Arizona State University. James’ biggest achievements thus far have been finishing 2nd in the 2010 World Amateur Championship and representing Scotland in the World Amateur Team Championships. While James doesn’t have a college win, he would represent more than that to Nike Golf. While their signing of Carly Booth, also Scottish, was very significant, James would help stretch the men’s game to that same area. James has represented Scotland in every amateur competition thus far and is their highest ranked amateur. Look for big things from James.
It’s no secret that Ryan Palmer had a career year in 2010. He finished 17th on the PGA TOUR money list in 2010 with a win at the Sony Open, a 2nd place finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and top 10 finishes at The Barclays, Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and the Valero Texas Open. Having watched Palmer play at Ridgewood Country Club at The Barclays I was impressed his consistent play and cool on-course demeanor. I was more impressed when I ran into him and his family at a nearby restaurant after The Barclays and saw first-hand how kind the Palmer clan is. Palmer also runs The Ryan Palmer Foundation which is committed to community involvement, health, and education.
If Martin Kaymer was a Nike Golf club he would be the new SQ MachSpeed Black. Sleek and ninja-like, Kaymer won four times on the PGA and European Tours, although you never heard a lot out of this soon-to-be 26-year old. I like Kaymer in Nike because he lets his winning do the talking. Plus he brings talent that can win anywhere from Abu Dhabi, to Scotland, to the ridiculous conditions at the U.S. Open. I also think Kaymer would be great in expanding Nike’s presence in Germany.
What does Jason Day have in common with some other Nike Golf Athletes? The bravado, drive, and dedication to be the best in the world. Even before Day was 20 years old he was looking forward to taking down Tiger, now at 23 he’s already won on TOUR and made a serious run during the FedEx Cup, with top 5 finishes at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship. Day’s also looked good in the swoosh before, so it’s a natural fit, plus he’d be a great representative for Nike Golf’s Australian expansion.
Na Yeon Choi
To be the best in women’s golf, you have to have the best representing you, and right now that person is Na Yeon Choi. While N.Y. Choi is currently 4th in the Rolex Rankings, she is #1 on the LPGA Tour Money List. She also had the lowest scoring average for any LPGA player at 69.87, and its first in most birdies and sand saves. Choi is also a supporter of youth golf as she donated $30,000 to LPGA-USGA Girls Golf. Choi would be a great fit for Nike to start marketing the I <3 NYC shirts:
I think given Bramlett’s ability to get a PGA TOUR card through Q-School and the comparisons to Tiger Woods, everything has been said about him already. The young phenom’s achievements to date are incredible. And while Bramlett already has an affinity for the swoosh (He plays Nike equipment, and Stanford is sponsored by Nike Golf), I don’t think Bramlett is officially a Nike Golf Athlete. If he can continue his success on TOUR, I believe Bramlett will be another great young star to add to the Nike Golf roster.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson is currently ranked #17 in the World Golf Rankings, he finished sixth in this year’s race to Dubai, and won the whole thing back in 2008. At the end of November he won the Dubai World Championship, his 11th European Tour victory, and earlier in the year he won the Qatar Masters. His winning ways are just what Nike looks for, and at 6’5” he’d look great in the Nike European apparel collection. Also, with a 2010 driving distance average of 291 yards, he’d put Nike’s new 2011 MachSpeed Black and VR Pro drivers through their paces.
Irishman Rory McIlroy posted nine top 10 finishes on the European Tour and a win on the PGA Tour in 2010, and he’s currently 10th in the World Golf Rankings. He’s only 21 and he hits it long (300 yard driving distance average), two characteristics that appeal to younger fans of Nike Golf. He only has two career wins, but look for that total to increase as he gains experience on both the PGA and EPGA tours. He would also look good in Nike’s European apparel collection, and living in Northern Ireland he would give Nike’s outerwear collection a workout.
DJ finished 5th in the FedEx Cup this year, he had wins at the AT&T Pebble Beach and BMW Championship, and he’s currently 14th in the World Golf Rankings. Notable near misses at this year’s U.S Open and PGA Championship show that he can contend in major championships, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets his first major title. With a driving distance average of 308 yards he flat out bombs it, and he’d look great with a MachSpeed Black or VR Pro in his hands. He also would look great in Nike’s 2011 men’s apparel and footwear collections.
Beatriz Recari enjoyed a stellar amateur career in Europe and her home country of Spain, and he brought a fresh face to the LPGA Tour in 2010, her first full year on tour. She had one win at the CVS Pharmacy LPGA Challenge in October, followed by two top 10’s in her next three starts. If she can carry that momentum into the 2011 season, look for her to contend more than once, and perhaps find the winner’s circle again in her second season. Beatriz would bring a refreshing young international personality to Nike Golf, as well as a fashionable style to the tour wearing Nike Women’s apparel and footwear.
My wild card pick is the winner and MVP of the Golf Channel’s Big Break Dominican Republic, Blair O’Neill. We’ll see Blair playing on the LPGA Tour in March 2011 at the Kia Classic, most likely along with Nike Golf’s Michelle Wie (Kia is another one of Michelle’s sponsors). I think Blair would be a great complement to Nike’s female staff — she can play, and she would do well with Nike Golf equipment in her bag. She has a great personality, and her experience as a model would serve Nike Golf well in showing off its apparel and footwear collections. So Nike Golf take note, Blair O’Neal would be a great addition to Nike Golf’s roster of pro and celebrity athletes.
So this is who we would like to see playing for the swoosh, but we’ll have to wait and see if Nike Golf makes any of our athlete wishes come true next year. Who would you like to se as a Nike athlete in 2011?