New year brings new equipment

KAPALUA, Hawaii — Nick Watney was in the local Honolua Store at Kapalua earlier this week when he saw a familiar face and quickly placed his hand over his chest, covering up the swoosh on his shirt. Add that to the files of worst-kept secrets.

Nike made it official Tuesday with separate announcements that it has signed Watney and Kyle Stanley to equipment deals. Both had been with Titleist.

The biggest Nike acquisition in the offseason, off course, was Rory McIlroy. Nike will make that announcement in Abu Dhabi, where McIlroy will start his season in a couple of weeks. It also landed S.Y. Noh of South Korea.

The bigger surprises were Stewart Cink, who in October said he had one year left on his Nike deal, switching over to TaylorMade. Also going to TaylorMade were former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover (formerly Nike), Ryan Moore (formerly Adams Golf) and John Huh, who had been playing Ping last year but didn't have an endorsement until well after he won the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico.

Chris Kirk and Gary Woodland (both formerly Titleist) are headed to Callaway.

Watney will be using a high-speed cavity back driver and Nike VR Pro Combo irons, a similar look to the AP2 irons he used at Titleist. Stanley is using blades.

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WORLD MONEY LIST: Rory McIlroy is atop the world money list published each year in the "The World of Professional Golf," the comprehensive golf annual that was started by IMG founder Mark McCormack. The list includes money earned from every golf tournament, even unofficial events such as the Father-Son Challenge and PGA Grand Slam.

McIlroy's five wins included the PGA Championship and two FedEx Cup playoff events. He finished with $11,301,228.

Justin Rose was No. 2 with $7,897,818, even though he won only once on the PGA Tour at the Cadillac Championship at Doral. Rose also won the Turkish Airways World Golf Final, the medal-match exhibition that attracted a world-class field of eight players. Rose beat Lee Westwood in the final match to earn $1.5 million.

Tiger Woods, with three wins, was at No. 3 with $7,388,061. He was followed by Luke Donald (three wins) and Louis Oosthuizen (two wins).

Rounding out the top 10 were Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Westwood, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley. Watson (Masters) and Bradley (Bridgestone Invitational) were the only players in the top 10 who had only one win last year.

LATE ARRIVAL TO DEATH VALLEY: Kyle Stanley grew up in Washington state and now bleeds orange after playing golf at Clemson. So imagine the surprise when he revealed Tuesday that he went to his first Clemson game this year when the Tigers played rival South Carolina.

First game this year? No, first game ever.

"I just never wanted to take a day off," Stanley said, who thus gave new meaning to the phrase "strong work ethic." That's right — all those years at Clemson, and he was pounding golf balls on Saturday.

Safe to say Lucas Glover never fell into that trap.

As for the game?

"We're sitting up there in the stands and I started thinking, 'Man, this is kind of fun,'" Stanley said.

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GOLF DIGEST LIST: Pine Valley is back to No. 1 in Golf Digest magazine's biennial list of the top 100 courses in the world. The private club in southern New Jersey, designed by George Crump and Harry Colt, had been replaced in the previous list by Augusta National, which this year is No. 2.

The top five remained the same, though there was some reshuffling. Cypress Point went from No. 5 to No. 3, Shinnecock Hills went from No. 3 to No. 4, and Oakmont dropped from No. 4 to No. 5.

Rounding out the top 10 were Merion (East), site of this year's U.S. Open; Pebble Beach, Winged Foot (West), Sand Hills and Fishers Island Club, which was the only newcomer to the top 10 for the 2013 list. Fishers Island replaces National Golf Links, which slipped one spot to No. 11.

Oak Hill, which will host the PGA Championship this year, moved up four spots to No. 17.

WILD RIDE: Jonas Blixt ended his rookie season with over $2.2 million and a win at the Frys.com Open, allowing him to start his season on Maui.

But the worst is still ahead of him.

When he played golf at Florida State, Blixt became good friends with Torstein Neavestad of Norway, and they decided a few years ago they needed to lose some weight. The deal was to eliminate soda for one year, and whoever cracked first had to ride a roller coaster uninterrupted for two hours.

Blixt hates rollers coasters, but he loves his job. So when he was going nowhere on the Nationwide Tour two years ago, he called Neavestad and conceded.

"I made 95 percent of my money that year after I started drinking Coke again," Blixt said.

As for the bet?

Blixt, who clasped both sides of his face at the mere mention of roller coasters, was supposed to make good during the final event of last season at Disney. Just his luck, he found out Disney wouldn't allow someone to go two hours straight, and Neavestad headed home to Norway.

"I'm trying to get out of it," Blixt said. "He's coming back over in a couple of weeks. I still have to do it."


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