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Tiger Woods and Nike have terminated their collaboration after 27 years : NPR

Tiger Woods tees off on the 13th hole during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Orlando, Fla.

Kevin Kolczynski/AP

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Kevin Kolczynski/AP

Tiger Woods tees off on the 13th hole during the final round of the PNC Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Orlando, Fla.

Kevin Kolczynski/AP

After 27 years, Tiger Woods is no longer affiliated with Nike, marking the conclusion of a partnership between the swoosh and golf’s leading figure and prompting speculation about the trajectory of both entities within the sport.

In a post on social media, Woods expressed gratitude towards Nike co-founder Phil Knight for his “enthusiasm and foresight” that united Nike and the Nike Golf collaboration with Woods.

“More than 27 years ago, I was fortunate to initiate a connection with one of the most legendary brands globally,” Woods stated. “Subsequent years have been brimming with countless exceptional moments and memories, and if I were to recount them, the list would seem endless.”

His representative at Excel Sports, Mark Steinberg, verified the cessation of the agreement that originated in 1996 when Woods commenced his professional career and swiftly secured four victories, setting new records in a pioneering Masters triumph within eight months.

“It was time for a new phase,” Steinberg informed The Associated Press. “An astonishing tenure. A remarkable collaboration.”

Nike also shared on social media, depicting in a photograph, “It was an incredible journey, Tiger.”

“Tiger, you challenged your competitors, stereotypes, conventions, and the traditional mindset,” the Nike post was captioned. “You challenged the entire golf institution. You even challenged us. And most importantly, yourself. For that relentless challenge, we are thankful.”

Upon turning professional in 1996 after clinching an unprecedented third consecutive U.S. Amateur title, Woods signed a five-year contract worth $40 million, which was deemed groundbreaking at the time by most in the industry, excluding Nike, and his father.

“A pittance,” the late Earl Woods stated once, and he was proven correct. Woods renewed the deal, believed to exceed $100 million, in 2000. Utterly recognizable as any athlete globally, Woods became the emblem of Nike Golf and had his own “TW” brand.

On the golf course, Woods established records, becoming the youngest to secure the Grand Slam at 24, the sole player to hold all four major titles concurrently, and his 15-stroke triumph at the U.S. Open, the most significant margin for a major in golf history.

Nonetheless, indications of a strained relationship have surfaced in recent years. Following his car crash in February 2021 that resulted in severe leg injuries, Woods chose to wear FootJoy shoes, citing a better feel given his injuries.

Woods persisted with them — given Nike’s extensive history in footwear production — even throughout the PNC Championship last month that he competed in alongside his son.

When questioned about his agreement with Nike, Woods responded, “I’m still using their product,” and reiterated the statement firmly when asked if this marked the conclusion of his deal.

Aside from being a prominent figure, Woods unwittingly delivered noteworthy moments for Nike, with none greater than his 2005 Masters victory when he executed a pitch from below the 16th green that ascended the incline and then rolled back toward the hole. The ball hung on the edge for a entire second — the swoosh in full view — before dropping. This episode remains one of the most memorable moments in the most-watched tournament in golf.

He was also shooting a commercial one year when, during breaks, Woods commenced bouncing the golf ball off his club. That resulted in a scene where he bounced the ball off the club, between his legs, behind his back, prior to hitting the ball mid-air.

“Throughout the span of our alliance, we, along with the world at large, witnessed how Tiger not only redefined the sport of golf but also shattered barriers across all of sports,” Nike expressed in a statement. “We observed him set records, challenge traditional thinking, and inspire generations worldwide. We are privileged to have been a part of it. We extend our best wishes to him for the future.”

Woods has secured 15 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus (18), and his 82 PGA Tour victories are tied with Sam Snead. However, in recent years, he has been hindered by five back surgeries, shattered ligaments in his reconstructed left knee, the car accident in 2021, and age. He turned 48 at the conclusion of last year.

Nike remained steadfast when his personal life unraveled in 2009 due to extramarital affairs, and when his schedule was significantly curtailed due to leg and back injuries. Remarkably, Woods recovered from fusion surgery to triumph in the Masters in 2019, securing his fifth green jacket.

Nike has also displayed signs of downsizing its golf business. In 2016, it opted to exit the hard goods sector, prompting Woods to use different clubs and a distinct golf ball.

The company still sponsors a cadre of golfers donning its attire — including Scottie Scheffler, the top-ranked player in the world who sports a “TW” brand shoe — even though former No. 1 Jason Day chose not to renew his agreement this year and transitioned to a different apparel company.

Woods has expressed optimism about potentially playing once a month in 2024, most likely commencing at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles next month.

Steinberg indicated that he is negotiating a new contract and anticipates that there may be an exciting announcement at the Genesis Invitational.

Woods conveyed a similar sentiment.

“People may wonder if there is another phase ahead,” Woods wrote in his post. “Indeed, there will undoubtedly be another phase. See you in LA!”

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