A continued equipment choice has become a lingering talking point following Tiger Woods’ latest golfing comeback.
The 47-year-old 15-time major winner returned to action for just the third time this year when he teed up at the Hero World Challenge shunning Nike shoes.
Woods signed his first deal with Nike in 1996, the year he turned pro, and has adorned the Nike swoosh ever since. According to Forbes, Tiger’s first contract was reportedly for US$40 million over five years and a decade later in his prime he was earning up to $40m each year.
He still remains one of Nike’s biggest names despite the fact he has played little golf since his 2021 car crash in Los Angeles. Every time he returns to the course he garners world-wide attention, however, he has preferred a different branded shoe after suffering serious injury to his right leg in the crash which resulted in several surgeries.
Woods first wore Footjoy shoes at the 2022 Masters and hasn’t returned to Nike footwear.
“I have very limited mobility now. Just with the rods and plates and screws that are in my leg, I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable. That’s what I’ve gone to,” he said at the time.
Nike followed up in a press release, “Like golf fans around the world, we are delighted to see Tiger back on the course. He is an incredible athlete, and it is phenomenal to see him returning to the game at this level. His story continues to transcend sport and inspire us all. As he continues his return, we will work with him to meet his new needs.”
That was two years ago and the largest shoe company in the world still has not met those needs. Nike scaled down their golf operations significantly in 2016, announcing they would no longer produce golf clubs, balls or bags with shoes and sportswear the only products they continued to sell.
Woods wore Footjoys when he withdrew before the final rounds at the Masters in April and continued to sport them in the Bahamas over the weekend.
Woods finished 72 holes for only the third time in the last two years. He has played six tournaments following the recovery from car crash.
“Just like I said to you guys on Tuesday, I’m curious ... what this is going to look like,” Woods said. “I haven’t done it in a while — I haven’t done it with my ankle the way it is now and I was excited each and every day to kind of get through it and kind of start piecing rounds together again. I haven’t done this in a long time so it was fun to feel that again.”
Woods closed with a 72 and ended up 18th at even par. Scottie S Scheffler finished at 20-under 268 to win by three strokes.
Woods was never in the mix after each round, which was not the primary objective. He knew there would be rust, and he felt he knocked a little off each day. But not all of it. He had a pitch roll back toward his feet on the par-3 second hole for a double bogey, and he hit another poor chip that led to bogey on the par-5 11th.
Woods remained optimistic he could play one tournament a month in 2024.
“If you ask me right now, I’m a little bit sore,” he said. “Once a month seems reasonable. It gives me a couple of weeks to recover. Maybe I can get into a rhythm. That’s what the plan was going into next year. I don’t see why that would change.”
- With AP