Tiger Woods showed up at the Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday wearing Swooshes from his head to just short of his toes. The professional golfer — who has been sponsored by Nike since 1996 — practiced on the green in a Nike hat, Nike polo, Nike pants, and, most notably, a pair of FootJoy Premier Series-Packard golf shoes.
It’s unclear why Woods decided not to wear Nike sneakers, although it’s speculated that the switch-up could be due to the car accident last year that severely injured his legs. Prolonged pain could have left Woods searching for more comfortable golfing footwear — but it’s worth questioning why Nike wasn’t able to meet the player’s needs.
“New needs” — Nike told ESPN’s Michael Collins that the company is working on a solution: “Like golf fans around the world, we are delighted to see Tiger back on the course,” Nike said in a statement. “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.”
Woods has worked with Nike throughout his career and has his own signature shoe, the Nike Air Zoom Tiger Woods. Despite his change in footwear, it doesn’t seem like that partnership will end — Woods was, after all, still wearing Nike apparel. He hasn’t commented on his most recent choice of footwear, either, only tweeting that he’ll be making a “game-time decision” as to whether or not he competes in the upcoming Masters tournament.
Should Woods play, it would mark his first competition since November 2020. Plenty of eyes will be watching for his potential return to the green as well as what shoes he steps out in.
Not the first switch up — As Golf Digest notes, this is not the first time Woods has deviated from his usual gear: In the early 2000s, the professional golfer temporarily switched out his Nike driver for both a TaylorMade and a Titleist one, two moves he was reportedly reprimanded for. Woods has remained a loyal Nike partner since, fueling speculation that his most recent gear change is a necessary one after his accident.
Woods is a valuable asset to Nike whether he plays the Masters or not, meaning the company should continue to sponsor him as long as he wears Nike gear moving forward. Fellow sportswear company Adidas has done the same with Yeezy creator Kanye West — despite his penchant for wearing Nike products and posting disturbing imagery on social media — because, like Woods, his name promises sales. Nike only wants to ensure the sales attached to Woods’s name belong to the company.