Woods ended months of speculation by making it official on Monday that the partnership between golf’s biggest star and the powerful sportswear brand is ending after 27 years, a move that raises questions about the future of both in the sport.
Woods in a social media post thanked Nike co-founder Phil Knight for the “passion and vision” that brought them together when he turned pro.
“Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate to start a partnership with one of the most iconic brands in the world,” Woods wrote.
“The days since have been filled with so many amazing moments and memories, if I started naming them, I could go on forever.”
Mark Steinberg, his agent at Excel Sports, confirmed the end of the deal that began in 1996 when Woods turned pro after winning his third straight US Amateur.
“I guess, hello world, huh?” a 20-year-old Woods said at the Greater Milwaukee Open.
Nike launched a ‘Hello, World’ campaign two days later, and Woods lived up to the hype.
Within eight months, he already had four wins, including the watershed Masters victory that made him the first golfer of Black heritage to win a major.
Nike posted to social media, saying in a photo, “It was a hell of a round, Tiger”.
“Tiger, you challenged your competition, stereotypes, conventions, the old school way of thinking,” the Nike post said.
“You challenged the entire institution of golf. You challenged us. And most of all, yourself. And for that challenge we’re grateful.”Woods signed a five-year deal worth $US40 million ($A60 million) when he turned pro. It was shocking money at the time to most in the industry except Nike, and his father.
“Chump change,” the late Earl Woods once said, and he was proven correct.
Woods renewed the deal for more than $US100 million in 2001. His eight-year deal in 2006 was reported to be $US160 million, and his latest – signed in 2013 – a reported $US200 million.
More than just a face, Woods delivered big moments for Nike, none greater than his 2005 Masters victory when he hit a pitch from below the 16th green that went up the slope and then rolled back toward the hole.
The ball hung on the edge for a full second – the brand’s swoosh logo in full view – before it dropped.
Woods has won 15 majors, second only to Jack Nicklaus (18). But he has been slowed in recent years by five back surgeries, shattered ligaments in his rebuilt left knee, the 2021 car crash and age. He turned 48 at the end of last year.
Nike stood by him when his personal life imploded in 2009 over extramarital affairs, and when his schedule was reduced greatly because of leg and back injuries.
Woods remarkably returned from fusion surgery to win the Masters in 2019, his fifth green jacket.
Nike also has shown signs of slowing its golf business and said in a recent earnings call it planed to cut $US2 billion over the next three years, raising questions about how much it would remain invested in the sport.