Tiger Woods has ended his longstanding partnership with Nike, drawing a line under a lucrative near three-decade relationship with the iconic sporting goods brand that helped transform him into golf’s first billionaire.
In a statement on Twitter, the 15-time Major champion thanked Nike for the company’s support since signing with the brand in 1996 in a deal that earned Woods a reported $500-million over the next 27 years.
“Over 27 years ago, I was fortunate to start a partnership with one of the most iconic brands in the world,” Woods said.
“The days since have been filled with so many amazing moments and memories, if I started naming them, I could go on forever.
“[Former Nike CEO] Phil Knight’s passion and vision brought this Nike and Nike Golf partnership together and I want to personally thank him, along with the Nike employees and incredible athletes I have had the pleasure of working with along the way.”
Woods did not give details on any new sponsor, but hinted of being able to reveal “another chapter” at next month’s Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles.
“People will ask if there is another chapter. Yes, there will certainly be another chapter. See you in LA! Tiger,” Woods wrote.
Woods and Nike became synonymous over the course of the 48-year-old American’s career, from the moment he announced his professional debut in 1996 with an acclaimed Nike ad campaign where he declared simply: “Hello World.”
Initially, Woods’ partnership with Nike was limited to clothing, but the sporting goods giant later went into the manufacture of balls and clubs, in part driven by Woods’ success in broadening golf’s global appeal.
Nike on Monday saluted Woods for his achievements, with an Instagram post headlined: “It was a hell of a round, Tiger” above a photo of the player wearing his signature ‘Sunday red’ Nike shirt.
“Tiger, you challenged your competition, stereotypes, conventions, the old school way of thinking,” Nike said in the post.
“You challenged the entire institution of golf. You challenged us. And most of all, yourself. And for that challenge we’re grateful.”
In a separate statement, Nike said Woods, the son of an African-American father and Thai mother, “broke barriers for all of sport.”
“We watched him set records, challenge conventional thinking and inspire generations of people around the globe,” Nike said. “We are grateful to have been a part of it. We wish him the best in the future.”
Nike remained a steadfast supporter of Woods throughout the company’s partnership with the golfer, most notably in 2009 when his career was upended by the sex scandal that shattered his clean-cut image.
While other sponsors walked away, Nike, who from the get-go viewed Woods as the same sort of generational talent as NBA superstar Michael Jordan, stood firm.
Woods in turn repaid that loyalty even after Nike moved away from the golf equipment business in 2016, continuing to wear the brand’s clothing.
However, signs the partnership was drawing to a close began to emerge following Woods’ horrific 2021 car crash in California that left him with serious injuries and almost led to an amputation of his right leg.
Woods has worn Footjoy shoes since the accident, stating that they offered greater stability for his ankle, fuelling speculation about the status of his Nike deal.
Speaking at the PNC Championship last month, Woods was coy when pressed by reporters about whether his most recent 10-year contract with Nike – which expired in 2023 – would be renewed
“I”m still wearing their product,” Woods said at the time.
© Agence France-Presse