Tiger Woods tight-lipped on future of his Nike deal

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has been linked with Nike for nearly 30 years.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The rumor mill remains hot these days in the golf world. Players defecting from one tour to another. Billion-dollar investments. Mergers and acquisitions. All as we work through December toward the time of year when most equipment and sponsor contracts turn over. 

Most golf sponsorship contracts work on a 12-month, Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 accounting budget. Some deals are for multiple years, but still often end with the closing of a calendar year. So the next time you see many pros, in early January, will be the most likely time any of their sponsorships change. 

Maybe even for Tiger Woods. 

Woods has been a Nike athlete for nearly 30 years now, and has signed various extensions over the years, keeping the swoosh on his chest, on the front of his hat, and typically on his shoes for the entirety of his pro career. He signed his first deal in 1996, then signed extensions toward the end of each deal, the last one coming in 2013. Back then, Woods was playing a full bag of Nike clubs, but the athletics brand discontinued its equipment manufacturing business in 2016.

Earlier this month it was intimated on the No Laying Up podcast that Woods’ deal with Nike Golf could be coming to a close. Furthermore, that Nike might be ending its relationship with multiple pro golfers. The info came from Tron Carter, one of the co-hosts, and detailed that this week’s PNC Championship might be Woods’ last tournament in that deal. Those whispers caught steam in the footwear and business corners of the internet, in part because it’s hard to fathom a Swoosh-less Tiger. There’s a conference center on Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., campus named after Woods. Would Nike allow Woods to move on wearing a different logo? But when one of the biggest podcasts in golf suggests a deal could be over, 10 years after Woods’ last extension, it was a fair question to ask, of both Nike and the man himself, here during Woods’ final start of 2023.

Woods has kept a bit of distance this week, only doing a single interview with tournament media officials rather than the national golf press. We learned about his thoughts on parenting, a bit on his health and why he enjoys this family-oriented tournament, but nothing about his Nike relationship. That was until Saturday. Woods and his son, Charlie, combined to shoot an eight-under 64 in the first round, and conducted a press conference afterward.

The question was simple: “There’s been a lot of chatter the last month or so on your relationship with Nike, and where that’s going. Can you give any clarity to that?”

With his hands fixed on his hips, Woods said five words: “I’m still wearing their product.” 

Is this the end of it, coming up? 

Woods’ answer didn’t change: “I’m still wearing their product.” 

It wasn’t all that of surprising response, as Woods rarely shares personal or endorsement information. But it’s worth noting Woods refused to acknowledge any timeline in his answer. He is still wearing their product. And when we seem him next, in late January or early February, he might still be. (Nike did not immediately respond to a GOLF.com inquiry about the status of the deal.) But Woods has been sporting Nike gear to a slightly lesser extent in recent years.

In his return to PGA Tour play following his 2021 car accident, Woods appeared at the 2022 Masters in FootJoy shoes, which surprised many until Nike released a statement supporting Woods’ decision. Ever since, Woods has almost exclusively competed in classic FootJoys. Charlie Woods wore black FootJoys Saturday as well. We may have to wait for 2024 before any further clarity on Woods’ apparel sponsorship arrives.

Woods was mum on most topics of interest Saturday. As one of just six player directors on the PGA Tour Policy Board, this was our first chance to hear his thoughts on Jon Rahm’s departure to LIV Golf, or the ongoing negotiations for the Tour’s future with SSG, a consortium of billionaire investors. 

On Rahm: “We assumed it was just speculation until it happened.”

On SSG: “[They] have the same alignment we have, and we are all heading in the right direction.”

On the firmness of the Dec. 31 deadline for a deal with the Saudi Public Investment Fund: “As of right now, that is our time frame and our deadline. That was set forth back in early June, and that hasn’t changed.”

And on his apparel sponsor? We’ll know when we know.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine, currently working on a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews. You can read about those travels here and catch his latest thoughts on the Drop Zone Podcast:

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