Tiger’s Sunday Red will always be iconic with or without Nike

Ronan MacNamara
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Tiger Woods after winning the 2019 Masters (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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It seems ridiculous to react to the news of a multi billionaire golfer terminating his $500 million deal with a sportswear giant with a tinge of sadness. Yet, here we are.

After 27 years of donning the famous Nike swoosh or ‘tick’ as I used to call it until very recently, Tiger Woods will represent another clothing brand for the first time in his professional career.

Looking through the golf shirts in my wardrobe as I rifle through the good and the bad of the current collection, I always cast a nostalgic glance to the silky red TK Maxx bought Nike golf shirt that I’ve had since I was a teenager (it still fits) and can never throw away despite its ragged condition.

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Previously as a child, after watching Tiger on television and seeing the famous red and black combo, I scrambled to get my hands on a cheap off brand red polo shirt to wear to junior golf competitions. Before I finally got my hands on my own swoosh.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who grew up idolising Tiger and part of the obsession was of course, owning a red Nike golf shirt. The outfit obviously completed with the black cap and black trousers.

Stepping onto the first tee of Co. Meath Golf Club on a damp Tuesday morning I at least looked the business before I stuttered a little white ball along the ground for four hours. That hasn’t changed over ten years later!

Red Sunday Nike Tiger has taken on a variety of looks. A slightly burgundy shade, the long sleeve red top, the mock necks and the classic collared crimson armour that struck fear into every competitor looking to oust him on the back nine of a major championship Sunday.

It was a look that made Tiger one of the most recognisable figures in the world of sport and despite it not mattering an iota in terms of his on course performances, seeing the 15-time major winner without the Nike swoosh above his left pectoral muscle will take some getting used to.

Tiger’s Sunday red isn’t the only stock look of a professional golfer.

Rickie Fowler’s jumpsuit orange was a massive hit with young fans across the globe and although he has toned it down somewhat, his Sunday orange is certainly one of the more popular looks with fans.

Greg Norman made a straw hat become fashionable on the golf course while the now disgraced Phil Mickelson tried and failed to popularise a long sleeve golf shirt.

Even Ireland’s own Shane Lowry wears black and white as often as he can, particularly on Sunday, to represent his local club, Clara.

Perhaps it is surprising that Rory McIlroy hasn’t conjured up a trademark look, but even that would have paled in comparison to Tiger’s Sunday red Nike top.

The pair became synonymous with one another. Despite all the blockbuster ads and various marketing tools used to promote the Nike brand over the last 30 years there isn’t a moment more ‘Nike’ than Tiger’s iconic chip in at the Masters in 2005.

Augusta National, the par-3 16th hole, Tiger vs Chris DiMarco in a Sunday showdown.

In what was arguably the most iconic shot in golf, Nike was at the heart of it. As Tiger chips the ball to the top of the green to his left to allow it to trickle down towards the pin, just before it disappears into the hole, the famous Nike swoosh peaks its head up to the camera to ensure it is the last image anyone sees of the golf ball before it drops for a miraculous birdie two.

No amount of ads or celebrity endorsements can compare to the coverage Nike would have gained from that day. You couldn’t buy that marketing!

Tiger is also famous for his TW logo which has been seen on his cap and shoes. His logo is so famous that even the world number one golfer, Scottie Scheffler, wears his shoes!

It seems strange that after 27 years of such a renowned partnership that they have just parted ways so abruptly. Should Nike have looked to cash in on such a legacy?

Surely the American superpower could have attempted to buy out the TW logo and release a Tiger Woods golf apparel collection like they have done with Michael Jordan and like Adidas will presumably do with Lionel Messi when he retires.

The beginning of the end of Tiger’s relationship with Nike stemmed from when he rocked up to Augusta National for the 2022 Masters wearing a fresh pair of Footjoy golf shoes which he cited were for health reasons after shattering his leg in a near fatal car accident the previous year.

Nike responded with a statement supporting their star man but it is impossible to fathom that Nike, a global sports apparel superpower who are arguably most famous for their footwear could not have designed an adequate pair to meet his needs.

Nike are rumoured to be trying to bow out of the golf market having ceased designing golf clubs in 2016 while they have also lost former world number one, Jason Day, from their clothing stable as well as Frenchman Alexander Levy.

It’s a shame to see Nike potentially leave the golf landscape as because of Tiger and Rory McIlroy – to a lesser extent – their clubs and golf balls became iconic. Whether it was the controversial square driver or McIlroy’s red Nike driver, which was quickly replaced for a blue one which gave him more success, albeit for a brief period.

There was just something about owning a Nike club or a Nike golf ball. For nothing more than the swoosh itself. It’s an indescribable feeling other than it just hit different. Even if you were a brutal golfer, you looked a million dollars.

McIlroy will inevitably be donning different golf apparel in the future like Tiger, but it is hard to imagine and apparel x athlete partnership being as famous, as effective and as powerful as what we saw for 27 years.

It’s been a hell of a round.

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