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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tiger Woods Is Still Pro Golf’s Top Dog … Off the Course

  • The 15-time major champion’s influence on the sport is still evident.
  • He is playing up his new brand, Sun Day Red.

While Scottie Scheffler looks to match the dominance of Tiger Woods on the course, the 15-time major champion is still the key to generating business for stakeholders away from the links. 

Woods will be helping lead negotiations with the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia about becoming another minority investor in PGA Tour Enterprises. The Strategic Sports Group has already invested $1.5 billion in the newly formed for-profit entity.

Meanwhile, his mere presence at the PGA Championship should be good news for ESPN, which has coverage of the first two rounds. As Woods successfully battled to make the cut at the Masters, ESPN averaged 3.4 million viewers during rounds one and two, the network’s biggest two-day viewership since 2018. 

Fresh New Look

After ending his 27-year relationship with Nike, Woods this season has been wearing apparel from his new brand, Sun Day Red, which released its first collection this month. Sun Day Red will be available to purchase only on its website this year, before also heading to wholesale retailers in 2025, when junior and women’s gear will begin to be offered in addition to the men’s lines. 

Sun Day Red executives won’t rule out the idea of sponsoring other professional golfers in the future, or even exploring a return of the iconic TW logo Woods made famous by Nike. “That will be his decision,” Brad Blankinship, president of Sun Day Red, tells Front Office Sports. Sun Day Red’s primary logo is a brush-drawn tiger. “For now, he’s put out there that that’s in his past and he’s ready to move forward. So, I would say time will tell and it will be Tiger’s decision.”

Solid Footwork

At Valhalla, Woods will be dressed head-to-toe in Sun Day Red. That last part is crucial for the golfer who has at times struggled to even walk the course since his 2021 car accident that severely damaged his right ankle. Woods had stopped wearing Nike golf shoes and switched to a FootJoy model. “The good news is we’ve got Tiger in our shoes, and they’re working well for him,” Blankinship says. “That’s moving pretty fast—a little ahead of where we would have thought we’d be at this time.”

Sun Day Red footwear won’t be sold to the public until 2025, but Woods is staying intensely involved with every aspect of its testing. “He has a point of view and decades of knowledge that are really insightful and unique,” Blankinship says. “So, particularly on the footwear, he’s had a hand in every part of it—how many spikes, what we’re doing for the laces, the leather we use.”

Ball Is Life

Almost all of the clubs Woods used are made by TaylorMade, the parent company of Sun Day Red, but he plays a Bridgestone ball, the Tour B X model. To no one’s surprise, Bridgestone has a special Tiger Woods edition of that ball, which sees an uptick of sales in during weeks when Woods plays professionally, as well as increased web and social media traffic.

But Bridgestone, which has been working with Woods since 2017, relies on Woods for more than just sales. “The fun thing about Tiger is he can provide feedback beyond what we’re able to capture with the launch monitors,” Elliot Mellow, Bridgestone’s golf ball marketing manager, tells FOS. The expertise Woods has makes him more valuable than other professional golfers when it comes to testing. “He can hit something and say, ‘That doesn’t work for me, it’s launching too high. However, I could see that ball working for this type of player.’ And so on, and so forth. So, Tiger’s feedback really impacts the entire line of the Bridgestone offering.”

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