Running April 7-10, the Masters Tournament is bringing golf back into the spotlight.
Tiger Woods stirred intrigue this week when the five-time green jacket winner said Tuesday he expects to play in this week’s tournament, less than 14 months after a car crash outside Los Angeles put him in the hospital with critical right-leg injuries that required orthopedic surgery.
“As of right now I feel like I am going to play,” Woods told reporters at a press conference Tuesday.
But the golf champion’s unexpected return is equally notable for what he’s wearing—or not, as the case may be.
The longtime Nike brand ambassador stepped out in Swoosh-less shoes to practice his putting earlier this week at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club ahead of Tuesday’s press conference, prompting the footwear giant to issue a response.
“Like golf fans around the world, we are delighted to see Tiger back on the course. He is an incredible athlete, and it is phenomenal to see him returning to the game at this level,” Nike said in a statement. “His story continues to transcend sport and inspire us all. As he continues his return, we will work with him to meet his new needs.”
Those “new needs” include the World Golf Hall of Famer prioritizing high-stability footwear that compensates for his right leg’s compromised range of movement.
“I have very limited mobility now with the rods and plates and screws that are in my leg,” Woods said. “I needed something different, something that allowed me to be more stable.” He went on to praise Nike as a “fantastic” partner over their long-running relationship and said he hopes they can develop a shoe that meets his needs “soon” as doctors don’t expect him to recover “much more” mobility going forward.
Meanwhile, Woods’ tacit FootJoy endorsement is driving interest in the golf shoe brand, whose Google searches have surged in tandem with the golf star’s high-profile appearance on the green sporting its Premier Series Packard style. A description of the $199.999 calfskin shoe says the footwear is designed to maximize traction with “low profile spikes that deliver stability and support from the moment you step foot onto the course.”
Elsewhere in the world of golf, Adidas seized on the Masters’ return to cook up a shoe riffing on one of the South’s most beloved icons.
“We love this time of year because more than anything else it’s an unofficial start to the golf season for everyone,” said Masun Denison, Adidas Golf’s global footwear director.
The athletic company turned to Georgia-based Waffle House to come up with a style that nods to the 2,100-restaurant chain known for making “good food fast.” The Tour360 22 x Waffle House golf shoe features a “batter-like” cream-colored textured leather upper reminiscent of the breakfast staple’s square pattern. Both Adidas and Waffle House’s logos repeat on yellow sockliners.
“Waffle House is such a well-known restaurant in Georgia and throughout the U.S., we knew it would be fun to partner with their team on a design that brings a piece of the famous restaurant to everyone, all in our flagship silhouette,” Denison said.
The limited-edition shoe in men’s and women’s sizes will be available through Adidas’ e-commerce site and app and at curated retailers starting April 7, arriving in a box that mimics the restaurant’s aesthetic.
Waffle House president and CEO Walt Ehmer said his company “couldn’t have asked for a better marriage between our signature waffles, the Adidas Tour360 22 golf shoe and our signature restaurants.”
“Who knew our famous, sweet cream waffles could also be so much fun to wear?” he added.
After consumers flocked to golf as a suitably socially distanced activity early in the pandemic, NPD data suggests interest in the sport is beginning to return to pre-pandemic trends. Data from July through February shows slumping sales for golf clubs (down 12 percent) and gloves (down 6 percent) from the prior year.
“On the other hand, golf ball sales remained flat, and accessories (like tees) and training aids grew, with February a particularly strong month for sales—pointing to continued interest in golf by the enthusiast or mainstream golfer,” said Dirk Sorenson, executive director and sports industry analyst for The NPD Group.
“In fact, golf ball sales grew revenue by 26 percent in February, compared to February 2021, which I take as an indication of existing golfers stocking up on the basics and preparing to hit the courses during warmer weather,” he added.