Tiger Woods' 16th-hole chip-in at last year's Masters put Nike Golf dab smack in the fairway.
By BOB HARIG
Published April 4, 2006
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Tiger Woods had no interest in trying to recreate history, even if just for fun.
When he returned to Augusta National three weeks ago for a quick preview of the course, there was no inclination to drop a ball or two behind the 16th green and have at it again.
Same with this week as he prepared for the 70th Masters, which begins Thursday.
One of the most famous shots in Augusta annals will stay a highlight-reel memory for the ages.
"I hope I'm never there again," Woods said, recalling last year's magic. "I won't try it again, no. (You could drop) hundreds of balls and you make only make one. That's a shot ... once in a lifetime."
Ah, timing. It could not have been better for Woods, nor for Nike, the company he represents and whose logo was very prominent as the ball inched toward the cup and then sat on the lip for a full two seconds before dropping, the swoosh in full view - with a commercial to follow.
Woods, in a tense duel with Chris DiMarco, had hit his 8-iron approach over the green at the par-3 hole. He was just one stroke ahead of the former Florida golfer, who had hit his shot to 15 feet.
"I knew it was going to be virtually one of the most difficult shots you could possibly have on the whole golf course," Woods said. "When I got down there, I realized it wasn't up against the cut (of rough). I had a little bit of room and I had a good lie.
"I would have been happy just to have made a 4 somehow. But after I saw where the ball was, I thought I had an opportunity to put the ball inside of Chris. To be honest, that's all I was trying to do."
The ball was 30 feet from the hole, but Woods could not play at the pin. Using a 60-degree wedge, Woods hoped to hit the ball with some spin up a hill with the idea that it would do a U-turn and roll back under the hole, someplace, giving him a chance at par.
Never did he dream it would go in.
Nor did Bob Wood, the president of Nike Golf, who couldn't believe his eyes when he saw that swoosh sitting seemingly forever on the edge of the cup while watching from his home in Oregon.
"It's a planet alignment thing. You know when it's happening, you know something like that will almost never happen again," Wood said. "Forget about the logo, just the shot. ... It's an amazing deal.
"And I think the impact of that shot is you'll see it every time the Masters is on TV until the cows come home. You'll see Larry Mize and Jack (Nicklaus) making a putt and you're going to see that. Nike Golf will always be synonymous with the Masters. There is nothing anybody can do about that. So it's pretty amazing."
Wood's giddiness is understandable. A company called Sponsorship Research International analyzed the final round of the Masters, particularly the amount of exposure the Nike ball received due to Woods' chip-in.
According to SRI, the live camera shot of the Nike ball nearing the cup and sitting on the edge resulted in four seconds of "clear exposure" for Nike. There was another six seconds in a close-up before the ball was struck, and then five replays of the chip-in. This resulted in $233,333 worth of gross advertising value, based on an estimated $250,000 spot rate for the CBS broadcast.
SRI estimated that five to seven times more value was achieved from replays on local news and highlight shows, as well as print and Internet usage of the logo.
Wood said he thought about a commercial "about two seconds after it happened." First, Nike had to obtain the rights to the footage owned by CBS and Augusta National. An ad, still played today, was soon in production.
At the time, Nike was close to bringing the Platinum ball Woods was using to market. Wood said Nike's market share in the ball business, approximately 10 percent (Titleist is the industry leader with about 50 percent), is the best it has been, with high-end golf balls up more than double from a year ago.
Much of that is attributable to Woods, who has helped push Nike Golf products from nowhere to a major player.
"When he switched to our ball, the first major was the U.S. Open (in 2000) and he won by 15," Wood said. "He didn't just change our future as a golf company and as an equipment company, he changed the industry. At the time, the ball of choice was a wound ball for the best players. Within a year of that, the wound ball was gone from the market forever. "Now, solid-core golf balls and multilayered golf balls were around before Tiger switched. But they had never been accepted en masse by the best players in the world. When he changed to the Tour Accuracy, that made the wound ball a black-and-white TV."Woods is paid an estimated $25-million per year by Nike, according to Golf Digest. Throughout his amateur and early pro career, Woods used Titleist equipment (he still uses a Titleist Scotty Cameron putter). He first used Nike's golf ball in 2000 at the Buick Invitational, and has used more Nike equipment, including the SasQuatch driver.
"He helped legitimize Nike Golf as brand," Wood said. "Obviously, he can play with anything he wants. If he didn't like our product, he wouldn't play it. He doesn't need the money."
No, but he needed to make that shot at the time he made it. A bogey would have dropped him into a tie. A bogey coupled with a DiMarco birdie - which appeared possible - would have put him one behind.
Instead, he stayed two ahead, and although Woods bogeyed the final two holes, he emerged victorious in a playoff, making the shot at 16 live on forever.