It couldn't have felt any better or been any more poignant and still have been a television commercial. As Tiger Woods fought off excruciating pain and Rocco Mediate to win his most improbable, most dramatic major title, Nike's poetic new spot, "Never," featuring the words of Tiger's father, Earl, revealed the roots of his legendary mental toughness and brought chills to viewers' spines.It was as if Nike had composed not only the spot but the tournament, too. Debuting on Father's Day, the ad played like cut-away commentary and analysis, helping to explain some of the incomprehensible golf Woods was playing, reminding the audience that every shot he gutted out was laden not only with physical pain but with some deep memory of his dad and the games they played that prepared him for the daunting situation in which he found himself, spraying balls into the rough and dueling a relentless, resourceful competitor.
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Making putts is tough enough. But even lining them up must have been difficult for Tiger last week.
But Davis said that maybe the most remarkable thing about the tournament Tiger played and the way the spot echoed and amplified his on-course heroics was that it really wasn't so remarkable at all."If you think about the mental toughness of Tiger," she said, "that's a story we could tell at just about any moment in his career, and it would have played, or will play, just as well as it did this past weekend." It played so beautifully that the prospect of a tournament without Tiger (now that he's out for the rest of the season) feels like the end of the world -- for the tour, for fans, for Nike. But Davis says the swoosh can survive it. "It goes without saying that the temporary absence of an athlete with Tiger's vast influence will be felt at all levels throughout the game," she says. "But Tiger's enduring impact on the Nike brand and business is so enormous that it resonates positively even when he's not competing." Eric Neel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. You can reach him here.