Nike relieved to see Tiger make PGA cut

8/12/2005 - Tiger Woods

Two of the most valuable polo shirts in the world will be worn this weekend, after Tiger Woods barely made the cut at the PGA Championship.

Nike, which pays Woods $20 million per year, plans his outfits for majors 18 months in advance. But with the world's top-ranked player in jeopardy of missing the weekend at a major championship for the first time in his nine-year professional career, it was unclear whether or not the shoe, apparel and equipment company would have the ability to use Woods to sell their gear on network television. That was until he made a birdie on the par-5 18th hole Friday to assure sticking around for two more days.

As Woods breathed a sigh of relief, so, too, did David Hagler, Nike's global director of golf apparel, who was sitting in his office on the company's campus in Beaverton, Ore.

"I was getting a little nervous," Hagler admitted.

Nike will be dressing Woods in a multi-striped polo on Saturday and an ombre-striped polo on Sunday. The four-day lineup is heavily advertised on NikeGolf.com under the motto, "Wear what makes Tiger, Tiger." Nike has been putting his choice of shirts on the Web site in advance of the majors for the past year.

"Whatever Tiger wears sells really well," Hagler said. "We can put him in a style that we think is very risky for the golf market and retailers will buy it anyway, partly because of the exposure it will get on television."

The shirts available to the public are almost identical to what Woods will wear, although the retail versions do not have the Nike swoosh on the chest or the "TW" logo on the back of the neck, as Woods wears them. His outfits for this Saturday and Sunday list for $80 and $85, respectively.

Hagler said the company does not have any research that correlates Woods' performance in majors to sales of polo shirts, but Woods' success has certainly had an impact on the business. The golf apparel business has grown by double digits annually and, this past year, Nike became the No. 1 golf apparel brand in the world, besting Ashworth/Callaway.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.