Tiger Woods, hampered in recent years by injuries and scandal, returned to the Masters for the first time in three years Thursday, offering a glimmer of hope to the struggling golf industry that he once powered to new heights.
Longtime endorser Nike sought to build hype with a new ad released Thursday morning called "Welcome Back." The spot by Wieden & Kennedy takes a tour through Woods' glory days, from his early TV appearance as a kid to his legendary shot-making in his prime. But so far, his Master's return is a tad underwhelming: He was tied for 27th place after 18 holes at one shot over par, but still within striking distance of leader Li Haotong, who was four under after 16 holes.
Nike stuck by Woods through his 2009 sex scandal as other endorsers backed away, including Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture. Nike's loyalty paid off, according to a study released on 2010.
Nike again backed Woods after his DUI arrest last year. Tiger racked in $37 million in endorsement income last year, according to Forbes figures cited by Bloomberg, down from the $100 million he hauled in at his peak.
Tiger's power was apparent last month when NBC drew strong ratings for the typically low-profile Valspar Championship as Woods returned to form and ended up placing second.
"It is remarkable to see him make it through such a tough period of injury," Martin Buckley, global VP and GM of Nike Golf, said in a statement. "Tiger being back in contention has brought incredible energy to the sport, the fans and to the brand. The passion and excitement he brings to the game are unparalleled."