WOODS SET TO TURN PRO; DEALS WITH NIKE/TITLEIST AWAIT
Published August 27, 1996
Golfer Tiger Woods has reportedly decided to begin his pro career, according to Larry Dorman of the N.Y. TIMES. It "will start" with a deal with Nike worth $40M over the next five years, and his "coming-out party" is set for Wednesday, when he is expected to announced he will play in the Greater Milwaukee Open. The "hottest rumor" was that Woods would leave the Portland, OR, area after winning the U.S. Amateur Championship and "jet cross- country in a Gulfstream IV" owned by Nike's Phil Knight. In addition to the Nike deal, Woods reportedly will sign with Titleist for $3M over three years, the largest golf deal ever for a rookie. Those "familiar with his plans say Woods will play in seven tournaments before the end of the year," and to make the top 125 and earn his '97 PGA Tour card. There "is a twinge of concern over his choice of a management company, which, by all accounts, will be" IMG. IMG "has suffered several high-profile defections recently," including Greg Norman, Nick Price, and "according to some knowledgeable insiders -- will include Nick Faldo." Dorman calls Woods "a huge coup for its [IMG's] golf division" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27). Len Ziehm of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES reports Woods will "likely" turn pro Wednesday (CHICAGO SUN- TIMES, 8/27). Several player-agents agreed Woods is a "can't miss pro" with endorsement potential between $5-10M a year (WASHINGTON POST, 8/27). GENTLE TIGER: A N.Y. TIMES editorial notes golf "could use a fresh marquee face," while adding, "It seems particularly fitting that the leading candidate for golf superstardom is black" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27). The PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: "The shame is that our times forces talented kids to coolly measure their market value before they've had a chance to form their moral values" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/27). The N.Y. TIMES' Dorman notes Woods is "a marvelous player, a genius, a man of color in a predominately lily-white sport who has the potential to make an impact of Arthur Ashe proportions on the game" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27). HE'S A STAR, BABY: NBC's coverage Sunday of the U.S. Amateur earned a 5.3 overnight Nielsen rating, making it the highest Sunday overnight rating for a golf tournament this year save for the U.S. Open, The Masters and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. This was the first U.S. Amateur on network TV since '89 and was the first of four for NBC. Dorman notes, "Tiger Woods made it very clear on Sunday. He is a TV star" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27). In Philadelphia, Mike Bruton notes credit for NBC's coverage of the U.S. Amateur goes to NBC Sports Senior VP Jon Miller, who noticed "how viewers had gotten excited about match play" when they showed the Ryder Cup last year (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/27). In Boston, Jack Craig notes Woods' "appeal was demonstrated by the size of the audience," adding Woods brings a "rare combination of youthful maturity, stunning talent and elusive charisma." Craig: "No one knows quite how to deal with this phenom." ESPN announced it will pick up the first two rounds of the Greater Milwaukee Open. The tournament already was scheduled for weekend coverage on ABC. Jack Craig writes, "Never before has a golf telecast been arranged for a single player" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/27).