Sports

Tiger’s presence, shoes cause a stir

Augusta, Ga. – Tiger Woods wears Nike clothes as usual this week.

Except the shoes.

That’s the power of Woods: Not only is his mere presence at Augusta National this week a big story – whether he decides to play at the Masters – but he’s also created a big side story by joining FootJoy on Sunday and Monday shoes that turned up during practice rounds.

Woods has not yet explained the change; he is scheduled to address reporters on Tuesday. It would make sense if the change were related to likely other physical needs now that he’s trying to play on a right leg that was badly damaged in a car accident last year.

A statement released by Nike seemed to indicate: “Like golf fans around the world, we are delighted to see Tiger back on the course. He’s an incredible athlete and it’s phenomenal to see him come back to the game at this level. His story goes beyond sport and inspires us all. During his return we will work with him to meet his new needs.”

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Everything else about Woods’ on-course ensembles was as expected: his cap still sports the distinctive “TW” logo that has been his personal Nike branding for years, his short-sleeve shirts had the iconic Nike Swoosh on the left chest . Technically, Nike was on its feet too – if you count the socks.

Woods was wearing Nike shoes when the world last saw him play the PNC Challenge in December, a 36-hole scramble on a flat Florida golf course where he and his son Charlie finished second to John Daly and his son. Woods was allowed to use a cart at this event. The demands of the Masters game simply don’t compare, as Augusta National’s steep slopes and length ranks as one of golf’s toughest courses.

Woods has been an endorser of Nike since 1996.

THE AMATEURS

There are six amateurs at the Masters this year and obviously being here is hugely important for everyone.

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It might mean a little bit more for Keita Nakajima – because he knows what the Masters mean back home, especially now that one of them is the defending champion.

Nakajima hails from Japan, as does 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama – the first Japanese to win a Major. Nakajima is allowed to play this year after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Dubai last year.

“I’ve seen Masters on TV many times and it’s still like a dream,” Nakajima said. “It’s pretty surreal. And I want to do my best for the fans and feel my joy and do my best for this week.”

He shared the stage for a press conference on Monday with fellow amateur Aaron Jarvis, who is making his Masters debut after winning the Latin American amateur championship in the Dominican Republic in January.

Jarvis is from the Cayman Islands, which is home to around 70,000 people. He’s the first player from this tiny country to make it to the Masters and he’s already had a quandary moment – being turned down by Tiger Woods.

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Jarvis was playing with US amateur champion James Piot on Sunday when they saw Woods play and asked to join. The answer wasn’t what they wanted.

“You know, there’s no better ‘no’ from – or rejection – than from Tiger Woods, is there?” Jarvis said. “So I thought I’d give it a try. I ran up to him and ran through the woods and asked, ‘Mr. Woods, are you playing alone or can we join in?'”

Woods said he would prefer to play alone.

When he finished his lap, Woods and caddy Joe LaCava chatted with Jarvis for about 10 minutes.

“It was just amazing,” Jarvis said.

Piot already has a memory like few others at Augusta National: he basically had to play an empty pitch on Saturday. He went out after the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and hardly saw another soul.

“Just me and my caddy,” said Piot. “Nobody else, no members on the course. It was the craziest thing in the world having Augusta National to ourselves. For a college guy, that’s really appreciated. I mean, being an amateur and being alone at Augusta National was a memory I’ll never forget.

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The other amateurs in the field are US amateur runner-up Austin Greaser, British amateur champion Laird Shepherd and US middle-class amateur champion Stewart Hagestad.

It’s the second time in the Masters for Hagestad, a career amateur who turns 31 on Sunday. He finished tied 36th and was low amateur at the 2017 Masters.

“I don’t want to throw all the proverbs at you, but it’s really an honor and a privilege to be here,” said Hagestad. “No, there have been a couple of times where I’ve burst into tears, both privately and publicly.”

WEATHER WELL

Forecasters say more than an inch of rain could fall during a series of storms on Tuesday. And that means the price may soften – at least for a while.

“It’s solid,” Webb Simpson said Monday. “The ball runs in the fairway like I haven’t seen in a couple of years. The greens are already very firm and getting some brown spots which we love but I think they know rain is coming (Tuesday). With the wind coming it looks like the course will dry up pretty quickly but overall it’s in really good shape.”

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Once the storms move on, temperatures could drop. The forecast shows overnight lows could hit the low 40s towards the end of the week, which would be well below normal for this time of year.

HEIMFELDRAND

The Masters draws patrons from all over, but locals may have some clear interests with seven former Georgia Bulldogs on the field.

The List: Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford, Sepp Straka, Kevin Kisner, Harris English, Brian Harman and Bubba Watson.

And yes, they listened to “Go Dawgs” on Monday.

“When I was recruited, the negative recruiting versus Georgia was that we couldn’t send people on tour,” Harman said. “That was the pitch from the other schools. … It’s nice that we’ve changed that narrative in some way.”

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https://www.ksat.com/sports/2022/04/04/masters-notebook-tigers-presence-shoes-cause-a-ruckus/ Tiger’s presence, shoes cause a stir

Dais Johnston

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