It doesn’t get better than Tiger Woods and Nike. For nearly three decades, the pair dominated the world of golf. Together they made red on Sunday as ubiquitous as white on a wedding dress and turned golf commercials into must-see TV. Tiger Woods wasn’t just a guy who wore the swoosh. For an entire post-Jordan generation, he was the swoosh.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and the same goes for Woods and Nike, who officially parted ways on Monday after 27 years of triumph, heartbreak and mock necks. The split will be bittersweet for golf fans who watched Tiger (literally) grow into his Nike threads over the years, but thanks to the magic of YouTube, the dynamic duo’s 10 best TV spots will live on for years to come. So don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened these commercials are hilarious.
10. ‘Golf’s Not Hard’
The irony of Nike’s ‘Golf’s Not Hard’ campaign, which saw a fresh-faced Tiger Woods trying his hand at golf instruction, is, of course, that golf is hard … just not for Woods. The four-spot series saw Woods dishing out hilarious “tips” on everything from fixing your slice to fairway bunkers and gave many golf fans their first look at Woods’ comedic chops. It won’t go down as Woods’ most inspirational or impactful Nike commercial, but if watching a guy named Joe duck hook one into a little old lady’s face doesn’t make you want to strap on a pair Air Zoom TWs, then capitalism has well and truly failed us. – Coleman Bentley
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9. Swing portrait
Tiger Woods did funnier Nike commercials. He did more dramatic ones, too. But the duo never did one more perfect that his “swing portrait” commercial from 2006.
The context is important here: Tiger had just re-tooled his golf swing under the tutelage of Hank Haney. After a career-threatening slump, Woods had returned with four wins in his last eight majors (with three more top 10s outside of that) and was in the midst of the highest winning percentage of his career.
The commercial is the best because it’s stripped down to almost nothing. Tiger wears a black outfit against a black backdrop. The camera takes a central and singular focus on Tiger’s golf swing. But in doing so, it forces the viewer to stew on the man’s incredible talent, that has transcended the golf swing from an act of athleticism into artform. – Luke Kerr-Dineen
8. Tiger and Rory
Not too much to add here other than Nike went INSANELY hard with this one. Like, I’m pretty sure the first few times we all saw this one people were legitimately wondering if that was actual footage of child Rory and his dad watching Tiger growing up. Just superb acting, casting, directing, editing, etc. Should have won an Oscar. – Christopher Powers
7. A free lesson
Is greatness contagious? The answer is debatable, but let’s at least agree mere proximity to great players has fringe benefits, as this all-time Woods ad highlights. The scene: a bunch of hackers on a driving range making the usual assortment of hitchy swings. Then Woods shows up with a bucket of balls (less relatable is the idea that Woods loaded the bucket out of an automated machine) and when he starts striping it, everyone follows suit. For a few blissful moments, the players on the range are transformed. Then Woods leaves, reality returns, and balls again start flying in dangerous directions. – Sam Weinman
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6. When Big Cat’s away, the mice will play
We’ve gotten used to seeing Tiger Woods make comebacks, but his return in March of 2009 after undergoing season-ending knee surgery the previous June (Who can forget his one-legged U.S. Open win?) was such a big deal that it was treated as more of a news event than a sporting one. And Nike delivered with a hilarious ad showing how life was different on tour without him, allowing others—including Anthony Kim—to flourish in his absence. But just as they’re getting comfortable as the big men on campus (“Sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows!”), the Big Cat returns to put a damper on things. Carl Pettersson gives an all-time sigh as a healthy Tiger struts around the locker room. Officially, Woods would go on to win six times that season and reclaim his title as PGA Tour Player of the Year. Unofficially, this was the best sports commercial of the year. – Alex Myers
5. The Champion Golfer of the Year
What doesn’t this commercial have? Peter Alliss’ warm blanket of a voice in the booth? Check. A classic Faces tune setting the score? Check. A five-year-old Tiger Woods prowling the fairways of the Old Course like the apex predator he would become? Cheeee-eck. Not only was this 2005 classic, originally produced for Nike Golf before being picked up by Nike proper, the perfect combination of humorous and heartfelt, it was also an interesting harbinger of ads to come. By digitally inserting a young Woods into actual footage from his 2000 Open triumph at St. Andrews, Nike beat A.I. to the punch by almost two decades, once again blazing a trail for others to follow. – Coleman Bentley
Let’s be honest, Nike never really missed when it came to Tiger Woods commercials, but for me, this one stood above the rest. In 60 seconds, it perfectly encapsulates the stern approach Earl Woods took with Tiger as he was growing up, an approach that molded Tiger into the legendary golfer he became. While considered problematic by some, there’s no doubt what Earl did clearly worked. And talk about some prophetic words. Athletes nowadays can’t even handle the slightest bit of criticism after a poor performance. Woods handled 10 times as much as anybody in his career and handled it with ease (or at least that’s how it seemed). Outside of Jordan or Kobe, there is probably not a more mentally tough athlete to ever do it. – Christopher Powers
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3. ‘Hello World’
Tiger Woods’ first Nike commercial upon turning pro immediately spoke to the golfer’s transcendent potential, listing not only his remarkable amateur accomplishments, but also addressing his unique opportunity as a multicultural star in a game still known for exclusivity. While certainly impactful, it was also a spot that followed Woods whenever he seemed to shy away from thorny social issues. It also led to a cringey moment at Woods’ introductory press conference at the 1996 Greater Milwaukee Open, when the golfer opened with his new Nike catchphrase “Hello, World,” the first of many signs that showed Woods was OK sticking to the corporate script. – Sam Weinman
This classic actually wasn’t planned. Woods was on set shooting another great spot involving hackers on a driving range, but when director Doug Liman noticed Woods juggling a golf ball with a wedge during some downtime, he sprung into action. Hey, the guy directed “Swingers” and “The Bourne Identity,” so he knew what he was doing. Tiger later said being told how much time he had left for the 30-second shot threw him off, but he nailed it to perfection on his fourth try. The result was some unscripted magic—and the birth of a new era of all golfers trying to juggle when waiting on the tee box. – Alex Myers
1 ‘I am Tiger Woods’
Why is this the definitive Tiger Woods-Nike commercial? It’s right there in the name: “I am Tiger Woods.” But the genius of this Nike spot is that Woods never utters a single world. Instead, young golfers of various races, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds all declare themselves “Tiger Woods,” a testament to how much Woods had already changed the face of golf in less than year. Much like ‘Hello World,’ ‘I am Tiger Woods’ raises questions about whether Woods ever delivered on the societal promises of these early ads, but thanks to sheer force of will and gob-smacking amounts of talent, his impact was felt all the same. – Coleman Bentley
Nothing to see here, just the world’s most dominant athlete sitting in a diner talking to his head cover. Totally normal stuff.
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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com