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TaylorMade CEO: Split from Adidas gave us 'freedom and independence'

Daniel Roberts
Senior Writer

When Tiger Woods won The Masters on Sunday, it was an instant boon to everyone in business with him, directly or even indirectly, from sponsors like Nike and Monster Beverage to broadcaster CBS.

One of his partners is TaylorMade, which provides all of his golf clubs except for his putter (Titleist Scotty Cameron) and balls (Bridgestone). TaylorMade says it has seen a threefold increase in traffic to its e-commerce site since Woods won.

My time over the past 24 hours has undeniably been busier and more intense, around this victory, than any time in my 25 years in golf,” TaylorMade CEO David Abeles told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday. “I believe that this victory itself, and Tiger’s persona in the game, will inspire golfers to come into golf shops and buy golf products. I do anticipate golf retail to pick up, I expect our sell-through rates to pick up, and we’re seeing that already.”

Tiger Woods reacts to his drive on the second hole during the final round for the Masters golf tournament Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Just two years ago, none of this would have been possible for TaylorMade. It was still owned by Adidas, which acquired TaylorMade in 1997 when it bought ski brand Salomon. But amid the steady decline of the golf equipment industry, Nike and Adidas both exited the golf club business. Nike halted making all clubs and balls in 2016, and Adidas sold off TaylorMade to private equity firm KPS Capital Partners in 2017.

When Nike and Adidas were both still making clubs, Nike-sponsored golfers used Nike clubs, and Adidas-sponsored golfers used TaylorMade, and no Nike golfer could sign with TaylorMade since it meant going over to rival Adidas.

TaylorMade officially signed Woods in January 2017, before the brand officially sold, but after Nike stopped making clubs.

“Had we [still] been owned by Adidas, we probably wouldn’t have a relationship with Tiger,” says Abeles now. “When we were part of the Adidas Group, our athletes were TaylorMade/Adidas athletes. Now we have the freedom and independence to work with the best athletes in the world.”

Indeed, TaylorMade’s stable of top golfers includes Woods, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy, some of whom are Nike athletes (Woods, Day, McIlroy) and some of whom are Adidas (Johnson and Rahm). Jason Day even ditched Adidas for Nike as soon as Adidas sold off TaylorMade.

TaylorMade CEO Abeles believes the Tiger Woods comeback will be a boost for the entire golf industry, though some analysts are highly skeptical of that.

“Any time you have a transcendent athlete like Tiger Woods do amazing things like we all saw on Sunday, there is a profound effect and impact on the industry,” Abeles says. “We are in a participatory industry, golf is played by golfers, and the more that are inspired to play the game, the better off we are.”

Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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