Thursday, January 05, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Nike founder Phil Knight and Kultida Woods, mother of Tiger, walked arm-in-arm as they watched the world's best golfer plot his way around Augusta National in the second round of the Masters on Friday. They were joined by Charlie Denson, another Nike executive, and an armed police officer.

Woods, cruising along at even par for the day, 4-under-par for the tournament, hit what they presumed was his shot dead-center down the 11th fairway. (No one from our vantage point could see back to the tee.)

Said Knight, "How about that one, Mom?"

From all appearances it's been as good a week for Woods as anyone could have hoped. His press conference Monday, before roughly 200 reporters, yielded no bombshells. It was a successful first step on Tiger's long road back from a nearly five-month-long personal crisis brought on by marital infidelities.

Kultida was conspicuous in the front row as Tiger gave his apology before the TV cameras in February; on sun-splashed Friday she wore her trademark hat, a gigantic visor that keeps the sun off her face. 

Having shot 4-under 68 Thursday, a day in which he looked totally in control of his game, Woods was a bit more erratic Friday, salvaging pars from all manner of places on the front nine.

"What a beautiful day," Knight said as he watched the action on 11. "We couldn't be more pleased with the week."

The only hiccup seems to have been the controversial Nike ad, which is already off the air, in which Woods stares into the camera and appears to be hearing the voice of his dead father, Earl Woods. The spot was heavily criticized as too soon, too creepy and in poor taste, but Knight didn't see it that way.

"We liked the ad," he said with a smile. He was wearing new-looking, white Nike running shoes. "It certainly got people talking."

Knight is 72 now, and looks far less spry than he once did. He seemed uncertain about the ad's future. He thought it was going to air through the weekend, but was told it already seemed to have disappeared.

"There's the head of marketing, right there," Knight said, pointing to Nike's Denson, behind him.

Denson told Knight and me that the controversial spot has run its course and will be replaced by a series of more light-hearted spots with other players, including Lucas Glover, shot at "The Oven," Nike's testing facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

Knight didn't seem particularly interested to hear about those ads.

"I don't think they're going to stop talking about that first one," he said.

He laughed, and he and Tida Woods sauntered toward the green, to see what Tiger would do next.


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