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Nike hoping for Woods to use it's clubs

Tiger wears the Nike hat, Nike shoes, Nike shirts and pants, and even hits Nike golf balls.

The only thing he doesn't use is Nike clubs.

Now the athletic shoe and clothing company is offering Tiger Woods the entire swoosh package with its own brand of golf clubs.

"We've had a discussion with him, but that's pretty much it so far," said Mike Kelly, Nike's director of golf.

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg of Cleveland-based International Management Group, was at a meeting in New York and not immediately available for comment.

Woods uses Titleist clubs, and a spokesman at company headquarters in Fairhaven, Mass., said Titleist expects Woods to keep using the brand.

"He plays the full set; all 14 clubs are Titleists," said spokesman Joe Gomes, "and there are no plans to change."

Nike has been developing a line of golf clubs this year with the help of David Duval, who won the British Open with a set of Nike irons. Nike since has designed a driver for Duval, who was the longest hitter at the U.S. Open at 321 yards, and again topped the field for distance at the NEC Invitational last weekend, driving the ball 311 yards with the Nike club.

The company hopes to introduce its clubs early next year, possibly at the PGA trade show in Orlando, Fla., in January, Kelly said.

Meanwhile, the company also has signed Bryce Molder, a four-time All-American at Georgia Tech who made his pro debut last week at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

"We're depending a lot on these two guys to help develop our product," Kelly said.

It's a product that represents a significant expansion into high-end sports equipment for a company founded on running shoes.

The Nike clubs will compete with other premium brands, including Titleist, Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade -- manufactured by Nike rival Adidas.

A set of Nike graphite-shaft irons -- 3-iron through pitching wedge -- likely will top $1,000, the same range as the other brands.

But it will mark the first time Nike has introduced a product that expensive, despite a host of other pricey items now bearing the Nike label, including a $425 leather coat, a $249 music player and $160 Air Jordan shoes.

Despite the price, retailers are excited about the new clubs, said Jerry Offerdahl, owner of Golf Headquarters in Portland.

Nike took the unusual step of consulting retailers during the development of the clubs, rather than just telling them what kind of design they could expect, Offerdahl said.

"They want respectability and trust in their name in the hard-goods business, because they're coming into somebody else's turf now," Offerdahl said.


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