Woods' balls endorsement 'not accurate'

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods endorses "Nike Tour Accuracy" golf balls in TV and magazine advertisements, but he really plays with custom-made balls unavailable to everyday hackers, the sports firm, Nike, has acknowledged after being sued in a US court.

Tiger Woods endorses "Nike Tour Accuracy" golf balls in TV and magazine advertisements, but he really plays with custom-made balls unavailable to everyday hackers, the sports firm, Nike, has acknowledged after being sued in a US court.

They said that the balls Woods used for his huge 300-yard drives had a harder inner and outer core than the balls sold to the public. "Those two elements are slightly firmer than the marketed ball," Mike Kelly, marketing director for Nike Golf, said.

Kelly said it was common practice in the golfing world to sell the public different products to what the professionla use, but other leading names in golf refute the claim. Joe Gomes, a spokesman for Titleist, said their players use the same products they advertised. If a player uses a "tweaked" version of a club, a consumer could order it specifically, he added. "We are very particular about our advertisements. We don't make any claims that cannot be substantiated," Gomes said.

Callaway Golf said that if one of their golf pros said they used a certain club, that identical club would be available in the shops. Spokesman Larry Dorman admitted, however, that in February one of their balls had a different number of dimples on it than the ones the pros used. That occurred, he said, because Callaway was awaiting approval of the new ball by the United States Golfing Association, so the company's pros were briefly forbidden from using it in tournaments.

"We used a prototype with a different number of dimples," Dorman said. "As a result, for a very short period of time, there was a little bit of a lapse from what was being marketed. We were very up front about it."

Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, was unavailable to comment on the lawsuit yesterday. In the suit, which was filed on Tuesday in the US District Court here, a non-profit group called Public Remedies Inc claimed Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, was engaging in unfair business practices. It asked that Nike's "ill-gotten gains" be restored to the public.

Woods officially switched to the Nike Tour Accuracy ball before the US Open, the first of his three major championships this year. The move officially ended a marketing conflict between Woods' top two golf sponsors - Nike and Titleist - that began last year when Nike entered the ball market.

Titleist argued that Nike was using Woods to promote golf balls because of two commercials - one that showed Woods bouncing a ball off his wedge, and another that showed hackers on the range belting the ball 300 yards as soon as Woods showed up.

Titleist contemplated a lawsuit, but instead reworked Woods' deal so that he was paid only when he used Titleist equipment in tournaments.

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