Prior to the Masters Tournament this year, I met with Nike Golf's Global Business Director of Apparel and Footwear, Doug Reed, to discuss the process the company uses in determining what their athletes wear during the major championships each year.
Obviously, Tiger Woods carries a lot of weight in the conversation when it comes to Nike Golf's roster, but the process is primarily the same for all their players. Reed and his admittedly obsessed team of self-proclaimed equipment managers meet with the athletes once or twice a year to determine scripted outfits, which are presented to each player on paper and coordinated with their head wear, shoes and belt for approval.
Once everything is agreed upon, the clothing is bagged and given to the players to make sure they are pleased with all aspects of the outfit—the look, the style and the color—to get themselves comfortably coordinated from head to toe.
As is the case with any professional sports team's uniforms, it's always fun to survey the chosen look prior to seeing it in action.
Here's what Tiger Woods and others will be wearing at this year's US Open.
If there's one thing you can count on at the 2012 US Open, it's that Tiger Woods will be wearing red on Sunday—a red shirt with black pants, to be precise. Major championship or not, it's been his thing since his mother told him it was his power color when he was younger.
At the Olympic Club this year, Tiger will be sporting a white Ultra Light Stripe Polo with gray pants on Thursday, a black TW Ultra Polo with black pants on Friday and a Gym Green TW Heather Polo with khaki pants on Saturday.
His Sunday garb will be highlighted by an Action Red TW Jacquard Polo. And the black pants, of course.
The look was spawned at what Reed described as one of Nike's "insightful athlete moments."
"When we met with Tiger a little over a year ago, he was talking about how his coach, Sean Foley, wanted to work with him on his upper body rotation," Reed said. "This increase in body rotation is the way he was going to harness his power and really control the golf swing without giving up any distance."
That swing seems to be developing into its intended form, as Tiger has won two tournaments in 2012 so far and is favored by many—OK, I'll go on record as one of them—to win his fourth US Open championship.
Tiger said that based on his work with Foley, he had dramatically increased his upper body rotation, prompting Reed and the rest of the apparel team to create a new line of super-light, super-stretch shirts and pants.
Consequently, Tiger's brand of TW apparel (the Tiger Woods Collection) was repositioned from a men's wear line to what Reed described as "the most modern expression of innovation you could have in golf clothes."
The end result is what you've seen Tiger wearing throughout this year. It's lighter, more form-fitting and more playable. So, it's designed to not only help Tiger perform better on the golf course, it is also designed to make him look good in the process.
The same goes for the rest of Nike's golf roster at the US Open this year: Charl Schwartzel, Francesco Molinari, Marc Warren, Simon Dyson, Carl Pettersson, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Stephen Ames and Kevin Chappel.
Both Schwartzel and Chappel finished in the top 10 at the US Open last year. Schwartzel was T9 and Chappel finished T3 after a brilliant final round of 66 at Congressional.
Tiger will continue to wear his Nike FREE-inspired golf shoes—white on Thursday and Saturday, black on Friday and Sunday—at the 2012 US Open.
I've written about these shoes several times over the past year—referencing them in a couple different articles—but it was only recently that I was able to experience them myself.
Tiger has been wearing a prototype since last summer and it immediately created a buzz, prompting legions of fans to wonder when they could get their hands on a pair.
Well, that time is now. As promised, Nike Golf has the new TW '13 shoe in stores in both colors, black and white, before the US Open, and I got to test drive a pair just before they were released.
Before I even slipped them on, the first thing I noticed about the shoe, other than the fact it looks more like a sneaker than a traditional golf shoe, was how flexible and light it is.
This shoe has serious flex appeal. It's designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot. Once I put them on, I could actually see my foot moving inside the shoe. In some ways, it felt like a second skin. But it also offers the protection and traction of a lightweight performance golf shoe—on grass, on dirt, in the sand, even on pine needles.
The outsole keeps contact with the ground longer. It mirrors the natural motion of the foot, which allows more freedom of movement and thus, more power through the golf swing.
"Again, it was one of those—Nike getting down in the 'Innovation Kitchen' and really thinking about what we were trying to do in solving an athlete's needs," Reed said. "Sometimes you get really lucky and when you have an athlete that's as insightful and willing to partner and collaborate on a product like Tiger is, you can come up with stuff the industry wouldn't have even dreamed about."
When it comes to golf shoes, I've always been more of a traditionalist. Not to the extent that I'd like to see—God help us, steel spikes and kilties back on the market—but I tend to like a shoe that looks like a traditional dress shoe, yet behaves like a sneaker. And I want it to be light. And waterproof. Is that asking too much?
Then along comes these TW '13 shoes and my expectations for a golf shoe have been elevated. My mind has been changed. I love the athletic look. It's incredibly light. And waterproof. And as far as performance goes, I haven't worn anything better and certainly not as comfortable.
My feet typically hurt after I've played 18 holes—even if I'm riding, no kidding. Problem solved. The TW '13 shoe wraps your foot in comfort and support. I walked up hills. I walked down hills. I jumped up and down. I jogged. I tried every possible movement I could during a round of golf with these great shoes on my feet and felt nothing but comfort and support.
Tiger wanted a golf shoe that gave him the performance fit and feel of the Nike FREE shoes he runs and trains in. So he took the idea to the powers that be at Nike and the result is this very shoe. He says he feels stronger and more athletic with these on his feet and I can understand why.
I feel stronger and more athletic in these shoes. And for my feet to feel as good as they do after 18 holes—I'm blown away.
As for the rest of the Nike golf roster, Carl Pettersson was spotted wearing them during a US Open practice round and Kevin Chappel has promised to give them a try soon. I expect others to follow suit.