Whether he is on the front page, back page or sitting a home resting an injury, Tiger Woods' name sells.
Anything with the "TW" logo on it is likely to demand a large amount of attention and sales in golf shops around the world. Whilst many of the products you see simply use his name and are perhaps not used by the 14-time major champion, Nike's TW'14 shoes certainly are.
Tiger first wore the shoes at the 2013 Players Championship and duely dominated the field, winning by two shots. However, not many other Nike athletes or amateurs wear the TW'14 shoes. Why is that?
I got my hands, or rather my feet, on a pair of Tiger's signature red and black TW'14 shoes and wore them over the course of 5 rounds to get a feel for what they offer.
Taking them out of the box for the first time, I was surprised by two things. Firstly, the shoes weren't as light as I expected. I had imagined these free-style running shoes with golf spikes that would float in your hands and on your feet. I certainly wouldn't consider them heavily, yet I was surprised they weren't as light as some of the newer, lightweight shoes on the market.
Secondly, the sole of the shoe was larger and more bulky than I'd imagined. Having seen all the adverts and watched Tiger on TV, I had an impression that the sole would be thin, keeping your feet close to ground and bending with every movement of your sole. Whilst that performance is built into the shoes, they have a substantial mid-sole design.
When you slip your feet into the TW'14 shoes for the first time, you get a really feel for what they are about. Your heel is hugged closely by a very comfortable, padded rear section, whilst the front of your feet are given room to roam with a wider forefoot design.
I thought I picked a size that would be relatively snug, but having worn them for the first couple of rounds, I had to double-check I'd gotten the right size. Without doubt the TW'14s fit big and I would recommend you choose a size at least half a size less than what you are used to when buying these.
Where the first edition of the TW model, the Nike TW'13 shoe, was built to be free and mirror the natural motion of a golfers foot, Nike made some notable changes the 2014 model to make it more stable.
One way in which Nike improved the stability of the TW'14s was to add their popular and successful FlyWire technology. The lightweight, sturdy cables feed down from the laces to the sole and ensure that the tension in the shoe is spread throughout your foot and not just on top.
Whilst I said above that the shoes feel snug around your heel and mid-foot, they are probably the most comfortable, out-of-the-box golf shoes I've ever worn. There was absolutely no irritation, rubbing or pain in my feet at any point. Whilst it might look like a gimmick, the FlyWire certainly makes an impact on the fit and comfort of the shoe.
Another part of the shoe designed to aid comfort and stability is Nike's specifically engineered insoles. Don't worry, the soles can be removed and replaced with your own orthotic insoles if you require them, although you would need to check them as the inside of the sole is contoured and not neutral flat. However for someone that doesn't require that type of thing, I found the insoles very easy on my feet.
Speaking of soles, the sole of the TW'14 is where it gets most of its performance from. The idea behind the free-inspired sole is to allow plenty of movement and flexibility during your swing and keep your feet in contact with the ground longer and better than before.
The sole features six replaceable, Champ Zarma spikes along with dozens of soft, rubber dimples that add further traction. Interestingly, Nike have also added eight larger, soft spikes on the inside-front section of each shoe, designed to grip the ground as you roll your foot through impact.
Whilst the traction is very impression and comfortable, the real secret to the sole of the shoe is in the channels that feed throughout the design. The deep cuts in the sole allow the shoe to bend, flex and twist throughout your round and you swing.
The TW'14 sole is full of these channels and I certainly felt the difference they made.
That is essentially what these shoes are all about: easy, lightweight flexibility. Nike have added as much stability and traction to the shoe as they can whilst keeping it lightweight and supple.
It may seem strange, but it wasn't until I bent down to line up a putt for the first time that I realised just how flexible these shoes are. The material in the upper of the shoe is so light and thin, it flexes and creases easily to accommodate the pressure. Unlike more traditional shoes that drive your toes into the end of your shoe, the TW'14s flex to allow the shoe to bend around the movement of your feet.
I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting to like the TW'14s but I have been surprised. I often questioned why more pros and amateurs are not wearing them and wondered if they would be so flexible and light they would feel odd on the course. However, that was not the case.
I suspect their price tag has put many off. They retail at a premium price range, typically around £150. Whilst I do believe they are worth that in terms of performance, I did notice some minor, cosmetic flaws before I even took them to the course. That, I wouldn't expect that from a £150 shoe.
Loose paint and rough edges on the heel (left), what looked like glue in some of the channels on the sole (middle) and signs of the midsole already beginning to split (right) were disappointing.
That being said, I have been left surprised and impressed. I wouldn't recommend these shoes to everyone, but if you have a strong, athletic swing and find traditional shoes slightly limiting or uncomfortable, the Nike TW'14s are well worth your consideration.
Should you fancy spending an additional £40, you can design your own TW'14s through Nike iD. They do take about 6 week to come through the mail, but you can create some pretty eye-catching designs. Here's the Golfalot pair I mocked up: