Tiger Woods' lackluster play creating challenges for golf retailers

Tiger Woods' lackluster performance at the U.S. Open has left golf retailers with a challenge: selling apparel and shoes that Tiger will never be seen wearing in public.

Nike Golf lays out apparel for Woods to wear in majors a year in advance, and retailers must order shirts six months ahead of time. His 2009 scandal combined with his play of late has resulted in fewer orders.

"We used to stock a significant quantity of Tiger apparel, but the customer for that product is nowhere near what it used to be," said Casey Baker, vice president of Carl's Golfland in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. "I'd say there's a 60 to 70 percent drop-off in sales of his gear since 2009 and even when he started playing better, he just didn't resonate enough."

Online retailer DiscountGolfWorld.com used to sell 500 of Tiger's Nike shirts on each day of a major. Friday of this week? Maybe 50, said owner Dennis Boudreau.

"Nike makes an outstanding product, and we still have customers that want it every year," said Boudreau. "But we're doing one-tenth the business we were doing at Tiger's height."

Nike, at least publicly, is making no changes with Woods.

"Tiger is one of the most popular athletes in the world," Nike Golf spokesperson Gretchen Wilhelm said in a statement. "We have no plans to change any of our marketing or merchandising strategies around him or his brand."

Additionally, Tiger's agent Mark Steinberg told ESPN.com earlier this week that Tiger's relationship with Nike was "as good as it always is -- very strong."

But how Tiger and Nike handled what wound up on Tiger's feet at the Masters and then again at the U.S. Open has incensed many retailers. Nike sold retailers his new shoe, the TW '15, but when Woods showed up at the Masters, it was in a four-year-old model. Nike Golf said on its Twitter feed that it was due to swing changes Tiger had made, but the switch left retailers who had bought the new shoe high and dry.

"We're pretty angry," Baker said. "They build this huge launch around the shoe and we market it on our end and then he comes out in the Masters and he's not wearing them?"

Two sources said Nike has not had conversations with retailers about reimbursements since Tiger isn't marketing the shoes they bought.

"We used to buy 700 to 800 pairs of his shoes to sell," Baker said. "Next year, we'll buy maybe buy 50 to 100 pairs."

One retailer, who requested anonymity, said he believes Tiger merchandise would still sell, but not at the current prices -- $200 for the shoes and $115 for the shirts.

Baker doesn't believe that, as his store takes a smaller margin on the Woods shirts and still isn't moving them like he used to.

Nike doesn't yet have a line for Rory McIlroy, but most expect that will be the case. In the meantime, Under Armour -- which sponsors Masters winner Justin Spieth from head to toe -- is making up huge ground.

"We can't keep his stuff in stock," Baker said. "Under Armour did decent before Spieth, but once he won the Masters, it was lock-the-doors good."

Under Armour officials won't give out specific numbers, but a spokesperson did tell ESPN.com that golf sales on the company's website have increased more than 100 percent since the Masters.