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US golf star Tiger Woods is leaving Nike after 27 years, ending one of the most transformative endorsement contracts in modern sport.

"For more than 27 years, we have had the honor of partnering with Tiger Woods, one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen," Nike said in a statement on Monday. "We've watched him break records, challenge conventional thinking and inspire generations around the world. We're grateful to have been a part of that. We wish him all the best for the future."

Woods signed with Nike shortly after turning professional in 1996 at the age of 20. His excellence on the course - he became the youngest golfer to win the Masters in 1997 - combined with his passionate game and mixed heritage, earned him a global reputation. Nike went beyond its reputation as a maker of running and basketball shoes by dressing Woods in his signature red polo.

At the time of Woods' signature, golf was little more than an accessory category for the sportswear manufacturer. Then, thanks to Woods' popularity, it started producing golf equipment and sales reached hundreds of millions a year, but never surpassed other sports categories such as soccer, running or basketball. Nike stopped producing golf equipment in 2016.

During his nearly 28-year career, Woods won 15 major championships and has the most career wins of all time on the PGA Tour. His profile has dropped over the years, especially after his infidelity scandal in 2009, but not much. In 2021, he was seriously injured in a single-car accident in California, which limited his return to play.

On Monday, Woods paid tribute to Nike co-founder Phil Knight, with whom he was particularly close, and posted a photo of the two of them with Woods' mother, Kultida.

"I want to personally thank [Knight], the Nike employees and the incredible athletes I've had the pleasure of working with along the way," Woods wrote on X.

Throughout Nike's more than half-century history, few athletes have received as much recognition from the company as Woods. At Nike headquarters in suburban Portland, Oregon, the company's main conference center is named after him. In Knight's 2016 memoir, Shoe Dog, he pays tribute to the golfer and details a tender moment following the untimely death of his son Matthew in a diving accident.

"Every Nike athlete wrote, emailed, phoned. Every single one of them. But Tiger was the first to call. He called at 7:30 in the morning. I will never, ever forget. And I will never tolerate a bad word being said about Tiger in my presence," Knight wrote.

Nike's contract with Woods, rumored to be worth $500 million over his lifetime, reportedly expires at the end of 2023, and Woods declined to elaborate on his next steps when asked about it last month.

Woods is still seen as an important figure in golf. He joined the PGA Tour policy board in August during the game's ongoing negotiations with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. Woods, along with Rory McIlroy, is backing TGL, a new golf-for-television league scheduled to launch next year.

Woods said in a statement on Monday: "People will ask if there's another episode. Yes, there will definitely be another episode."