No sooner had Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and regained the No. 1 ranking in the world than Nike celebrated the moment on Facebook and Twitter.

The company that sponsors Woods proclaimed, in his own words, “Winning takes care of everything.” It’s a phrase he often uses when talking to reporters about himself and other golfers. But because this is Tiger Woods, Nike’s swaggering post is also being perceived as a reminder of his not-so-positive, womanizing past.

“This is another case of Nike being Nike,” Los Angeles-based sports marketing consultant David Carter told USA Today. “The tagline will reinforce both people who support Tiger or are put off by him. For some people, this will be seen as another case of an athlete who doesn’t understand how a big part of society views what he’s done.”

The ad has people talking, which, of course, is the purpose of ads. Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast defended it, telling the New York Daily News, “When asked about his goals such as getting back to number one, he has said consistently winning is the way to get there. The statement references that sentiment and is a salute to his athletic performance.”

Woods returned to the top spot in golf this week after 29 months spent working on his golf game and his private life. After his marriage so publicly fell apart when his infidelities came to light on Thanksgiving 2009, he tumbled in the world’s golf rankings and his endorsements took a hit, too. Nike, though, remained with him, producing a controversial black-and-white ad in April 2010 in which Woods’ late father, Earl, spoke to him.

Now, Woods’ rebuilt game has begun to come together. He has won three tournaments this year and heads into next month’s Masters as the favorite. And there’s stability in his personal life. Last week, he and skier Lindsey Vonn announced they’re dating. Nike clearly decided it was worthwhile to run the risk of turning some people off.

“The reality,” marketing consultant Laura Ries told the Daily News, “is what he said is true.”

Is it? Does winning take care of everything?

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