June 1, 2018

Despite his fall from grace, Tiger Woods remains one of golf’s highest earners

By Luke Christou

At one time, Tiger Woods was on track to join the ranks of Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali as a sporting legend.

He took his place as golf’s biggest star in 1997 and became sport’s most successful active athlete soon after. He has earned more than $1bn in his career and has spent more than 680 weeks at golf’s top rank, more than any other player in the history of the sport.

Woods has fallen a long way since, as injury and scandal saw his stock and ability decline. Woods slipped out of the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 1,000 in 2017 for the first time in his career having played in just one tournament since 2015.

However, he remains one of the most well-known names in sport. He has continued to earn more than most despite his time out of the limelight. According to Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list, he remains the third highest-earner in golf. That’s despite having failed to win a tournament since 2013.

Verdict looks back at Woods’ career and the fortune that he has amassed.

The rise and fall of Tiger Woods

April 1997 Masters Tournament

After making his breakthrough in 1996, Woods entered golf’s highest ranks in 1997 by claiming his first major victory at the Masters. Woods became the youngest and first non-white player to win the tournament.

1997 PGA Player of the Year

That year, Woods started 21 tournaments and placed in the top ten in 15, four of which he won. His performances, which put him top of the money list, saw him named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.

September 2009 First $1bn athlete

Woods added another 65 tournament wins to his record in the 12 years that followed, becoming golf’s biggest name in the process. His feats saw him become the first $1bn athlete after winning the 2009 FedEx Cup.

November 2009 Infidelity scandal

Woods crashed his car into a fire hydrant in the middle of the night as his wife smashed the windows with a golf club. This was the start of an infidelity scandal that brought about the downfall of Wood’s career. Details of several affairs emerged soon after.

January 2010 Enters rehab

After confirming that he would visit rehab in the wake of the scandal, Woods reportedly checked in to the Pine Grove Behaviour Health and Addiction Services rehab in Mississippi to be treated for sex addiction.

2010 Injury problems

Despite making six tournament starts throughout 2009 to maintain his place at the top of the money, a back injury forced Woods out of action in 2010. He wouldn’t make his next course appearance until 2012 and suffered a second spell out between 2014 and 2017.

May 2010 D.U.I arrest

Woods was arrested for driving under the influence after being found asleep at the wheel on the side of the road. A toxicology report found traces of five drugs in the golfer’s system, including pain and sleeping medication, mood drug Xanav and THC, an ingredient in marijuana.

Tiger Woods’ annual earnings

Despite his decline, Tiger Woods has never fallen out of the top 20 on Forbes’ annual World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list.

In the last decade, the professional golfer has taken the top spot more times than any other athlete. He was top for four consecutive years between 2008 and 2012.

Woods has slid down the rankings since, largely due to being dropped by many of his sponsors, including Gatorade, Golf Digest and Tag Heuer, as a result of his numerous controversies in 2009.

Tiger Woods currently sits in 17th place, having made $37.1m in 2017. His earnings are falling by 11% a year on average, but his multi-million dollar sponsorship deals continue to earn him more than most in the sport.

Tiger Woods’ sponsorship deals

At the pinnacle of his career, Woods had attracted an array of sponsors, from pharmaceutical companies to motorcycle manufacturers. Some were small deals, such as featuring in an advertisement in exchange for a $1m payday, while others involved long-term naming rights worth tens of millions each year.

His most lucrative sponsorship deal was with Gatorade, which Sportcal estimates earned him $40.3m a year between 2007 and 2009. Rather than a one-time payment, Woods agreed to take a cut of the profits on sales of Gatorade Tiger Woods Thirst Quencher products, which launched in three flavours in 2008. Despite being dropped by the company in December 2009, Woods walked away with $120.9m.

As is usually the case when it comes to athletes, Nike was another of Woods’ biggest sponsors. The golfer has been on the company’s books since 1996 when he agreed to an $8m a year deal. This increased to $17.5m in 2001.

Despite his fall, Nike was one of few companies to decide against dropping Woods in 2009.

The exact amount that he was earning throughout his troubled years is unknown, but a $19m a year kit supplier deal was reported in 2014.

Woods’ time with Nike came to an end in 2017. Instead of resigning with the popular sportswear brand, he instead agreed a deal with TaylorMade, a sports equipment company owned by Adidas.

Sportcal lists five active deals for Woods. Aside from TaylorMade, he also counts Rolex ($5m annually), Hero MotoCorp Limited ($10m annually), Upper Deck and Sol Republic among his sponsors.

Tiger Woods net worth

Back in September 2009, Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup to take home a $10m winner’s bonus. According to reports at the time, this took Woods’ career earnings above $1bn, making him the first billionaire sportsman in history.

According to Forbes, Woods has added at least another $488m to his earnings since.

Despite earning close to $1.5bn throughout his career, Woods is believed to be worth around half of that, having splashed out over the years. For example, his 155ft yacht, named Privacy, cost him $20m in 2004.  Likewise, his Florida home is reportedly worth $55m.

His 2010 divorce settlement saw Elin Nordegren walk away with $100m of his fortune.

The finance publication estimated Woods’ net worth at $740m in 2016. That has likely fluctuated somewhat, but it gives an idea of the riches that Woods has amassed over two decades in the sport.

Read more: A look back at Rory McIlroy’s sponsorships and earnings

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