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PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Tiger, Inc.: The Business of Golf’s Singular Superstar

Tiger Woods’ days of competing year-round as a pro golfer are done — but his status as one of the sports world’s most successful businessmen is guaranteed.

Tiger Woods, engaging with the media last week for the first time since experiencing a serious car accident on Feb. 23, handed golf fans a cold, hard fact even colder and harder than the 15th hole at Bethpage: He’s will no longer seek to participate in a full season of PGA Tour competition.

Was this a shock retirement from the game? No. He even announced on Wednesday that he would return to the game by playing in the PNC Championship, Dec. 16-9.

Despite his upcoming return, it’s still a turning of the page for the man who singlehandedly revolutionized a sport that had never seen star power quite like that of the skinny Stanford grad who stormed onto the scene and won the 1997 Masters in rip-roaring fashion.

What followed was not just a decade-plus of victory laps from a transcendent athlete with no legitimate rivals, but the evolution of a business empire that no still-active sportsman on earth can match.

And as the Hero World Challenge tees of this week in the Bahamas — an event hosted by Woods himself — it’s time to take stock of Tiger, Inc., a 1-of-1 portfolio of endorsements and investments that’s already worth billions despite its head honcho still not being ready to quit his day job.

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Tiger Woods’ Earnings, Endorsements, & Investments

PGA Tour earnings: $120.85 million
Total career earnings (adj. for inflation): $2.1 billion
Estimated net worth: $800+ million
Key endorsements: 2K Sports, Autograph, Bridgestone, Discovery, Full Swing, Hero Motocorp, Monster Energy, Nike, Rolex, TaylorMade, Upper Deck

Additional earnings and entrepreneurship milestones:

The man who jump-started Nike’s golf project and gave the sport’s presence in video games a massive jolt as the longtime face of EA Sports‘ franchise bearing his name, Tiger was the highest of high-value targets for any and all brands looking to make inroads with the impressively large global golf audience. It was Mr. Woods, and then it was everyone else.

An infidelity scandal blown open in 2009 marked the end of several endorsements — including the EA Sports deal and broader future losses estimated to be worth as much as $12 billion — but you’d never say that Tiger, Inc. has ever truly been derailed. Earlier this year, he even reemerged in the video game industry as the new face and executive director of 2K Sports’ golf franchise, news that was quickly followed by confirmation that EA’s games would return and compete with 2K and Tiger directly.

The Digital Footprint

Twitter followers: 6.5 million
Instagram followers: 2.8 million
Facebook followers: 3.2 million

Influencer Marketing Hub, a platform that measures social media reach, estimates a single Tiger Woods tweet to carry a potential market value of between $49,413 and $82,355 based on the size of his following and his typical rate of engagement. They additionally estimate a single sponsored post on Tiger’s Instagram to have the potential to generate up to $10,000 a pop.

The number of athletes who can claim they’re in Tier 1 all by themselves is incredibly small. Lionel Messi has Cristiano Ronaldo. None of Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic can be conceived of without thinking of the others. Lewis Hamilton stands on the shoulders of Schumacher and faces a stern challenge from Max Verstappen. Even Michael Jordan, the highest-earning athlete of all time, will never escape debate over how he stacks up with LeBron James.

But even though Tiger Woods will never catch Jack Nicklaus on the all-time major championships list, his combination of dominance on the course, singular cultural impact, and billionaire bona fides simply have no peer.

And by the time he’s as old as the Golden Bear is now, even MJ’s business portfolio might not be so comfortable in the No. 1 spot all-time across the world of sports.

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