x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tiger Woods’ starring role in guest appearances at golfing events

The world No 1 has changed his business model and raked in the money in Middle East and Asia even in his slump, writes Steve Elling.

Despite his recent struggles, the aura of Tiger Woods has not diminished in places such as India. AFP
Despite his recent struggles, the aura of Tiger Woods has not diminished in places such as India. AFP

No question, the news reports seem incongruous.

After haemorrhaging sponsors in the aftermath of his personal issues and 30-month slump, Tiger Woods continues to outpace every sports figure on the planet in estimated annual earnings.

From Forbes to the various golf publications, Woods is ranked a firm No 1 in the world in a far-bigger arena than an 18-hole golf venue. Yet, he has lost so many endorsements, including videogame manufacturer EA Sports last year, that it does not logically compute – until the flight log of his private jet is reviewed.

If multiple reports, and plenty of them, are accurate, Woods made US$5 million (Dh18.4m) in the span of eight days for playing five rounds of golf in the UAE and India. A Gulfstream jet has become his new economic engine.

Forget changing swings, because Woods has overhauled his business model: Show up, shake a few hands, kiss a few babies, backslap a few rich guys and fake his way through a slap-and-tickle exhibition while earning about $140,000 per hole.

After receiving $2.5m to play in last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic, Woods flew to Delhi, and the Hero MotoCorp made it worth his while. Hero worship, indeed.

In a $2.5m one-day outing on Tuesday that was funded by golf enthusiast Pawan Munjal of Hero, Woods raked it around Delhi Golf Club with a trio of Indian-born pros. While endorsements in the West have dried up – Woods has struggled to find a sponsor for his annual year-end tournament – there are no such issues in the Middle East and Asia, where the stigma from the scandal has either been forgotten or is of lesser cultural consequence.

The one-off exhibitions have increasingly become part of his landscape – as have locales such as China and Macau.

Over the course of a year, a US endorsement deal might require Woods to play in certain PGA Tour events, host a clinic for company brass, stage a photo shoot for print adverts and film the occasional television spot. Exhibitions have no such strings attached.

He mixed in several one-day paydays in Asia last fall, including an exhibition match against former world No 1 Rory McIlroy for the second year in a row.

If Woods does a half-dozen such appearances in a year, that represents around $15m, which lessens the sting of lost mega-deals withmany sponsors. Forbes estimated his haul at $83m in 2013.

In far-flung locales, it is like the shine on Woods’s star never diminished, and the reaction in India was nothing short of fawning.

Woods met Sachin Tendulkar, stayed in a posh presidential suite and reportedly finished nine under for the day. Munjal was particularly giddy.

“Tiger will be back for the Indian Open,” Munjal said.

Said Woods: “It was a great fun and I would love to come back.”

His accountant would love it, too.

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