Golf: Woods brings $650m into game

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The Independent Online
When Tiger Woods announced in a faxed statement on 27 August, 1996, that he was turning professional, nobody could have foreseen the impact the 20-year-old would make on the world of golf. According to figures released by the Associated Press yesterday, Woods, in his first year on the circuit, has brought in $653.5m (pounds 408m )of "new money" to the sport. Not bad for a rookie.

The new money includes increases in television contracts and sharp rises in ticket and merchandise sales, as well as Woods' record-setting endorsement deals. Clearly, his youthful enthusiasm and ethnic background in an overwhelmingly white professional sport has helped push golf from the corner of the sports stage into the spotlight.

Woods has taken a fair share of the profits himself, winning more than $2.91m on his travels and a series of five-year endorsement deals worth $95.2m.

Television has quickly latched on. Last year, 57.6 million homes watched the final round of the four major championships. This year, the figure was 91.5 million - a near 59 per cent increase. Woods' spectacular Masters victory helped contribute to a final four-year deal for the PGA Tour worth $650m, about $325m more than the deal that expires after next season.

Nike, whose golf division was an afterthought until it signed Woods to a five-year, $40m deal, gained the most, however. Sales of its golf apparel increased 100 per cent to $120m in the fiscal year that ended 31 May.

Golf has Woods to thank for its upsurge in popularity. "He has gotten them to sample the sport and they like what they see," said the CBS Sports vice president, Rob Correa.