Golf: Woods to earn $90m in new clothing deal

TIGER WOODS took a giant step to becoming golf's first dollar billionaire yesterday. The world No 1 has more than doubled his clothing contract with Nike and will receive close to $90m (pounds 56m) over the next five years.

With his on-course earnings - more than $3.2m (pounds 2m) on the US Tour alone so far this year - and huge appearance fees, it puts Woods in a league of his own as golf's biggest earner and on a par with basketball's huge earners.

Woods has profited from a disagreement between his two main sponsors, Nike and Titleist, over two of his TV commercials.

It is thought Titleist were not happy with the exposure they were getting because Woods' cap and shirt bear the Nike symbol. Titleist felt the TV slots created the impression that Woods was endorsing Nike's golf ball.

Mark Steinberg, who handles Woods' affairs for International Management Group, said that the conflict between the two sponsors was the impetus for the restructuring. It is understood that Titleist will cut its financial obligation to Woods in half, to $2m a year, and will no longer have its name on his golf bag.

"There would have been renewal talks in the next eight to 12 months anyway," Steinberg said. "But this way there are no law suits and no damage to Tiger Woods, Nike or Titleist."

Woods' original five-year contract, signed in 1996, was for $40m. He has since won the 1997 US Masters and this year's USPGA Championship.

Woods, who is also sponsored by American Express and Rolex, can earn another $1m if he wins the NEC Invitational World Golf Championship, which starts tomorrow in Akron, Ohio.