Will Tiger Woods be the first sports billionaire?

Even before his stunning victory in the British Open, Tiger Woods was a golfing phenomenon. Now he has become much more, the single most influential figure in world sports, an icon to millions, the new Muhammad Ali, the new Michael Jordan.

Even before his stunning victory in the British Open, Tiger Woods was a golfing phenomenon. Now he has become much more, the single most influential figure in world sports, an icon to millions, the new Muhammad Ali, the new Michael Jordan.

And, pretty soon, the £500,000 purse he took away from St Andrews is going to look like a drop in the ocean compared with the billions of dollars he is likely to generate for himself, for golf, and for the economy of the world's golf-playing nations.

Already yesterday, media commentators on both sides of the Atlantic were speculating that Woods could become the world's first billion-dollar sponsorship franchisee. It's not clear exactly how much money he will end up being offered, and even less clear how much he will end up taking, given his reputation for modesty and pure professional dedication to the craft of golf, but it is clear that, what he doesn't earn for himself, others will revel in earning through him.

Across the US, a golf-course building mania has set in, and it's all down to Tiger Woods. He's done the impossible, making golf cool to young people, and broken down the sport's crusty image as a pursuit for pampered middle-aged white men with expanding waistlines.

After the victory in last month's US Open, the president of the NBC television network, Dick Ebersol, said Woods had completed what he called "the last step in a 3 1/2-year process to join Ali and Jordan as the only athletes in the TV generation to be larger than life".

The British victory, making Woods the youngest holder of all four major golf championships as well as the breaker of several course and world golfing records, has only spread the mythology.

The statistics speak for themselves: the only golfer to avoid a bunker in 72 holes at St Andrews, the lowest shot-count, 19 under par, in major golf competition history, the ability to make rivals look like floundering amateurs while showing signs of constant improvement in his game. "Tiger has no opposition, only a field," wrote George Vecsey in The New York Times. "Ali had Frazier. Navratilova had Evert. DiMaggio had Williams and Musial. McGwire has Sosa. Tiger has only himself and his caddie and his touch and his inner light, but that is enough."

In 1996, when Woods first turned professional, many industry observers thought Nike was insane to offer him a $40m sponsorship deal over five years. Golf accounted for only 2 per cent of the company's sales, and Woods was far from a sure-fire phenomenon then.

Now Nike is selling golf balls, golf shirts, clubs and carrying bags as though they were the last chocolate biscuits on earth. Already, an advert he did for Nike bouncing a golf ball on a wedge with awe-inspiring control has become legendary.

He has managed to sign a second official endorsement deal with Nike's golf equipment rivals Titleist and he has deals with American Express, Rolex, Wheaties cereal and Electronic Arts, which makes a golfing video game with the Tiger image.

Woods' career income from tournaments - $20m, including $5m this year so far - is starting to look paltry. Before his double coup, his father Earl estimated he could be earning $1.5m per weekend for sponsored appearances.

Woods has shown repeatedly that money is not his top priority. He refused to take part in US television advertisements out of solidarity with an actors' strike. And he devotes much of his free time to the Tiger Woods Foundation, touring at his own expense holding golf clinics for young, often disadvantaged children.

Whether he likes it or not, he is likely to become a mini-industry. At the peak of Michael Jordan's career, he was estimated to be worth $1bn to the city of Chicago, home of his team the Bulls, and around $10bn to the US economy.

With decades of golf-playing ahead, Tiger Woods could be putting that achievement deep into the shade.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVThe pair have presented their view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Sport
footballMan City manager would have loved to have signed Argentine
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site on Friday

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Sport
Enner Valencia
footballStriker has enjoyed a rapid rise to fame via winning the title with ‘The Blue Ballet’ in Ecuador
Arts and Entertainment
A top literary agent has compared online giant Amazon to Isis
arts + entsAndrew Wylie has pulled no punches in criticism of Amazon
Arts and Entertainment
Charlie Sheen said he would
tv

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Bryan Adams' heartstopping images of wounded British soldiers to go on show at Somerset House

Bryan Adams' images of wounded soldiers

Taken over the course of four years, Adams' portraits are an astonishing document of the aftermath of war
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities