Tiger Woods has been clubbed into the long grass by EA Sports after the games manufacturer ended its association with the world’s most famous golfer.
Woods, 37, won the last of his 14 major titles back in 2008, but this year returned to world No.1 after replacing Rory McIlroy at the top of the rankings.
There were 14 editions of the video game bearing his name, which was played by millions of golf fans across the world.
Writing on EA’s official website, the company’s vice-president and general manager Daryl Holt commented: “EA Sports and Tiger Woods have made a mutual decision to end our partnership, which includes Tiger’s named PGA Tour golf game. We’ve always been big fans of Tiger and we wish him continued success in all his future endeavors.
“EA Sports golf fans have always loved authentic courses and players, but they’ve also asked for more choice and customization in how and where they play.”
EA had previously stuck with Woods through his acrimonious divorce in August 2010 at a time where several other sponsors severed ties with the American.
Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture and Tag Heuer all withdrew sponsorship or did not renew their deals following the revelations of Woods’ infidelity and subsequent divorce from Elin Nordegren — costing him $20 million in earnings.
From the endorsements he held in 2009, just two remain: Nike, which teamed up with Woods when he turned professional in 1996; and NetJets, a plane ownership-sharing company.
“For most mortal sportsmen, losing the EA deal would constitute a real body blow. At an estimated $6.2 million a year, it’s a very significant chunk of change,” Sami McCabe, CEO of Clarion PR, told CNN.
“However, Tiger Woods is in a unique category in terms of earning potential from sponsorship deals — particularly from his sportswear sponsor Nike, which ensures he dwarfs the majority of his peers — in any sport.
“So I don’t see this news being a source of sleepless nights from a financial perspective. However, it might be the cause of concern for the longevity and sustainability of ‘Brand Tiger.’ “
According to market tracking company NPD Group, EA sold $771 million worth of games boasting the Tiger Woods name.
DFC Intelligence, a consulting firm which deals with the gaming market, states that EA made $3.79 billion last year — with its Battlefield and Madden NFL games the top sellers.
But while the loss of the EA partnership should not cause major damage to the Woods brand, McCabe does believe the move remains significant.
“Losing a marquee sponsorship deal says two things: first, he’s no longer the force he once was on the golf course; and secondly, EA will no doubt be replacing him with someone else,” he said.
“Rory McIlroy would seem the most obvious choice — assuming his form picks up. So this might be perceived as the first major step in a changing of the guard.
“Losing EA Games won’t make much of a dent on Tiger’s bank balance, but it does make a dent on his ubiquity.
“And that ubiquity is the single biggest reason why he’s able to command such astronomical sponsorship deals.
“That said, a couple of major wins would surely turn the tide back in his favor.”
EA started making golf simulation games back in 1990, with PGA Tour golf coming out on PC, Amiga and the Sega Megadrive.
In 1998 it produced the “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 99” which became a huge hit on Playstation and blazed the trail for further success.
But in recent years EA has begun to take a step back, with the 2010 cover of the game the first to feature another golfer alongside Woods — Northern Ireland’s rising star McIlroy.
A few months later on a newer version it simply showed Augusta, home of the Masters, with no trace of Woods on the cover.
Rickie Fowler joined Woods on the front of “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13” in the U.S., while Arnold Palmer was used in the latest version.