Tiger Woods blasts out of a fairway bunker during a PGA Championship. (Photographer: Joe Tabacca/Bloomberg News)

Tiger Woods Completes Comeback, Taking First Title in Five Years

(Bloomberg) -- Tiger Woods is back.

The 42-year-old golf great won a PGA tournament for the first time in more than five years, marking a long-awaited turnaround after scandals and an injury-plagued drought cost him some of professional sports’ most lucrative sponsorships.

Woods captured the Tour Championship on Sunday at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He finished the tournament at 11 under par to take home his 80th victory, two shy of Sam Snead’s record.

Tiger Woods Completes Comeback, Taking First Title in Five Years

“I just can’t believe I pulled this off,” an emotional Woods said in a green-side interview televised on CBS. “It’s been tough. Not so easy the past couple of years.”

Woods’ arrival on the pro tour in the late 1990s was credited with boosting interest in the sport as television ratings soared. Sponsors began dropping him in December 2009 after he admitted to cheating on his wife; back injuries, surgery, and battles with substance abuse further derailed his career. He missed most of 2017 but had been improving this year, including a second-place in August at the PGA Championship, one of pro golf’s four major tournaments.

The comeback comes at a challenging time for the $70 billion golf industry, which is struggling to lure younger generations. His regained form has drawn more viewers this year, but whether he’ll help thwart the sport’s decline remains to be seen.

If anything, Woods may benefit financially by gaining new, or perhaps reviving old, sponsorships. While some sponsors like Nike Inc.’s apparel line remained throughout his travails, many -- like PepsiCo.’s Gatorade -- ended relationships with him over the years.

Sponsors were quick to leverage his comeback. Bridgestone Golf, which signed Woods in 2016, posted a tribute video on social media moments after he won. Nike posted an ad, too. Nike shares were little changed Monday in pre-market trading, down 0.4 percent to $85.25.

Tiger Woods Completes Comeback, Taking First Title in Five Years
Bridgestone Golf@bridgestonegolf
Get better, win... AGAIN!

It was never if, but when.

Tiger Woods wins the #TOURChampionship with the #TOURBXS????

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At one point late on Sunday, Woods was also close to winning the FedExCup, golf’s year-end $10 million prize. He last won a FedEx Cup in 2009, the same year his extramarital relationships started going public.

Woods entered Sunday’s final round with a three-stroke lead and was paired with Rory McIlroy, one of the game’s bright young stars. He also fended off Justin Rose, the world’s top-ranked player who began Sunday tied with McIlroy. Rose took the FedExCup.

While Woods’s win comes near the end of the PGA Tour schedule, it will likely drive interest in two big golf events later this year. The Ryder Cup, the biennial competition between athletes from the U.S. and Europe, begins Sept. 28 in France and will be telecast by NBC and the Golf Channel. Woods was a captain’s pick for the U.S. squad.

Then, over Thanksgiving weekend in Las Vegas, Woods is playing in an 18-hole one-on-one showdown versus Phil Mickelson for $9 million. That event, the first of its kind in modern golf, will be offered as a pay-per-view event by Turner Sports.

SPONSORS NOW:

  • Nike -- apparel only (kept relationship)
  • Upper Deck -- sports memorabilia (kept relationship)
  • Bridgestone Golf -- golf balls since 2016, replacing Nike
  • TaylorMade -- clubs since 2017,
    replacing Nike
  • Monster Energy -- golf bag sponsor
  • Kowa -- Japanese pain reliever since 2011, first endorsement after scandal
  • Hero -- India motorcycles, since 2014
  • Full Swing -- golf simulator since 2015

SPONSORS THEN:

  • Nike -- clothes and equipment; megadeal started in 1996
  • Upper Deck -- since 2001
  • AT&T, Accenture, Gillette, Gatorade -- all dropped him after scandal
  • EA Sports -- Tiger video game ended a few years after scandal
  • Buick/GM  -- ended in 2008, after his last major but before scandal
  • TLC Laser Eyes -- firm filed for bankruptcy in 2009
  • Tag Heuer -- expired in 2011

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