It came as no surprise when mainstream companies such as Gillette and Accenture distanced themselves from Tiger Woods in recent weeks, but now the somewhat insular golf community has stepped back too.
Golf Digest announced Wednesday that it would suspend monthly articles that appear under Woods’ name, at least until he returns to the PGA Tour.
“We respect Tiger’s decision to take a break from professional golf and focus on his family,” said Bret Hopman, a publicist for the magazine. “Tiger’s bylined instruction articles will not be published in Golf Digest during his time away from the game.”
The news was unexpected, if only because athletes facing controversy usually fare better within the confines of their sport.
“On the surface, it is kind of surprising,” David Carter, executive director of USC’s Sports Business Institute, said. “However, they also have to sell advertising and be mindful of what their business partners expect.
“I think it is a function of how widespread Woods’ marketing problems have become,” he said.
This month, the superstar golfer announced that he was taking an “indefinite” leave from the tour. Woods has weathered a media storm since an early-morning car accident in November and subsequent reports from multiple women alleging to have had sexual liaisons with him.
The fallout has significantly damaged his status as a sports celebrity who earns an estimated $110 million annually in endorsements, according to Forbes magazine.
Accenture, a global consulting firm, recently walked away from Woods, and Gatorade carried through with an earlier decision to stop making his sports drink. Gillette has discontinued advertisements featuring Woods, and AT&T has said it is reevaluating their business relationship.
As for Golf Digest, the magazine had come under fire for its latest cover -- which went to press before the scandal broke -- showing a photo illustration of Woods caddying for President Obama with the headline: “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger.”
Woods’ exclusive agreement with the magazine reportedly pays $3 million annually.
“We’re not going to comment on the compensation,” Hopman said.
However, the magazine is keeping Woods on the masthead and Hopman said: “Golf Digest has had a long-standing relationship with Tiger Woods . . . we do not have any plans to change that.”
The golfer got another show of support this week from Tag Heuer. The Swiss watchmaker displayed a black-and-white photograph of Woods on its website, a watch draped over his left hand, with the words: “Tag Heuer stands with Tiger Woods.”