Tiger Woods Slips But He’s Still Forbes’ Most Powerful Athlete

PEBBLE BEACH, CA - FEBRUARY 12: (L-R) Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson wait on the seventh hole tee during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 12, 2012 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Tiger Woods may be past his prime on the golf course, but he's still the guy to beat on Forbes Celebrity 100.

His game may be in transition, some golf fans may wonder why TV cameras follow his every on-course move even when he finishes 40 spots off the top, and he may come off as a lout in former coach Hank Haney’s memoir of their time together, but Tiger Woods remains the world’s most powerful athlete, according to Forbes.

Based on a formula that sliced and diced factors such as A-listers’ coverage in various media (Woods ranked first among athletes and sixth highest among all celebrities for TV and radio mentions) and their social-media activity, Woods was 12th on the Forbes Celebrity 100 ladder in 2012. The slot represented a slide from No. 6 in 2011, but he was still ahead of all other celebs who play games for a living.

Indeed, despite the soap opera that was his life for more than two years, the loss of income after many top companies jettisoned him from their sponsorship rolls, and his less-than-stellar play since all of that, Woods retained his perch for the 11th straight year. He did so by beating out such heavyweights as LeBron James (No. 15), Kobe Bryant (27), Tom Brady (60), and even media darling Tim Tebow -- who was noticeably absent from the roster.

Forbes noted that Woods’ earnings dipped from $75 million to $58 million but that his long-term Nike contract helped him bring in more dough than almost any other athlete. Forbes also observed that whether golf fans love him or hate him, they want to watch him; how else to explain the 78% year-to-year jump in ratings for the final round of the Honda Classic, when Woods fired a 62? Or the 129% spike for the Arnold Palmer Invitational finale, the lone official tourney Woods has won since he made the cover of the New York Post for 20 consecutive days after his SUV smacked into that hydrant on Thanksgiving night 2009?

Woods was even tops (53 percent) among sports executives who participated in a recent survey ranking golfers they most wanted to see on TV, Forbes said. Rory McIlroy was runner-up in that poll with 15 percent, Phil Mickelson captured seven percent, and 17 percent said they had no interest at all in golf.

As for his income, Woods makes less than half of what he did at his earnings peak ($120 million in 2009), but that was when his game was in top form and he netted $10 million for winning the FedEx Cup.

“Woods has maintained this level of impact for 15 years since he won his first Masters in 1997,” according to Forbes. “When it comes to measuring money and fame, Woods stands alone among the world’s athletes.”

Oh, yeah, Mickelson made the Forbes register as well. The only other golfer on the scroll, Lefty came in at No. 48.


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