LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 22: Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt on the second green during the final round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club on July 22, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
By Sunday night, Tiger Woods may be No. 1 on and off the course.
With a win this week at the Bridgestone Invitational, Tiger Woods would regain his spot atop the Official World Golf Rankings -- quite an achievement for the golfer who nearly fell off the face of the earth (and plummeted below the top 50 last October) after his sex scandal went viral.
Despite the loss of several corporate endorsers due to the unending news about his unseemly private life, Woods never lost his No. 1 position as golf’s biggest earner, a position he continued to hold between July 2011 and July 2012, according to Forbes list of The World’s Highest-Paid Golfers.
Woods, who has set the gold standard for golf earnings since he turned pro in 1996, thanks to generous contracts with Nike and Titleist, lost his berth as the planet’s highest-paid athlete to boxer Floyd Mayweather earlier this year. But that setback did little to weaken his position among his fellow linksters.
“Woods remains the highest-paid golfer in the world with earnings of $61.2 million over the past 12 months,” Forbes said.
Since firms like AT&T, PepsiCo, and Gillette pulled the plug on their deals with a guy many companies still consider to be “damaged goods,” Woods nevertheless has begun to rebound off the course as well as on. The world’s second-ranked player recently inked new pacts with Rolex and Fuse Science.
The new deals pale, however, to the ongoing endorsements with Nike (since 1996) and Electronic Arts (since 1998). While Forbes said that Nike pared down its deal with Woods after the 2009 scandal, it remained “the richest deal in the sport.”
Runner-up to Woods’ income, which Forbes based on tourney winnings, endorsements, appearance fees, and golf course design work, was Phil Mickelson, who made $46.7 million. The newly inducted World Golf Hall of Famer ranks third (behind Woods and Vijay Singh) on the list of all-time career prize money winners, with $66 million.
Reigning British Open winner Ernie Els checks in at No. 3, with $22.3 million, due largely to his design business. World No. 1 -- unless Woods dethrones him this week -- Luke Donald came in fourth, earning $20 million over the past year.
Forbes listed nos. 5-10, in order of last year’s earnings, as follows:
- Rory McIlroy ($16.4 million) -- Despite recent poor play (entering this week, he had missed three cuts in his five most recent events), the 2011 U.S. Open winner remained “one of golf’s most marketable young stars,” according to Forbes.
- Sergio Garcia ($16.2 million) -- Garcia’s deal with TaylorMade-Adidas Golf was “one of the richest in the sport,” said Forbes.
- Bill Haas ($16.1 million) -- Hitting the $10 million jackpot when he won the 2011 FedEx Cup helped fill Haas’ coffers.
- Lee Westwood ($12.8 million) - The Englishman may be major-less but he’s the second all-time money winner on the European Tour, with $34 million in earnings.
- Matt Kuchar ($12.5 million) -- Kooch pocketed the biggest paycheck in golf when his Players Championship victory earned him $1.7 million.
- Adam Scott ($11.9 million) -- Despite his British Open meltdown, the Aussie added more than $800,000 to his wallet when he finished second to Els at Royal Lytham.