Irish bookmaker puts a big bet on Woods

Is Tiger Woods back in business?

PaddyPower.com, Ireland’s largest bookmaker, has recently proposed a deal to the Woods camp that tops out at $75 million over five years.

With an initial $5 million for just the use of Woods’ likeness annually, the proposal provides performance incentives including $1 million for winning a U.S. major and $2 million for winning a U.K. major, presumably the British Open.

Reader poll

When will Tiger Woods return to Tour?

  • Tavistock Cup (March 22-23) 26%
  • Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 25-28) 34%
  • Masters (April 8-11) 17%
  • Another event this year 10%
  • He will not return in 2010 13%

2041 total votes.

“I would be happy to go on the record and have the fact we have got a proposal into IMG, we’re in negotiations with IMG to sponsor Tiger,” Paddy Power said from Ireland. “It’s still in the early stage of the negotiations, really, to be honest with you. It’s going to be, if it all comes off, it will be the biggest kind of sponsorship deal we have ever done by quite away.”

However, Mark Steinberg, Woods’ agent at IMG, indicated that PaddyPower.com’s proposal is not being given serious consideration.

“We are not involved in any discussions to add to his sponsorship portfolio at this time,’’ Steinberg said in an e-mail response to Golfweek.

Power made news late last year when he paid off on Woods winning the PGA Championship after the second round, when the World No. 1 had a four-shot lead. When Y.E. Yang eventually beat Woods in the final round, Power was out $2.12 million.

Now Power is potentially taking a much bigger gamble on Woods, who has been out of golf since his Nov. 27 car crash precipitated revelations of marital infidelity and a stunningly swift fall in public-opinion surveys. His marketability is under pressure after Accenture, AT&T and more recently Gatorade have pulled their support.

“It’s an opportunity at this stage when other sponsors seem to be ditching him, that there’s an opportunity there to step in,” Power said of his proposal. “I still think he’s like a global brand, and he’s still somebody we would very much like to align ourselves to.”

With Woods reported this week to be on the driving range at Isleworth, his home club near Orlando, Fla., and with the first major of the year just a month away, Woods’ return could be sooner rather than later. But will Woods as quickly jump into a new endorsement deal?

The Power proposal includes most of Europe, Asia and Australasia but not the U.S.

The PGA Tour has specific prohibitions on its players associating with gambling sites or casinos in regard to marketing or endorsement deals, and those seem to extend to such involvement overseas as well.

“Generally speaking, that would make us pause in regards to our regulations,” Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president, said of the Tour’s stance on players associating with overseas gambling operations. “It would be problematic.”

Power contends that his proposal merits consideration.

“We’re hopeful,” Power said of getting a deal done. “We have gotten ourselves in there, and so I think we have a reasonable chance. I think there’s a lot more chance now than there might have been five years ago.”

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