Tiger Woods' Golf Hiatus Amid 'Infidelity' Could Cost Him and the PGA Tour

"Indefinite break" from golf over "my infidelity" could mar massive cash flow.

December 11, 2009, 1:17 PM

Dec. 12, 2009— -- With a roster of high-profile endorsements, Tiger Woods became the first athlete to earn $1 billion -- so his planned break from golf to deal with the fallout from what he admitted was "my infidelity" could fuel a major financial hit.

There are signs some sponsors already are wavering.

Today, Gillette said that, for now, it would be phasing out Woods from its ads.

"As Tiger takes a break from the public eye, we will support his desire for privacy by limiting his role in our marketing programs," Gillette said in a statement.

And though AT&T endorsed Woods' decision to step back from golf, the company noted Friday, "We are presently evaluating our ongoing relationship with him."

In addition, the consulting firm Accenture quietly removed Woods from its Web site.

Bob Garfield, a columnist for Ad Age magazine, speculated on what advertisers might do if the scandal continues.

"Some of them are gonna go, 'We spent a lot. We put our brand at stake. The brand is at risk. We love you Tiger, but you're history,'" Garfield said.

"This is the greatest fall from grace, in my opinion, of anybody in sports history," ABC News sports consultant and USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan told "World News" Saturday. "Tiger was such a cultural icon, crossing over from sports into society in such a big way."

Woods seemed to acknowledge on his official Web site Friday evening that he expected a tough road professionally, as well as personally, as a result of his decision "to take an indefinite break from professional golf" in order to repair his marriage.

In his statement, he asked his associates "including my fans, the good people at my foundation, business partners, the PGA Tour, and my fellow competitors, for their understanding."

The Woods team has been in touch with Woods' sponsors as the scandal has swirled around him, said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent.

"Although there has been considerable inquiry about Tiger's sponsorships, it would be both premature and inappropriate to comment on the status of specific business relationships," Steinberg said in a prepared statement. "Suffice it to say, we have had thoughtful conversations and his sponsors have been open to a solution-oriented dialogue. Of course, each sponsor has unique considerations and ultimately, the decisions they make we would fully understand and accept."

Nike and EA Sports late Friday suggested they are making no changes regarding their relationships with Tiger.

"Tiger has been part of Nike for more than a decade," Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said. "He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era. We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike's full support."

"We respect that this is a very difficult, and private, situation for Tiger and his family," read the statement from EA Sports. "At this time, the strategy for our Tiger Woods PGA Tour business remains unchanged."

Though it was "limiting his role" in ads, Gillette also offered a measure of support.

"In the midst of a difficult and unfortunate situation, we respect the action Tiger is taking to restore the trust of his family, friends and fans," the company's statement said. "We fully support him stepping back from his professional career and taking the time he needs to do what matters most. We wish him and his family the best."

Golf Pro: 'Tiger Is Why We're Playing With So Much Money'

The PGA Tour also backed Woods' latest move.

"We fully support Tiger's decision to step away from competitive golf to focus on his family," said a PGA statement, which the AP attributed to Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem. "His priorities are where they need to be, and we will continue to respect and honor his family's request for privacy. We look forward to Tiger's return to the PGA Tour when he determines the time is right for him."

Woods' absence will be a tremendous blow to golf. When he missed eight months last year after knee surgery, TV ratings fell by 50 percent.

Connell Barrett, who has written about Woods for Golf magazine, said the longer Woods is gone, the worse it will be for the PGA.

"The ratings definitely will be lower," Barrett said. "I imagine the galleries will be smaller. And eventually, if he stays off the tour for an extended time, the purses will be smaller. Because with Tiger Woods in the field, there's people, which equals more dollars."

Fellow golfer John Daly this week spoke bluntly of the prospect of pro golf without Woods.

"It would survive, but not to what it is when Tiger plays," Daly said. "Because of Tiger is why we're playing with so much money.

"They always say there's nobody better than golf [or better] than the game itself," Daly added. "But right now in these times, there is -- and it's him. And I hope he and Elin [Nordegren, Woods' wife] can get through it, stay together."

The PGA's statement was its first public comment since Woods mentioned his "personal failings" on the Web Dec. 2, shortly after the circumstances surrounding his Nov. 27 car crash sparked a wave of reports claiming extramarital affairs.

Woods' own statements also have been sparse as scandal has swirled around him, and his use of the word "infidelity" Friday apparently amounted to his first public admission that he was unfaithful to Nordegren amid claims of at least 11 affairs reported in a variety of publications.

"I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children," he wrote Friday. "I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

Tiger Woods Seeks 'Privacy' Amid Reports of Prostitutes, Trip to Sweden

The announcement came after new reports that the golfer paid for sex with prostitutes and that Woods and Nordegren are considering an escape to Sweden to plan their next move. Swedish newspapers last week confirmed that Nordegren had purchased a $2 million home on an island off Stockholm, reachable only by boat.

"After much soul searching, I have decided to take an indefinite break from professional golf," Woods wrote. "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person.

"Again," he added, "I ask for privacy for my family and I am especially grateful for all those who have offered compassion and concern during this difficult period."

Barrett said he was somewhat surprised by the extent of Woods' move.

"I'm not surprised that it's happened," Barrett said. "I'm a little bit shocked that were going to have Tiger Woods off the golf course indefinitely. But I think that it's something he had to do."

Neither Woods nor Steinberg offered a timetable for Woods' return to golf.

"As his agent and friend, I stand fully behind Tiger and support his decision wholeheartedly," Steinberg wrote. "What Tiger and his family need now is time away and private space so that they can recover from all that's happened and try to restore some well-being to their lives.

"The entirety of someone's life is more important than just a professional career," Steinberg added. "What matters most is a young family that is trying to cope with difficult life issues in a secluded and caring way. Whenever Tiger may return to the game should be on the family's terms alone."

Nordegren and Woods married in 2004. Together, they have a daughter Sam, 2, and son Charlie, 10 months.

ABC News' Ron Claiborne, John Berman, Sharde Miller and Dan Arnall, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events