Tiger Woods is synonymous with the sport of golf, but he can not be associated with money. Forbes announced on June 10 that Tiger, 46, became a billionaire, “raking in over $1.7 billion in salary, endorsements and other income over the course of his 27-year career—more than anyone else Forbes has tracked,” per the publication. Tiger’s estimated net worth is “at least $1 billion,” according to Forbes, making him the third athlete to do so.
This accomplishment is even more noteworthy considering how Tiger turned down a “mind-blowingly enormous” offer from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, a deal that LIV CEO Greg Norman told the Washington Post would have been somewhere in the “high nine digits.” The newly-minted LIV Golf Tour has already drawn away talents like six-time PGA major champion Phil Mickelson, two-time major champ Dustin Johnson, and longtime Ryder Cup participants Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, and Sergio Garcia, per ESPN. The PGA Tour subsequently banned golfers from their tournament and services over their participation in the LIV Series, citing the players making “their choice for their own financial-based reasons.”
The majority of Tiger’s career net worth comes from endorsement deals. Gatorade, Monster Energy, TaylorMade, Rolex and Nike, who Forbes notes is Tiger’s biggest backer, are some of the brands that make up more than 90% of his worth. “Brands love knowing they’re getting someone who is embraced not just by the traditional but also by the casual fans,” veteran sports business consultant and Columbia lecturer Joe Favorito told Forbes. Tiger has also ventured into a golf design business, a live events production company, and a restaurant. He’s also invested his money in various ventures, including a luxury minigolf organization.
Also, Tiger has taken a couple of hits to the wallet throughout his career. He lost a lot of sponsors following the adultery scandal uncovered by his Thanksgiving 2009 car crash. However, Tiger has recovered and now joins LeBron James and Michael Jordan in the billionaire sports stars club. (Update: It should be noted that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and other stars have made a billion during their respective careers. However, Forbes doesn’t list them as billionaires.)
LeBron, 37, officially became a billionaire at the start of June, according to Forbes. After earning “$121.2 million before taxes and agents’ fees” over 12 months, LeBron became the first active basketball player to cross that mark. Like Tiger, James has invested his money and scored big with branding. He “has raked in upwards of $900 million in income from endorsements and other business ventures,” per Forbes.
Michael, 59, didn’t reach the billionaire mark until 2014, more than a decade after “His Airness” retired. Jordan’s investment in the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, plus his other business ventures, finally pushed him over that line, making him the first athlete to claim “billionaire” status.