Tiger has some snarl left

CHICAGO - Game publisher EA Sports is moving forward with plans to introduce a Tiger Woods online game despite the golfer's drastic drop in popularity amid an adultery scandal, the company said yesterday.

Electronic Arts Inc unit president Peter Moore said in a company blog that the company would this month begin offering "Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online," a browser-based golf game developed in the past year.

"Our relationship with Tiger has always been rooted in golf," he wrote on the blog. "We didn't form a relationship with him so that he could act as an arm's length endorser.

"Regardless of what's happening in his personal life ... Tiger Woods is still one of the greatest athletes in history."

EA's move comes four days after AT&T Inc terminated its sponsorship deal with Woods.

AT&T is one of a list of companies that have distanced themselves or cut ties with the world's first billionaire athlete since he became engulfed in allegations of multiple extramarital affairs after a minor car accident outside his Florida home on November 27.

Woods, 33, believed to be the world's wealthiest athlete, was estimated to earn about $100 million a year in endorsement deals before his troubles.

He confessed on December 11 to "infidelity" and announced he would take an indefinite break from golf to work on being a better husband to his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren with whom he has two children.

The game is one of EA Sports' first online efforts, to be offered to consumers initially at no cost during a testing phase, but eventually requiring a subscription fee to play.

EA, which previously had said its Tiger Woods PGA Tour business would remain unchanged, signed a sponsor deal with the world's No 1 golfer in 1997 and has introduced 12 versions of the video game bearing his name. - Reuters