Tiger Woods Is Back On Top Of The World's Highest-Paid Athletes

Forbes

Tiger Woods had a dramatic fall from grace after his 2009 Thanksgiving car crash. He lost five sponsors, $50 million in annual income, his place atop the world golf rankings and his marriage. But with six victories over the last 12 months, Woods is back at No. 1 on the course and on Forbes' annual ranking of the world’s highest-paid athletes—a spot he occupied every year from 2001 until 2012, when boxer Floyd Mayweather ranked first.

Forbes estimates that Woods pulled in $78.1 million over the last year from prize money, endorsements, appearance fees and golf course design work. His resurgence on the links boosted his prize money over the last 12 months to $13.1 million, double his total from the prior year. He now has 78 career wins, only four short of the all-time record held by Sam Snead.

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Woods’ off-course income is also up big thanks to sponsor bonuses tied to his strong play. Woods continues to get a healthy payout from his Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game franchise, with new versions released annually by Electronic Arts. This year’s is the 16th in the series, which is the fifth biggest sports franchise all-time for EA and has generated $754 million of revenue in the U.S. since its initial launch in 1998, according to research firm NPD Group. Other partners in Woods’ endorsement stable include Nike, Rolex, Upper Deck, TLC Eye Centers, NetJets, Japan’s Kowa and sports nutrition firm Fuse Science.

Nike remains Woods’ biggest meal ticket, paying him more than $20 million annually by our count, and the company is on the verge of signing Woods to a contract extension, which will keep Woods as the top golf endorser at the $25 billion-in-sales sports behemoth. Revenues at Nike Golf rose 10% last year to $726 million after three straight years of declines. Woods first partnered with Nike when he turned pro in 1996 with a five-year, $40 million deal.

Fellow golfer Ernie Els famously referred to the end of the golf season as the time when “you’ve got the wheelbarrow out” for the lavish appearance fees splashed on the world’s best golfers. Woods was in full wheelbarrow mode last year, collecting more than $10 million in appearance fees from stops in Abu Dhabi, China, Malaysia and Turkey. Woods also reportedly picked up a $1.5 million fee for a PGA Tour stop at West Virginia’s Greenbrier Resort in July, which stirred up controversy because appearance fees are against the rules on the U.S. Tour. (Though those rules have long been flouted in a variety of ways.)

Woods’ golf course-design business has also picked up after his initial projects in Dubai, Mexico and North Carolina were halted due to the real estate crash. Developers broke ground on a new course in October in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which is likely to be the first completed Woods-designed course.

In Pictures: The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes

Complete Coverage: The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes

Roger Federer ranks second on our list with earnings of $71.5 million. Federer has the most impressive endorsement portfolio in sports, with 10 sponsors that collectively pay him more than $40 million annually, including long-term deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Credit Suisse. He added Moet & Chandon to the mix in November. Federer’s income surged after a barnstorming exhibition tour of South America in December that netted him $14 million for six events. (See "How Roger Federer Makes $71 Million A Year")

Kobe Bryant is third with an income of $61.9 million over the past 12 months. He had the highest salary in the NBA for the third straight year during the 2012-13 season. His $27.8 million salary is $7 million higher than any other player. Bryant continues to perform at a ridiculously high level after 17 years in the league. He made the All-NBA first team for the eighth straight year this season and passed Wilt Chamberlain for fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant is still a huge draw, particularly overseas, where he had the NBA’s best-selling jersey during the 2011-12 season. Bryant added Hublot this year to an endorsement roster that includes Nike, Coca-Cola, Turkish Airlines, Lenovo, Panini and Mercedes-Benz.

LeBron James had a memorable 2012, winning his first NBA title, third MVP Award and a second Olympic gold medal. He joined an exclusive group of four Hall of Famers with his fourth MVP Award after the 2012-13 season. He is back in the NBA Finals for a third straight year and ranks fourth with earnings of $59.8 million.

James is the NBA's biggest endorsement star, thanks to deals with Nike, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Samsung Electronics and others. His $42 million in endorsement income is tops among active athletes in team sports. Sales of his signature Nike shoes rose 50% to $300 million in the U.S. during 2012, according to research firm SportsOneSource. He outsold his nearest NBA competitor by a 6-to-1 margin in the U.S. (See “LeBron James Is The NBA’s Leading Shoe Salesman”)

Mayweather falls to No. 14 with earnings of $34 million from his fight with Robert Guerrero in May after topping the 2012 list at $85 million when he fought twice during our 12 month time period. However, Mayweather inked one of the biggest deals in the history of sports in February with Showtime Networks. The six-fight pact will exceed $200 million with his cut of pay-per-view revenues. Mayweather's September bout with Canelo Alvarez has the potential to be the biggest payday yet for "Money."

Mayweather is tied with rival Manny Pacquiao, who netted $26 million from his December fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, including the income from the telecast in his native Philippines. Pacquiao’s estimated $8 million endorsement income closes the gap in fight purses with Mayweather. Pacquiao's deal with Hewlett-Packard expired last year, but his partners still include Nike, Monster Energy, Hennessy, Wonderful Pistachios, San Miguel Beer and several others in the Philippines.

Our earnings figures include salaries, bonuses, prize money, appearance fees, as well as licensing and endorsement income for the 12 months between June 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013. We do not deduct for taxes or agents’ fees. There is a significant turnover in the top 100 this year with 40 new names making the cut. The NFL is largely responsible:  30 football players qualified for last year's list, but only 13 this year (only No. 11 Tom Brady and No. 19 Peyton Manning appear both years). Our 2012 list had an inflated number of NFL players due to the 2011 lockout, which pushed a bigger chunk of NFL earnings into our June to June timeframe. The drop in football players kept the collective total of the 100 top earners flat from a year ago at $2.6 billion.

Baseball leads the way this year with 27 players thanks to an explosion in local TV money that has goosed salaries for the sport’s stars. The lack of a salary cap in the sport also helps. However, significant endorsements continue to elude almost all MLB players, and only one—No. 18 Alex Rodriguez at $30.3 million—made the top 30. Athletes from 11 different sports and 23 countries qualified for the top 100 (See "2013 World’s Highest-Paid Athletes: Behind The Numbers").

This year’s list features three women led by Maria Sharapova, who ranks No. 22 with earnings of $29 million. Her rich portfolio of sponsors includes Nike, Head, Samsung, Tag Heuer, Porsche and Evian. The 26-year-old Russian won the career Grand Slam with her 2012 victory at the French Open, which triggered lucrative bonuses from sponsors. Last year, Sharapova launched her own candy business, Sugarpova. It expects to sell 1.5 million bags of candy in the first 12 months at $5 to $6 a bag. The gummy candies are now available in 15 countries and Sharapova is plowing any profits back into the company.

Sharapova is joined by No. 68 Serena Williams, who raked in $20.5 million, including $8.5 million in prize money. She won nine tournaments, as well as an Olympic gold medal over the past year and became the oldest woman to ever hold the top spot in the world rankings. China’s Li Na ranks 85th overall with earnings of $18.2 million. She catapulted onto the world stage when she won the 2011 French Open title, becoming the first Asian-born player to win a singles Grand Slam event. She signed seven multimillion-dollar endorsement deals after the historic win, including Samsung and Mercedes-Benz.

Full List:

1. Tiger Woods ($78.1 million)

2. Roger Federer ($71.5 million)

3. Kobe Bryant ($61.9 million)

4. LeBron James ($59.8 million)

5. Drew Brees ($51 million)

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