Time runs out for Tiger sponsors

SWISS watchmaker Tag Heuer said yesterday it will not use Tiger Woods’ image in advertising campaigns in the US for the foreseeable future.

Chief executive Jean-Christophe Babin told Swiss daily Le Matin that the company was reacting to “recent events” surrounding the golfer.

“We recognise Tiger Woods as a great sportsman but we have to take account of the sensitivity of some consumers in relation to recent events,” he was quoted as saying.

Woods has taken an indefinite leave from golf to work on repairing his marriage after numerous allegations of infidelities.

The newspaper said Tag Heuer would continue to support Woods’ charitable foundation but would use other brand ambassadors in US ads, including actor Leonardo Di Caprio.

Tag Heuer joins other sponsors in backing away from Woods as his image has taken a beating since a Thanksgiving holiday car accident at the golfer’s Florida home was followed by an admission of extramarital “transgressions”.

Consulting firm Accenture dropped him as its representative last weekend, and Gillette said it would stop airing his ads for their razors.

Tag Heuer initially said it would stand by Woods, but moderated its support later that day by saying it would assess its relationship with the world’s highest-earning sportsman.

Meanwhile the lawyer for the doctor whose case was heard in a Toronto court yesterday on charges including selling an unapproved drug has said that the whole matter had “absolutely nothing to do with Tiger Woods”.

Tony Galea treated Woods as he recovered from knee surgery last year, but his attorney Brian Greenspan stated on the steps of the courthouse: “Dr Galea has not been and is not involved in providing performance-enhancing drugs to competitive athletes. Any suggestion of a linkage to Tiger Woods is non-existent.”

Galea has been charged with four violations – selling the unapproved drug Actovegin, conspiracy to import an unapproved drug, conspiracy to export a drug and smuggling goods into Canada. The maximum sentence is five years in prison.

Galea, who was not present for the brief hearing, treated Woods with the controversial but legal “blood- spinning” procedure.

Greenspan also told reporters: “If you are here to ask about Tiger Woods that’s not the story today – and it’s not really the story of Dr Galea.

“Tiger Woods happened to be a patient who he assisted in his rehabilitation programme after his surgery and apparently, according to all reports, was very successful in assisting Tiger Woods to return to golf earlier than was anticipated.

“His primary practice, particularly when it comes to athletes, is in addressing their injuries. He is not engaged or involved with performance-enhancement. He deals with injuries.”

USA Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, in London yesterday to collect an award, admits he was “very shocked, very surprised” when Woods’ private life became the talk of golf.

Pavin is now waiting to see how long the world number one’s indefinite break lasts, but he believes that on his return Woods could well be the same force he was – and hopes that includes October’s match at Celtic Manor in Wales.

Pavin, the first non-European to receive the Professional Golfers’ Association annual Recognition Award for services to golf, said: “Who knows how long his leave will be? My main concern is for his family. My view of him as a golfer is not going to change at all and my view of him as a human being is not going to change either.

“Everybody makes mistakes. I’m not going to sit here in judgement.

“I just hope things work out for him and Elin. It’s obviously an emotional time for him, but I think he’s going to be fine.

“Tiger’s a very strong-minded individual and I don’t think he will play any differently when he comes back. He’s come back from injuries and setbacks (Woods’ father died in 2006) and done fine.”

America won without Woods at Valhalla last year, but Pavin added: “To not have the best player in the world weakens the team.”

Elsewhere Pablo Martin has his sights set on claiming a second victory in seven days after taking the clubhouse lead in the South African Open.

Martin, the only player to win European Tour titles as an amateur and a professional, won the Alfred Dunhill Championship last Sunday.

And the 23-year-old is on track for back-to-back wins after adding a 68 to his opening 65 at Pearl Valley.

That gave the Spaniard an 11-under-par halfway total of 133 and a two-shot lead over Denmark’s Anders Hansen, who carded a 69.

Hansen carded six birdies in his round, but also ran up a double-bogey six on the first and dropped another shot on the eighth.

None of the afternoon starters were able to challenge Martin’s lead, including overnight leader Martin Erlandsson.

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