Tiger Woods, Nike close to deal

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods is close to signing a new deal with his longtime equipment and apparel sponsor Nike that will "emphatically" keep him as golf's top-paid endorser, according to his agent, Mark Steinberg.

Woods' current contract, signed in 2006, is set to expire sometime before the end of the year. But Steinberg told ESPN.com "we're down to the very, very short strokes right now … I would expect we would come out with some sort of joint announcement when we get the paperwork signed. I hope this is viewed as a pretty bold statement."

Woods, who said he knows "all that goes on, every working part," of the contract negotiations, expects to sign the new deal perhaps as soon as the June 13-16 U.S. Open is complete.

"[The document's] just got to get in front of me," Woods said Sunday after finishing in a tie for 65th at the Memorial Tournament. "Just a matter of time."

With Woods a potential free agent in the equipment market, there existed the possibility that after 17 years he could move on to another company and forgo the Swoosh. "There's always opportunities out there, and you have to look at all sides of what could happen," Woods said.

But Steinberg said that never became a serious possibility. Nike has been Woods' biggest and most loyal endorser since he turned professional in 1996, launching their partnership with a five-year deal for a reported $40 million. Various industry reports had his compensation at $100 million over five years starting in 2001.

Steinberg has represented Woods since 1998 and has been involved in all of his endorsement deals since. At the time, he worked for International Management Group (IMG) but is now a partner with Excel Sports Management. Woods joined him there in 2011.

Steinberg would not discuss financial terms or length, saying only that the new deal is for multiple years and that "Tiger started his professional career with Nike in 1996. He has a long way to go in his career, but I feel with the type of deal we've constructed … I feel confident that he will be with Nike for his entire career."

Nike declined to comment.

Earlier this year, Golf Digest, as part of an annual report on golfers' incomes, put Woods' earnings at $77 million off the course in 2012. It did not break down what he received from Nike, although the figure is believed to be more than $20 million per year. Sports Illustrated, however, as part of a recent compilation called "The Fortunate 50," pegged his total compensation at closer to $40 million annually.

Woods also has endorsement deals with Rolex, Fuse, EA Sports, NetJets and Kowa, a Japanese company.

Steinberg would not confirm the specifics of those reports, saying only that "those numbers are traditionally low."

He also would not discuss whether Woods took a pay cut from Nike in the aftermath of his admitted 2009 marital issues that cost him endorsements with Gillette, Accenture, AT&T and Gatorade.

But Woods, 37, has rebounded from those troubles. After going more than two years without a victory on the PGA Tour, he has won seven times in the past 15 months, including four times this year as he heads to the U.S. Open at Merion. After dropping to No. 58 in the world in 2011 -- his lowest point since just after becoming a pro in 1996 -- he is firmly back atop the world golf rankings.

Woods has 78 PGA Tour titles, putting him just four behind the record held by Sam Snead. With 14 major championships, he trails Jack Nicklaus by four.

"We're very happy," Woods said. "This starts from the top down, from the years with signing with [Nike founder] Phil [Knight]. And building that relationship. Obviously Nike Golf has grown over the years. It's been fun being part of that and we get to continue that for X number of years now."

And Nike has begun to feature him prominently again, including a spot earlier this year with new endorser Rory McIlroy, who signed a lucrative deal in January believed to be in the $10-12 million range per year.

"This process went as such where I never had to get out in the market to test the waters in a formal way," Steinberg said. "That's a good thing, because I think some of the most memorable moments throughout Tiger's career to date are linked with Nike." Steinberg mentioned the 2005 Masters shot, in which Woods' ball lingered at the edge of the 16th hole -- swoosh visible -- before falling in, and Woods' famous commercial in which he bounced a ball off his wedge.

Although Woods signed with Nike upon turning pro in 1996 and wore the company's apparel, he used none of the company's golf products until putting a Nike ball in play in 2000 -- the year he won three majors. He added the driver and irons in 2002, wedges in 2003, fairway woods in 2005 and finally the putter in 2010.

Woods has always been meticulous about adding new Nike equipment -- he has yet to go to the company's newly released Covert driver -- and has frequently worked with Nike to test and tweak new products.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Woods said, "and very excited to be with Nike."