Mark Steinberg has been the agent for Tiger Woods since 1998, Tiger’s second full year as a pro on the PGA Tour, and no one has been closer to the business side of Tiger. Steinberg left IMG this summer to become a partner in Excel Sports Management. Tiger came with him.
With Steinberg’s help, Tiger has made hundreds of millions of dollars off the golf course, while Tiger on his own has made hundreds of millions of dollars on it. This week, Woods is playing his first tournament since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship – at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle Golf Club south of San Jose - and Steinberg will be on hand to witness first-hand how Tiger’s comeback is progressing.
Steinberg said he’s optimistic.
“Tiger is unique,” he said.
So here is a revealing and exclusive interview, which you’ll only find here. It’s 6 quick questions for Mark Steinberg.
Question: More than a few people are suggesting that Tiger simply drop his new swing and go back to his old one, but is that realistic?
Steinberg: “I don’t think it’s realistic at all. He’s kind of disclosed all year just how injured he’s been for the past several years and the old swing contributed to some of the health issues. I’ve heard it. Go back to your old swing. Go back to your old coach. Go back to Butch or Hank . . . well, nobody has said go back to Hank. He just needs to find the proper swing and repeat it.”
Q: Why do you think the Tiger-Stevie Williams split was such a big story?
Steinberg: “I certainly think, to be honest, it’s because Stevie made a big thing out of it. You didn’t hear much from Tiger’s camp. Also, to be realistic, anything involving Tiger is news, so that’s got to be part of it. But the big reason is that Stevie went on a bit of a ‘media tour’ and made it relevant.”
Q: Stevie did a TV interview at Bridgestone after the breakup, where he caddied for the winner, Adam Scott. When was the last time you had seen a caddie interviewed on TV?
Steinberg: “The last time is never.”
Q: Tiger turns 36 in December. What’s left in his tank?
Steinberg: “There’s a lot left. You’ve got to keep in mind, he basically didn’t play golf for the last two years. People can say what they want, that he hasn’t played, that he hasn’t won, whatever, but he hasn’t been healthy enough to play. I kind of view him as a young 36. Look, there’s this view in golf that everybody says the game is getting younger, and it is. But we’ve learned that there are plenty of opportunities for players as they get a little older.”
Q: Will there be more endorsement opportunities for Tiger going forward?
Steinberg: “Absolutely. Within a week or so, we’re announcing a major deal that’s being finalized now. And we’re going to have a golf bag deal in place. The business end is actually quite strong. You can call me an agent, but I’m a salesman. And there are opportunities. What I hear internally, out on the course, is intense rooting for him to get back to dominating. Our culture says to us that we like dynasties and that we also like underdogs. Tiger is as good a dynasty as there’s been in sports for, what, 13 years? And now you might say he’s an underdog. He would complete the story.”
Q: On the course, what’s his biggest challenge?
Steinberg: “I don’t know. I try to separate the business from the golf. But I do know something based on what he and I talk about. It’s about repetition. It’s one thing to go through a swing change and another thing to go through a swing change when you’re not healthy. Now, he’s healthy. He’s got to get out there and play as much as he can.”
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