EA Sticks with Tiger Woods Online; Mum on Console Games

Announcing an open beta of EA Sports' browser-based PGA Tour game later this month, Peter Moore says EA Sports is sticking with embattled golfer Tiger Woods "on the masthead of this game."

"Our relationship with Tiger has always been rooted in golf," Moore wrote on his official blog late Monday. "We didn't form a relationship with him so that he could act as an arm's length endorser. Far from it. We chose to partner with Tiger in 1997 because we saw him as the world's best, most talented and exciting golfer."

That said, a close reading of Moore's post finds he is mentioning only PGA Tour Online - but not the retail console version endorsed by Woods, and the fourth-biggest selling sports title on the market. I asked an EA spokesman if "on the masthead of this game," was applicable only to PGA Tour Online or to the series as a whole. "Right now, we're focused on Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online," was his reply.

Moore notes the extensive investment EA Sports has made in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, which attracted 75,000 people to an eight-month closed beta. "We have spent considerable time developing and testing this game; we're proud of it; and we are releasing it in open beta later this month," Moore wrote.

Woods, of course, has lost deals with AT&T and Accenture since a bizarre car crash Nov. 27 stoked rumors of Woods' infidelity, which later exploded into allegations of liaisons with multiple mistresses. Woods then announced an indefinite leave from the tour while he worked to repair his marriage and family life. In addition to acknowledging sordid rumors very damaging to his widespread public acceptance, Woods' leave also takes him away from the environment where he is most useful to a sponsor paying him millions.

Moore portrayed the decision as one made in the interests of product quality, saying that Woods remains representative of his division's "It's In the Game" slogan regardless of what has come to light in his personal life.

"By his own admission, he's made some mistakes off the course. But regardless of what's happening in his personal life, and regardless of his decision to take a personal leave from the sport, Tiger Woods is still one of the greatest athletes in history," wrote Moore.

EA SPORTS Moves Forward with Tiger Woods PGA TOUR Online Launch in January [Peter Moore's Blog]