(Reuters) - Tiger Woods has signed a partnership deal with Rolex, the world's biggest luxury watch brand, marking his first major endorsement since his unexpected and spectacular downfall at the end of 2009.
Woods was widely believed to be the world's wealthiest athlete before a string of marital infidelities led to the break-up of his marriage. He lost five major sponsors in the fallout.
"Rolex is convinced that Tiger Woods still has a long career ahead of him and that he has all the qualities required to continue to mark the history of golf," Rolex said in a statement on Wednesday. "The brand is committed to accompanying him in his new challenges.
"This association pays tribute to the exceptional stature of Tiger Woods and the leading role he plays in forging the sport's global appeal. It also constitutes a joint commitment to the future."
Woods, a 14-times major champion, spearheaded a sports brand generating about $100 million a year in royalties before his private life imploded two years ago.
While some sponsors, in particular athletic footwear and apparel maker Nike and video game producer Electronic Arts, stood by his side, AT&T, Accenture, Tag Heuer, Gatorade and Gillette dropped him as a spokesman.
The former world number one has also struggled on the course, battling for form and fitness while working on the fourth swing change of his professional career.
His ranking has slipped to 51st and he has not triumphed anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters.
A shadow of the player he once was, he is competing this week at the Frys.com Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin, California, a PGA Tour Fall Series event which generally attracts only the journeymen on the U.S. circuit.
(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Martin, California; Editing by Frank Pingue)