In positive news, Tiger Woods remains the world's most popular branded athlete, with a "brand value" of $82 million, according to a new Forbes report. While the report was based on info compiled Pre-Hydrant, it's worth noting that according to Forbes, Tiger "will still earn enough to keep him the world's highest-paid athlete in 2010, even if he does not hit a single golf ball all year." Woods' 2009 endorsement total is more than the next three athletes combined. Other top brands: Nike, the Super Bowl and Manchester United.
As for Woods' future prospects beyond 2010 -- while he has many vocal detractors -- you'll see a few of them showing up in the comments below -- we're a forgiving nation, one with a relatively short-term memory. If Tiger shows contrition -- and, more importantly, if he starts winning again -- the vast majority of America will forgive him his "transgressions" and welcome him back. Sponsors are counting on that, and it's likely that Woods won't ever come close to vacating the top sponsorship spot.
Now, on the rumormongering front: according to RadarOnline, which has been right more often than it's been wrong in the Tiger case, Tiger has allegedly left the facility in Hattiesburg, Miss. where he was allegedly receiving treatment for an alleged sex addiction. (Think that's conditional enough?) RadarOnline does the typical anonymous-source/unbylined article route, which means you need to take this rumor with a shakerful of salt. Still, if you wish to believe it, the article indicates that Woods and wife Elin left the facility under heavy security on Friday. This is in line with rumblings that Woods is planning a return to golf sooner rather than later, perhaps Augusta, perhaps even sooner.
Speculation station: why not announce a comeback date this weekend? The Super Bowl will be dominating headlines, and by the time that calms down on Monday afternoon, it'll be old news. But then, Team Tiger hasn't done the expected or predictable thing for two months now, so we shall all wait and see.