AP Golf Writer
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) -- Tiger Woods will have a new sponsor on his bag when he returns to competition, signing an endorsement deal with Denver-based MusclePharm Corp. that could include his own line of nutrition products.
MusclePharm, a performance and lifestyle sports nutrition company, announced on its website Wednesday that the contract includes sponsorship of his golf bag.
"We are excited to work with Tiger to bring more attention to nutritional science and how it can enhance strength and overall athletic performance, and most importantly, fuel athletes safely," said Brad Pyatt, the chairman and CEO, a former receiver for the Indianapolis Colts.
The deal starts July 1. When anyone will see the bag remains a mystery.
Woods has not played since March 9 at Doral, and he had back surgery three weeks later that so far has kept him out of the Masters and the U.S. Open. Speculation that he might return in time for the British Open has been fueled by news that Woods is able to take a fuller swing.
"That's just the start date of the contract," said Mark Steinberg, his agent at Excel Sports Management. "Yes, he is swinging more freely. Yes, he is expanding the range of his swing each day. That's a natural progression. He was never going to go from babying sand wedges 50 yards to teeing it up in competition. Because he's feeling very good, each day is a step toward an expansive swing. As soon as he's good for a number of days, and gets material reps at full-go mentality and physicality, he'll have a green light."
Woods is tournament host next week for the Quicken Loans National at Congressional. The British Open is July 17-20. Woods, who has not won a major since capturing his 14th in the 2008 U.S. Open, has never missed three straight majors.
MusclePharm replaces Fuse Science on his golf bag, which he had endorsed since November 2011. The company never gained much traction, and it was rare to see a sponsor have such prime space without any television commercials, or significant marketing campaign.
No gets more TV time than Woods. A logo on the bag rates behind the cap, shirt front and shirt sleeve or collar in exposure. MusclePharm becomes only the fifth corporate brand to occupy that space on the bag behind Titleist, Buick, AT&T and Fuse.
It's the first significant endorsement deal that Woods has signed since Fuse.
"It's a cool company," Steinberg said. "We talked to these guys at MusclePharm a couple of years and didn't have availability. The attraction is they're a company about the athlete and helping the athlete perform better. When people think about Tiger, he was one of the first athletes in the sport of golf. Not it seems that everybody is an athletes. That resonated a bit with Tiger and I."
Among other athletes endorsed by MusclePharm are San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and New York Jets receiver Eric Decker.
Steinberg said there was potential for Woods to have his own line of products with the company. He once had his own line in a former deal with Gatorade. He said Woods will be promoted in print and electronic ads, as well as through social media.
"This collaboration would be fun and authentic," he said. "And from the MusclePharm side, their feeling is Tiger is helping them reach a whole new demographic."
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