The credit crunch and accompanying global recession claimed its most famous sporting victim last night when General Motors, the troubled American carmaker, announced that it was ending its sponsorship deal with the world's most recognisable athlete, Tiger Woods.
The deal between GM and Woods, said to be worth more than $10m (£6.6m) a year to the golfer, had endured for almost a decade and become one of the most visible sponsorship arrangements in sport, not least because Woods' golf bag had been transformed into an advertisement for Buick, one of the carmaker's brands.
As part of the deal, the world No1 also took part in television commercials for the budget-priced range of cars - a source of mirth in some circles because Woods is reported to drive a Porsche. Ironically, during the nine years he has been promoting Buick its sale have reportedly fallen by 58% - more than any other GM brand.
Senior managers from GM travelled to Washington DC last week to ask Congress for a $25bn (£16.5bn) loan in order to stave off the possibility of bankruptcy, although a spokesman for the company said the decision to sever its links with Woods at this time was "purely coincidental". He said: "This decision is the result of discussions that started earlier in the year and the timing of this agreement with these other activities is purely coincidental." Last week, Buick announced it was also ending its arrangement to provide courtesy cars for players and officials at PGA Tour events in the US.
Woods, who is currently recuperating from knee surgery and is not expected to return to competitive play until next year, released a statement saying he was proud of his association with the company. "I have enjoyed being a part of the company's dramatic product evolution. We've had a lot of fun together and I participated in some rewarding activities. We've enjoyed a tremendous partnership over the years and we will maintain strong ties," he said.
Last year Woods also suffered the indignity of losing a deal with American Express and yesterday's announcement will have been a severe blow to his pride. It will not, however, cause much consternation for his bank manager. According to Golf Digest magazine, Woods earned more than $120m (£79m) in deals last year, and he is a constant presence at the top of "world's richest athlete" lists.