Make all the jokes you want to about Tiger Woods' latest endorsement deal—several media outlets indicate that he has signed with a Japanese company to promote a heat rub lotion—but Woods will have the last laugh.
Obviously, just a few years ago, reports that Woods was promoting a new product weren't terribly newsworthy. He was this century's most coveted and frequent sports pitchman. That was until his 2009-2010 sex scandal cost him his deals with Gatorade, Accenture, Gillette and AT&T, among others.
Although he was able to retain his contracts with Nike, Upper Deck, EA Sports, and a few other companies, this pain-relief lotion contract with Kowa Company Ltd. is his first new deal since the scandal broke.
And while some critics out there might choose to look at this and think, "he should be concerned with getting his knee healthy or honing his short game, not hawking products," as strange as it sounds, I think this will help improve Tiger's golf game.
Assuming his knee comes around and he is able to return to form physically, the most important thing for Tiger is to get his confidence back. Sure, he's been through slumps before, like the major drought from 2002-2005. But during that stretch he still won tournaments, something he hasn't done in more than a year and a half.
As much as Tiger prides himself on his performance in majors and cares the most about surpassing Jack Nicklaus' record of 18, don't discount how important it is to go out and win a PGA tournament, even if it's not the Masters, PGA, U.S. Open or British Open. Those are confidence boosters, and they prove to Tiger and the field that he is still the best on Tour, at least for that week.
He hasn't been able to do that since September 2009, so he can't feel indestructible on the golf course anymore. And since the last time he set foot on a golf course for a tournament (the Players) he had to withdraw after nine holes, his confidence has to be near rock bottom right now.
A new endorsement deal, regardless of whether or not the ads will only run in Japan, should help him feel like the clouds of the sex scandal are starting to disappear and help restore some of his ego.
A humble, repentant Tiger may have been necessary in the wake of the sex scandal, but that Tiger is out of place on the golf course. What he needs is a bit more self-assurance, even arrogance, when he sets foot on the tee.
He needs to know he can drive the ball straight, make an up-and-down or sink a long putt to show up the critics who think he's washed up.
Infusing a little bit of Hollywood—or in this case, Nagoya—could be just what the doctor ordered for Woods.