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Golf pays for links to Tiger’s folly

There was a time when professional golf tournaments were sponsored by the likes of Lehman Bros. and Merrill Lynch.

However, now that those and other once well-moneyed firms have dissolved, gone bankrupt or are shamelessly refueled on the taxpayers’ dime, a new breed of sponsor has hit the links.

I offer last weekend’s Waste Management Phoenix Open as Exhibit A.

Reliance on a garbage conglomerate to underwrite professional golf may be indicative of Wall Street’s meltdown and subsequent lack of four-star sponsors to fill the bill. But I blame it on Tiger Woods.

According to numbers crunched by a couple of UC Davis professors, Woods’ philandering has cost $12 billion in stock value for some of his sponsors, who have been racing away from their cootie-inflicted cash cow with all the grace of a corporate CEO whose hair is on fire.

Accenture, AT&T, Gillette and GM have all broken ranks with Woods. And it doesn’t appear that his hypermanaged “apology” last month did anything to stanch the flow.

Gatorade just dumped him, but Nike’s holding on — for now.

Yet, Tiger says he’s going to change his stripes. He’s undergoing sex addiction therapy.

To get a handle as to why a guy who seemingly had the world by the tail, only to gamble it away on dime-a-dozen escorts and ending up in a sex addiction clinic, I called licensed sex therapist Jill Denton.

From her Los Osos office she said she wasn’t really surprised that someone of Woods’ constitution would get in such a jam.

Like most addictions, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, shopping or the Internet, sex addiction “is a pathological attachment to a mood-altering experience,” she said. “We’re talking about neuro pathways, and which ones are being stimulated.”

Apparently there’s a type of personality that may be more prone to sexual addiction. They tend to be individuals who thrive on risk and stress and live high-profile lifestyles, such as actors Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen and Warren Beatty. Or President Bill Clinton. “These are people who are used to being ‘on,’ ” she explained.

“Day traders, emergency room doctors, UN teams going into war-torn countries love their work; these people can have sex addiction.

“Tiger was leading a double life. He had handlers to handle his golf career and another set of handlers for his sex life.”

It’s anybody’s guess what Woods will do to rehabilitate his career, although I’m thinking five PGA wins and a couple majors in 2011 will mollify those who opt for the United States of Amnesia. If not, it’s doubtful even Nike will remain on Team Tiger, despite all the efforts of his handlers — who really are waste managers when it comes right down to it.

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