December 4, 2022

Volume XII, Number 338


December 02, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis

Tiger Woods Misses the Cut in Golf Memorabilia Dispute

Tiger Woods skipped The Masters this year for the first time in 20 years because he was recuperating from back surgery. But his back may not be the only source of his pain. Last month, in a contentious business dispute, Woods also was knocked off the leader board by a jury that, after two hours of deliberation, returned a verdict against Woods for over $668,000. While Woods has excelled over the years at The Masters – what golf fan doesn't have an image of Woods in his Sunday final round red shirt/black slacks outfit strolling the gorgeous No. 13 Azalea hole at Augusta – this past March, he could not chip his way out of trouble in a long-running litigation in Florida over licensed autographs and memorabilia. 

Bruce Matthews, plaintiff in the suit against Woods, is the owner of Gotta Have It Golf, Inc., a sports memorabilia retailer that specializes in golf.  Gotta Have It accused Woods of failing to honor a 2001 licensing agreement, pursuant to which Woods's company, ETW Corp., was supposed to provide a certain number of autographs and photographs. According to the plaintiff's claims, ETW fell short of the 1,300 autographs required under the agreement, provided only 550 autographs in 2003 and denied Gotta Have It the use of certain photographs. Gotta Have It sued for breach of contract, breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing and violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Fellow golf legend (and inspiration for the eponymous summer beverage) Arnold Palmer was also named as a defendant in the suit and was accused of violating the same licensing agreement with his company Arnold Palmer Enterprises.  Indeed, Palmer, Woods, Matthews and Gotta Have It are a longtime foursome, having been involved in a prior suit in the late '90s, also over sports memorabilia.  While Palmer's company settled the current suit outside of court in 2003, Woods refused to let Matthews play through and elected to go to trial.

Unfortunately for Woods, slow and steady did not win the race, despite everything the sport of golf presumably has taught him. After upwards of a decade in litigation (with Woods even taking the stand at the Florida trial), Tiger scored a hole in none on March 12, when a jury found in favor of Gotta Have It on its breach of contract and other related claims, rejected ETW's breach of contract counterclaims, and awarded Gotta Have It $668,346 in damages. (Gotta Have It Golf, Inc. v. Arnold Palmer Enterprises, Inc., No. 03-19490 (Fla. Cir. Ct. Jury Verdict Mar. 12, 2014). The award may move north of $1 million once interest has been factored in.

While Woods's quest for a 15th major is still ongoing, golf fans and court watchers alike should not dismay if they find this sort of thing interesting – it appears that ETW may appeal the verdict. Perhaps more appealing, Woods fans can follow his official blog about the progress of his rehab and musings on his personal activities since the surgery.  Spoiler alert: Woods gives a shout out to his new bestie Tony Romo who had "the exact same procedure" and offers updates on his new golf course design projects in Cabo San Lucas (El Cardonal) and in Montgomery, Texas (Bluejack National), activities that we can assume take his mind at least a fairway wood away from the Florida courtroom.   

© 2022 Proskauer Rose LLP. National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 137

About this Author

L. Robert Batterman, Labor, Management, Sports, Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

A partner since 1974, Bob Batterman has considerable experience representing both individual employers and multi-employer groups in union relations and collective bargaining. Much of Bob’s time is spent in day-to-day contact with clients, often in “crisis” situations where a rapid resolution of union-related problems is vital.

Bob is a senior member of our nationally recognized Sports Law Group, serving as labor counsel to the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer and the National Football League. He has extensive experience in collective...

Michael Cardozo, Commercial Litigation Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

Michael A. Cardozo is a Partner in Proskauer’s Litigation Department and the former Corporation Counsel for the City of New York. As the city's 77th and longest serving Corporation Counsel, he was the city’s chief legal officer, headed the city's Law Department of more than 700 lawyers, and served from 2002 through 2013 as legal counsel to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, elected officials, the city and its agencies.

Michael’s experience managing large litigations in both the private and public sectors provides him with unique insight into litigation assessments, risk management and...

Robert L. Freeman, Technology, Media, Sports, Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

Robert E. Freeman is a Partner in the Corporate Department and a member of the Sports Law Group and Technology, Media & Communications Group.

Rob began his career as an intellectual property litigator before shifting the focus of his practice to intellectual property-related transactions. Today, he helps lead a team of media, sports and entertainment attorneys representing clients such as Time Warner Cable, Discovery Communications, the WTA, the Orlando Magic, Scripps Networks, Armstrong Cable, the PAC-12, Insight Communications and CBS Sports. Rob’s work for these clients...

Howard Ganz, Sports, Employment Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

Howard Ganz is co-head of the Sports Law Group and former co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Law Department.

Howard represents and counsels clients with respect to a wide variety of labor and employment matters, such as employment discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation, breach of contract, discipline, and large-scale reductions-in-force. His litigation experience has run the gamut, from single plaintiff lawsuits to major class actions, in federal and state courts in New York and elsewhere. The clients Howard has represented include the National...

Wayne D. Katz, Finance, Sports, Attorney, Proskauer, Law Firm

Wayne D. Katz is a Partner in the Corporate Department, specializing in the sports industry.

Wayne's experience includes the representation of the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League in their various corporate matters, including team ownership transfers and team financings. Major transactions he has worked on for the leagues include the NBA’s purchase and sale of the New Orleans Hornets; the NBA's grant of expansion franchises to Toronto, Vancouver and Charlotte; the NHL's grant of expansion franchises to Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota; the NBA’s $...