AFTER a dramatic fall from grace in 2009, Tiger Woods is not only back on top of the world golf rankings, he is also back at No.1 on the list of the world's 100 highest-paid athletes.
In its annual ranking of the top earners in world sport, US business magazine Forbes had Woods back at the top with estimated annual earnings of $US78.1 million, ahead of good friend Roger Federer on $71.5million.
Woods' resurgence came on the back of increased winnings thanks to his improved play, as well as new endorsements, course design contracts, appearance money and earnings from the Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game franchise.
Now in its 16th series, the video game is the fifth-biggest all-time for Electronic Arts, having generated $754million since its launch in 1998, according to research firm NPD Group.
Woods could be set for an even bigger payday next year, with reports suggesting he was about to sign a lucrative new deal with major sponsor Nike who he has been with since he turned professional in 1996.
When it comes to sponsorship deals, no-one holds a candle to Federer who earns more than $40million annually from 10 major sponsors including Nike, Rolex, Credit Suisse and Moet & Chandon.
The Swiss ace also picked up a lazy $14million for a six-event exhibition tour of South America in December.
Third on the list was LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant with $61.9million, narrowly ahead of fellow NBA giant LeBron James on $59.8million.
The biggest "loser" on the list was boxer Floyd "Money" Mayweather who dropped from No.1 last year to No.14 with earnings of just $34million.
Mayweather, who promotes his own bouts, may be down but he is not out.
The 36-year-old, who earned $85million for his two fights in 2012 before a stint in jail for assault, has just signed one of the most lucrative contracts in sports history, a six-fight deal expected to bring him more than $200million.
Mind you, the renowned huge gambler might need it if his luck turns bad - Mayweather reportedly bet $5.9million on Miami Heat to beat Indiana by more than seven points in game seven of the NBA Eastern Conference final series on Monday night - the Heat won by 23.
The leading cricketer on the list was Indian captain MS Dhoni at No.16 with $31.5million, while the fastest man on the planet, Jamaican Usain Bolt, came in at No.40 with a respectable $24.2million.
Not surprisingly, all bar $200,000 of that came from sponsorship and appearance money.
Three females - all tennis players - also made the top 100.
Maria Sharapova led the way at No.22 with earnings of $29million, Serena Williams came in at No.68 with $20.5million, While Li Na's popularity in China earned her position 85 with $18.2million.
TOP 10 EARNERS
1: Tiger Woods (golf) $78.1million
2: Roger Federer (tennis) $71.5million
3: Kobe Bryant (basketball) $61.9million
4: LeBron James (basketball) $59.8million
5: Drew Brees (gridiron) $51million
6: Aaron Rodgers (gridiron) $49million
7: Phil Mickelson (golf) $48.7million
8: David Beckham (football) $47.2million
9: Cristiano Ronaldo (football) $44million
10: Lionel Messi (football) $41.3million
* Figures provided by Forbes business magazine
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