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ATT move dives deeper than a staff bag deal

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Accenture’s move two weeks ago to drop Tiger Woods following the world No. 1’s admission of “infidelity” was hardly a game changer. After all, the financial giant was using Woods’ sound decision making as a marketing tool.

Similarly, Nike Golf and Gatorade’s decision to stay with the embattled golfer was also expected, but AT&T Inc.’s New Year’s Eve bombshell that they were dropping support of Woods was equal parts surprising and concerning.

The AT&T-Woods partnership runs deeper than a staff bag deal, which the phone company picked up in 2009. AT&T has sponsored Woods’ own event at Congressional since 2007, and the company is still listed as a “vital partner of the Tiger Woods Foundation” on the organization’s Web site.

Woods will not continue his hosting duties at the AT&T National even if he has returned to the Tour following his self-imposed hiatus from professional golf.

“If Tiger returns to professional golf between now and the 2010 AT&T National, his status as host will not change,” Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communications, told Golf Channel in an e-mail on Dec. 31.

AT&T is under contract to title sponsor the AT&T National event, and the annual Pebble Beach stop, through 2014, but clearly wants to keep Woods at arm’s length and that hurts. After his marriage, his relationship with AT&T should have been atop his post-Black Friday “fix” list, but Thursday’s news makes it clear that partnership is irreparably broken.