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Tiger Woods returns to video games with 2K Sports deal

Hall-of-fame golfer to return to console games after eight-year layoff

Tiger Woods teeing off in the final round of the 2019 Masters, his 15th major championship victory. Photo: Augusta National via Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

2K will acquire HB Studios, the developer of two golf games for the publisher, and the creator of The Golf Club franchise before that, and golf superstar Tiger Woods will return to console video games as a licensing partner and executive director of the series, the publisher announced Tuesday morning.

The deal makes Nova Scotia-based HB the seventh wholly owned studio under the 16-year-old 2K publishing label. It also means the first video game appearance for Woods, 45, since 2013, when he and Electronic Arts parted ways after his 15-year run on the cover of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series for EA Sports.

Terms of both deals were not disclosed.

Woods won the 2019 Masters Tournament, his 15th major championship victory, and first since the 2008 U.S. Open. But his return to a professional tour is in doubt following a serious single-car rollover accident on Feb. 23 in which he suffered broken bones in both legs. In a statement Tuesday, 2K president David Ismailer indicated the accident may have interrupted plans to announce the partnership earlier.

“In golf, there is no bigger icon than Tiger Woods,” Ismailer said. “Like the rest of the world, we were saddened to hear of his recent accident, and we wish him a full and smooth recovery. We have been eager to announce our partnership with Tiger, whose legendary career has transcended the sport.”

In a statement provided by 2K, Woods did not mention his recovery, but said he was looking forward to returning to video games and “to sharing my expertise and insights as we build the future of golf video games together.”

HB Studios launched The Golf Club for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One in 2014, and three more golf simulation games since then, most recently last year’s PGA Tour 2K21. The company also made The Golf Club 2019 for 2K Sports, which marked the PGA Tour’s return to licensed console video gaming following 2015’s Rory McIlroy PGA Tour for EA Sports.

Tuesday’s announcements will solidify professional golf as the third league license 2K Sports will manage, along with its 21-year-old, billion-dollar NBA 2K powerhouse, and the WWE 2K series that began in 2013. (2K Sports is also developing games under the NFL’s license for the first time since 2004, although those are “non-simulation football video game experiences,” as simulation football titles remain the exclusive domain of EA Sports’ Madden NFL series.)

2K Sports also bounces back from parent company Take-Two Interactive’s unsuccessful attempt to acquire motorsports powerhouse Codemasters, a deal both sides thought they reached in November, but was overridden a month later by a $1.2 billion bid from rival EA.

Even in the later stages of his professional career, and even if Woods’ injuries wind up ending that run, he is still, unquestionably, the most visible and most celebrated pro golfer in the world today. 2K Sports has also managed close promotional relationships with several megastars since it began in 2005, most notably with Michael Jordan and the late Kobe Bryant on the NBA 2K series since 2009.

Tuesday’s announcement said Woods will play an active role in PGA Tour 2K’s development. The deal also makes Woods’ name and likeness exclusive to 2K Sports video games, simulation and otherwise. The length of the deal was not described, but Tuesday’s statement did call it a long-term partnership.