According to the latest poll by Harris Interactive, Tiger Woods is still the Number #1 most liked athlete in the United States among adults 18 and up.

Unbelievable? Not at all, if you don’t get distracted by the media pundits and public relations folks.

Bottom line, Tiger Woods is a performance brand. It’s what he does on – not off — the golf course that matters. It’s the same for all athletic brands. If you win, you will be liked (except for those rare cases in which you win but are really, really hard to like).

Tiger might not win every tournament he is in, but in golf no one ever does –so despite what non-golfers might be saying, Tiger really is excelling on the green. The point is consistency, and dogged improvement, which he’s displaying after a very tough year. People who know golf know that Tiger Woods is coming back impressively and much sooner than anyone expected.

The bigger point here is that what matters as a predictor of a sport brand’s ultimate success isn’t the inevitable media uproar –it’s the ability of the performance brand to continue to win and to appeal to his customers and fans.

For Tiger Woods, this means appealing to men between the ages of 18-44 who are sports enthusiasts; enjoy golf; and are more forgiving of male indiscretions even if they’re repugnant. It is this group that is the most important to Tiger and his marketing team. And he hasn’t lost them –not by a long shot.

Many of the public relations people turn to the standard playbook when a crisis like Tiger’s erupts. They seem to think the old mea culpas to everyone must be given and that from some public relations disasters there is simply no recovery.

Tell that to Kobe Bryant –a man not unfamiliar with scandal— who has just moved up the polling ladder to share the Number 1 spot with Tiger. Sports brands that continue to win appeal to their Target Markets because of their winning and also because winning keeps them in the spotlight so that there other traits –grace under pressure, general likeability— get full visibility. By the way, the athletes in the poll who experienced the biggest drops were the ones doing the losing on their field of play.

Again, for Tiger and golf stars in general, winning means being consistent. The golf Target Market, its fans and customers, understands that non-consistency is a key factor in this arduous game and that most lose in this sport because they fail at being consistent. Golf is simply different from all other sports and this will continue to work in Tiger’s favor since his legendary consistency is definitely intact.

So watch for Tiger to continue his upward trend –even though it’s hard to imagine where he can go from Number 1. Sponsors will return when they recognize the advantage to their own brands and when the next public relations crisis hits a great athlete. Bottom line: cut through the buzz and keep an eye on the scorecard.

And remember it is always easier when you have marketing and your target market in mind.

John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert and president of the Marketing Department of America who markets his own services as The Marketing Doctor. He is a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum and the author of a new book "People Buy Brands, Not Companies."

Fox Forum is on Twitter @ FXNopinion