Get the beers on ice – Tiger’s coming

Show me the money - Tiger Woods

Show me the money - Tiger Woods

Just a few short weeks after welcoming Tiger Woods back to the game, golf has found itself embroiled in a bitter controversy surrounding the world’s greatest player.

The biggest stooshie in world golf at the moment seems to be that a bunch of Australians trying to run a golf tournament have dared to dangle a brown envelope containing $3m in unmarked bills in front of Woods’ nose while making cooing noises and come here gestures in a bid to get him to come to their party.

Woods has now pocketed the brown envelope and booked his flight to play in the Australian Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne in November. And you can’t blame him.

And you know what? You can’t blame the organisers either. In times when there’s more golf tournaments than there are weeks of the year, not to mention the current economic gloom, it’s more important than ever for organisers to make their tournament stand out from the crowd and appeal to sponsors.

The column inches already afforded to a tournament that is still eight months away has entirely vindicated their decision and the media circus that will surround Woods in Melbourne before, during and after his first appearance Down Under in more than a decade will give the Australiasian Tour a profile it has never before enjoyed, as well as having the sponsors drooling.

Of course, it is because part of the $3m stumped up for Woods’ appearance is reportedly coming from the Victoria state government that has caused the controversy, even though state premier John Brumby has claimed it will bring in $19m to the economy. I’m not sure how many bottles of Toohey’s Extra Dry it took to come up with that figure, it does seem a bit excessive, but there’s no doubt that when Tiger comes to town it will be big business and he’ll more than pay for his appearance fee.

Indeed, top Australian golfer Stuart Appleby put it pretty bluntly and risked the wrath of the “common man” when he said: “It will be great for the game and bring out a lot of people who haven’t seen him before, in person, not on a video game.

“There’s a lot of people hurting in Australia, and they might look negatively that one guy is paid $3m just to turn up.  The common man won’t understand the business model because the government is paying for it. They might not see the money he brings in.”

Another major bone of contention is the perceived fact that it will take the shine off the Australian Open, staged just two weeks later and historically the more prestigious of the two tournaments. Five-time Open champion and arguably Australia’s greatest ever golfer, Peter Thomson, has waded into the debate by reportedly saying: “In my view it’s going to damage our national Open. He won’t be playing in that but it sucks up potential sponsorship.”

What Thomson may be failing to take into account is that Tiger’s appearances in anything but the big tournaments are a rarity, not least those that involve travelling halfway round the world to play on a tour as small as the Australiasian Tour.

The fact that he is willing to play, albeit thanks to a wad of cash, and that it coincides with a free week is a real coup and not something that organisers could have turned their noses up at.

Who’s to say they didn’t try to get him to the Australian Open a fortnight later? The fact that the Open falls on the same dates as the LG Skins match, or the week before Tiger’s own rearranged Chevron World Challenge Match renders it improbable in the extreme that he would have agreed to play on the opposite side of the planet for even double the $3m he is already receiving.

Australian golf fans should be applauding the tournament organisers and the Victoria state government for their ambition while getting the beers on ice and preparing to see one of the greatest sportsmen alive perform in the flesh.

Of course, I have’t yet touched on the frightening consequences that money, and who has most of it, is now having and will continue to have on the game of golf. But that’s for another blog entirely.

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