Woods leaves Aussies eager for more

(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-19 09:10

The walking scorer with Woods' group on Sunday is a member at Kingston Heath who plays off a 1 handicap and has a career-best round of 69. She knows her golf. Yet as Woods was about to tee off in the final round, she looked at the teenager holding the scoreboard and said, "This is the holy grail in golf".

Melbourne is the kind of place where sports fans don't typically buy tickets in advance, rather they walk up to the gate on the day of the event. The PGA Tour found that out the hard way in 2001 for the Accenture Match Play Championship when the gallery was sparse until officials gave up on the weekly badges and went to daily tickets.

For the Australian Masters, tickets sold out the first week in October, and 35 percent of the sales were outside the state or country. That's unheard of for this city.

"I think that because he's the No 1 athlete in the world, people appreciated the fact that he came," said Baker-Finch, a former British Open champion who helped with TV coverage. "He's held in high regard. Everyone built him up. It was a special week, not just for golf, but for Australia and sport. To me, he over-delivered."

Rollo said when IMG decided to take over the Australian Masters, its goal was to attract top-ranked players outside of Australia. Victoria won the bidding war for Woods over New South Wales in Sydney, and it proved to be a boon. While the government paid half the appearance fee, it said the economic return in town was $20 million.

Not everyone was optimistic about Woods returning next year, especially since he is expected to be back in 2011 at Royal Melbourne for the Presidents Cup.

What happens in the meantime?

Woods' appearance in the Quad City Classic as a 20-year-old in 1996 - he lost a 54-hole lead to Ed Fiori and tied for fifth - generated so much enthusiasm that the community rallied around its PGA Tour stop. Woods never returned, although what is now the John Deere Classic is attracting stronger fields than before, even in its spot on the calendar one week before the British Open.

Rollo said IMG is commited to bringing in three international players - in addition to the Australians - from the top 25 in the world. There was talk of making an offer to Phil Mickelson, along with a couple of other players who might move the needle.

"Hopefully, there were a lot of kids who were out there or watched on TV and said, 'I want to be part of that'," Rollo said. "Hopefully, that will be Tiger's legacy going forward."



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