TUCSON (Arizona): A tantalizing taste of Tiger Woods merely whetted the golf world’s appetite for the game’s mega-star.
With the golf industry feeling the heat of the global recession, Woods was just what the sponsors ordered, his reappearance at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship here sparking giddy anticipation.
“It’s just great to have him back and healthy,” said US veteran Davis Love. “You can hear them screaming out there. They weren’t screaming on any other matches, but you could hear them screaming on his match. Just a lot of buzz, and that’s what we needed.”
Love noted that Woods’s absence gave young players like Colombian Camilo Villegas and long-hitting American Dustin Johnson a moment in the spotlight.
“Now when he comes back you say, ‘Well, I wonder if Camilo can beat Tiger on a Sunday. I wonder if Dustin Johnson can hit it past Tiger. Things like that are going to really help. But you have to have him back to take a shot at him.”
While US Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has stressed that many of the tour’s sponsors are signed up through 2010, many of those backers are in the troubled banking and financial industry.
Northern Trust Corporation, sponsor of the February tournament in Los Angeles, endured criticism for wining and dining clients at the tournament after receiving funds from the US Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Programme.
Morgan Stanley, sponsor of the Memorial Tournament in Ohio in June, received an injection of government funds — and has already said it won’t send company representatives to the event.
But Woods’ return offers beleagured backers the prospect of a bigger bang for their buck both at the course and on television, with his presence boosting attendance and ratings.
“We’re glad to have him back and healthy, because he’s driving the bus for us right now,” Love said. — AFP