Golfer Tiger Woods Tuesday announced he is planning to return to the PGA Tour next month at The Masters in Augusta, GA, his first tournament since his infamous car crash – and subsequent public admission of his infidelities – derailed his career late last November.
“The Masters is where I won my first major, and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta,” Woods said in a statement posted on his Web site. “The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been awhile since I last played.”
When Woods would return, and the impact of his absence, had been the source of much speculation in recent months. And, it was thought that he might play a tune up match or two before golf’s first major tournament of the year.
Woods dashed those hopes with his announcement of returning at The Masters. “When I finally got into a position to think about competitive golf again, it became apparent to me that the Masters would be the earliest I could play. I called both Joe Lewis and Arnold Palmer and expressed my regrets for not attending the Tavistock Cup and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. I again want to thank them both for their support and their understanding. Those are fantastic tournaments, and I look forward to competing in them again.”
As one of sports’ true superstars, it is hard to downplay Woods’ impact on the PGA Tour. Television ratings plummet for tournaments he doesn’t play in, and in the 15 years he has been on the tour total price money has more than quadrupled, known as the “Tiger Effect,” from about $66 million in 1996 to nearly $280 million in 2010, according to USA Today.
“I think it’s great,” Zach Anderson, vice president of marketing for Texas-based ticket broker Ticket City, told TicketNews. “He’s obviously a big attraction in golf, and people want to see him.”
Whether his presence in the field will have an effect on ticket sales for The Masters remains to be seen, Anderson said, because the event is traditionally a huge draw whether Woods is playing or not.
“It’s the type of event that does a lot of corporate business, and people who make plans well in advance because they want to experience it, like fathers and sons or couples planning a special trip,” he said. “So, it remains to be seen whether Tiger’s return will truly impact Masters’ ticket sales, but what it may do is influence those who were on the fence about going.”
“This really bodes well for the tour’s other majors, and possibly the Ryder Cup because now it looks like he’ll at least play a full slate of major championships, and the timing of the announcement will give people enough time to prepare for those other matches,” Anderson said.
Cortney Storsved, director of operations for Minnesota-based Ticket King, believes Woods’ return at The Masters will boost ticket sales, but the company is not necessarily going to rush out to buy more PGA tickets for resale.
“I think there will definitely be greater demand for The Masters tournament now that Tiger has announced his return to golf,” she said. “Ticket King doesn’t foresee buying more PGA tickets this year as compared with years past, but we will probably be willing to shell out a little more money than last year if someone calls us looking to sell their PGA badges.”