Tiger Woods, of course, was the last person responsible. The figure filberts at IMG try to figure out how much the particular market will bear. If theyre correct, a deal is struck. Tiger boards the jet and plays for a week. He comes back to Florida, and all concerned are satisfied.
Thats the way it is with the sheiks of Dubai. Germans cough and then pony up. So do the Thais and Indonesians. The Chinese do it and the Argentineans and the French. Its only when the good burghers of New Zealand are involved that IMG has problems.
They were expecting perhaps 100,000 to show up at the New Zealand Open last week. They knew they had to have at least 70,000 to just break even, what with the approximately $2 million they had paid for the privilege of having Tiger. They were shocked when less than 40,000 showed up for five days to watch Woods squeak by the cut, then eventually finish tied for sixth. Can you say bath with a Kiwi accent?
Its hardly Tigers fault, which is the pity. Hes merely a tool, albeit a very wealthy one. The businessmen at IMG were trying to get the most they could for his appearance ' say, 15 percent of $2 million, approximately $300,000? The New Zealand businessmen, raising ticket prices from approximately $22 for the week to $198 a week this year, were dreaming of the huge profits they expected to make.
And Tiger ' well, he dutifully boarded his jet and showed up. He played at the course of his trusty caddie, Steve Williams. He went through the greeting ceremonies and rubbed noses with 40 or so local dignitaries. He ate a lot of cheeseburgers and jogged with Steve on a local road. And then he left the same way he had came.
In the meantime, some very big toes were stepped on. Greg Turners, for instance.
Turner was one of the pros who was caught up in the unusual traffic pattern to allow for Woods entourage. It probably would never have happened had not someone sent cyanide to the police shortly before Tigers arrival. The upshot was that Turner arrived for his 8:45 tee time Thursday and was suddenly, abruptly, vectored down a lane toward the back of the course, from where he had to tote his bag a long distance back to the clubhouse. He was livid.
It has been all about one player with no thought given for the 143 others in the field, Turner, himself a New Zealander, raged. It is more like an exhibition match than a national championship.
Its not the only thing, there has been a catalog of little things like that. Its like a handicap event where he started off with an advantage over the rest of the field.
Craig Perks, another New Zealand pro, agreed. I think all the emphasis was put on Tiger Woods and they forgot about everyone else, which is a shame, he said.
Other golfers, however, understood perfectly. When youve won green jackets, claret jugs, PGAs and (U.S.) Opens, you can do anything you want, said Australian Wayne Riley.
And New Zealands Michael Campbell, who missed a putt on the 72nd green that would have forced a playoff with eventual winner Craig Parry, knew exactly what to expect when he signed up for the tournament.
Ive had no problems at all, he said. The security is needed, in that this is the worlds most recognized athlete and those guys are doing a great job.
Campbell, incidentally, made a particularly heart-warming gesture when he donated his entire runner-up check to charity. One portion was to a group which provides accommodations for families of sick children staying in hospitals, the rest to Wellingtons junior golfers.
The total of the check, however, was only about $35,000 for second place. Woods made just over $15,000 for finishing in a tie for sixth. He would have won $150,000 or so for finishing tied for sixth at the PGA Tour event in Hawaii, but then there wouldnt have been the $2 million appearance fee, would there?
The dozen investors that put up between $100,000 and $500,000 each to bring the circus act to Wellington were sadly disillusioned. They didnt happen upon a kings ransom, unfortunately. But IMG got theirs. Tiger got his. And New Zealand came away with a black eye, thanks to the sheets of rain, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the cyanide caper, and perhaps the ticket prices themselves.
Dont blame Tiger himself, though, for this fiasco. Blame IMG for the bloated appearance fee. Blame the greedy businessmen of New Zealand. And if they didnt like the appearance by Woods, the other golfers should heed a very important principal the next time Tiger shows up.
That is, simply ' dont come.