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Just the ticket: Masters passes reselling for record highs

By Will GrayApril 1, 2018, 3:00 pm

The Masters is upon us, and by all accounts it will be one of the most anticipated events in recent years. But all the excitement means that those hoping to score a spot at Augusta National Golf Club as patrons had better be ready to dig deep into their wallets.

Masters tickets are among the most highly-sought in sports, let alone golf, and they’re relatively scarce compared with other major sporting events. With the most basic principles of supply and demand in full effect, it’s no surprise that ticket prices can often reach eye-popping totals among third-party resellers.

Face value, like most things tied to the Masters, is surprisingly low: $75 for a practice round ticket, and $115 for a competition round. But the relative inaccessibility of tickets, except for those who had them before the club closed sales in the 1970s or the lucky few to win them in the tournament’s annual online ticket lottery, means prices on the street can reach 20 times face value.

It’s an annual tradition, and one that has reached unprecedented heights this spring with the renaissance of Tiger Woods.

The self-described “walking miracle” will stroll down Magnolia Lane this week for the first time since 2015 and just the second time in the last five years. He enters off a trio of top-12 finishes in Florida, and he brings with him equal parts excitement and expectation.

The Tiger Effect has been felt by StubHub, which has seen Masters prices set new highs each of the last four years. But this time around, with Woods among the favorites, interest is up 20 percent over last year based on orders already received.

“While demand has continuously increased each year for the Masters, we think it has spiked specifically this year due to Tiger’s involvement,” said StubHub spokesperson Cameron Papp.

It’s a similar story at TicketIQ, another reseller where the average asking price for a single-day ticket during competition rounds currently sits at $2,604. That’s more than ever before, and it’s nearly double the average asking price for the same range of single-day tickets for the 2015 Masters.

That average is actually on a slight downtick in recent weeks, as Masters prices peaked at $2,948 on TicketIQ near the end of February – just as Woods finished 12th at the Honda Classic while first flashing the form that has since made him one of the betting favorites.

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But don’t expect that downward trend to continue. TicketIQ founder Jesse Lawrence shared that prices for Sunday’s final round soared 71 percent during tournament week last year, as Sergio Garcia played his way to a breakthrough victory.

The highest single-day ticket already sold at TicketIQ for this year is $2,500, but based on last year’s trend Lawrence expects that the asking price for the final round could exceed $3,000 if Woods is in the mix.

“If Tiger is in the running heading into Sunday,” Lawrence said, “prices would likely go up even more than that.”

The murky waters of ticket resale are always a guessing game, as buyers and sellers both try to anticipate the peaks and valleys of a volatile market that can sometimes turn upside down in a matter of hours. But regardless of the names in contention come Sunday, anyone buying a ticket on the virtual street will likely be shelling out some serious cash.

At StubHub, the average price among tickets already sold for Thursday’s opening round is $1,862, up 9 percent from last year. A final-round ticket has been fetching, on average, $1,572.

Even practice-round tickets aren’t exactly cheap. The most inexpensive ticket available for Monday is $470 on StubHub, while one for Wednesday that would gain a patron access to both the tournament course and the afternoon’s Par 3 Contest starts at $650.

And if Masters tickets are viewed as rare, week-long badges might as well be considered unicorns. The few floating around the marketplace can reach up to $10,000 in asking price, with the average price of four-day (Thursday-Sunday) badges already sold on StubHub currently $5,752 – up 18 percent from last year.

When talking about purchase prices that exceed the monthly income of many Americans, there’s no room for the risk that a ticket might be anything but legitimate. A recent report noted that officials at Augusta National have begun to crack down in an effort to curb third-party ticket sales, using a series of color codes on the ticket to trace back advertised tickets to the original name and order number.

If caught, individuals can reportedly expect a letter from the club informing them that they’ve been removed from future ticket lotteries and the tickets they had purchased have been cancelled.

It creates the possibility of a situation where a fan could drop thousands of dollars on a ticket through a third-party, only to roll up to the tournament and find out that the club has already caught the original seller and invalidated the tickets in question.

It’s a potentially stomach-churning situation for fans, but not one that concerns TicketIQ’s founder.

“We work with sellers that are in ‘good standing’ with Augusta, so we won’t have that issue,” Lawrence said. “I think their ‘hard-line’ stance is meant to scare off resellers who solicit tickets from members.”

But such a scenario that would fall under StubHub’s Fan Protect Guarantee, where the company finds a replacement ticket at no cost or offers a 100 percent refund in the event that there is an “issue” with a ticket purchased through their site.

“StubHub has been made aware of the increased scrutiny on those looking to sell their Masters badge use,” Papp said. “StubHub and the secondary market play an important role in providing access to fans who otherwise would not be able to attend. As always, buyers are protected by our Fan Protect Guarantee, and we will do everything in our power to ensure fans have the best possible experience at the Masters.”

It remains one of the most exclusive events in golf, both for players trying to earn invites and fans hoping simply to walk across the hallowed grounds during tournament week. And heading into one of the most-hyped Masters in recent memory, there are still plenty of tickets available.

But they’ll cost you.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.