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The Tiger Effect – good
and bad for Aussie golf
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Us PgA toUr Editor Evin Priest
mAnAging dirECtor Nick Cutler
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AdvErtising mAnAgEr Stephen Louis
viC, tAs, sA
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AdvErtising mAnAgEr Gary Ward
nsW, WA, nt, QLd
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AdvErtising mAnAgEr Peter Cur tin
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Sydney NSW 2001
S WE try to contain ourselves with
Tiger’s return to the US PGA Tour,
I thought I’d share a little story on
the consequences of his star power. More
specifically, it’s a story of epic inflation.
During a recent office clean-up I
stumbled upon the February 1993 edition of
Australian Golf Digest – coincidentally
25 years to the month of the edition you’re
reading now. While flicking through the
discoloured pages, one article immediately
stood out. It was written by Golf Digest
USA editor-in-chief Jerry Tarde and titled ‘So
you want to hire the Shark for a day’.
In his editorial, Tarde revealed the fees
players were demanding to tee it up in a
tournament or make an appearance at a
corporate function. Greg Norman was the
man back then and commanded a king’s
ransom. Fair enough. But other figures were
just as eye-catching. A young Phil Mickelson
and legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald both
charged $US30,000 plus expenses for a one-
day appearance. “Now Phil is a nice young
man with, in the words of a TV commentator,
‘his future still ahead of him’. But Ella is
Ella, the greatest who ever lived. She could
give Phil two shots each nine,” wrote Tarde,
who made no secret of just how well our
professionals had things back then.
“Modesty is rare in sport today, especially
among the mercenaries who call themselves
professional golfers,” Tarde wrote. “It
might seem at times that golf pros should
have to pay to fly first class, be picked up in
limousines, hang around influential people
and play golf on great courses. But, in fact,
golf pros who do these things are the ones
paid sums of money that would make a
Colombian drug cartel blush.”
Fees were similar in Australia at the time,
too. According to International Management
Group (IMG), a Major winner could command
$US25,000 while a multiple tournament
winner could expect to fetch $8,000 -$12,000
for gracing us with his presence.
To put that in perspective, in 1993 the
average full-time Australian salary was
$33,000, the median house price in Sydney
was $188,000 and the average size purse on
the lucrative US PGA Tour was $1 million.
Fast-forward 25 years and the numbers are
staggering. The average Australian salary
is more than $80,000 (up 140 percent), the
median house price in Sydney is $909,000
(up 380 percent) and US PGA Tour purses
are now $7 million (up 600 percent).
Pretty impressive, right? Now comprehend
this: Major winner Jordan Spieth was
reportedly paid $1 million to play the
Australian Open. That’s up 3,900 percent
from 1993 numbers. Just to show up!
Who do we thank for this? The man on the
cover of this magazine.
“I think it all started when Tiger was
paid upwards of $US3 million to come
out to Australia in 2009,” a source inside
tournament golf tells us. “ That 2009
Australian Masters was the tipping point and
now we’re seeing ridiculous demands coming
through other from player managers.”
Such outrageous demands include a recent
one-time Major winner asking for upwards
of $US700,000 to play an Aussie event this
summer, a likeable Champions Tour player
commanding $US300,000 to touch down for
a miserly four days, and several US PGA Tour
players well outside the world’s top-50 all
wanting north of $US200,000.
But our source says the biggest frustration
for tournament promoters is the demands of
some of the lower-ranked Australian players,
both young and old, who continually ask for
everything but the kitchen sink to come and
play. At home. In the place where they got
their start. A place where they may even feel
compelled to give back to the game?
While inflated egos and appearance fees
are huge hurdles for Australian golf to climb,
there’s an even bigger problem at play.
“You can’t run a golf tournament in
Australia without state government support,”
adds our source. “But the problem is the
governments now want exclusivity rights on
players they help sign up. That’s just wrong
and counter-productive for the future of the
game. Nobody wants to see a Jason Day, Adam
Scott, Jordan Spieth or Marc Leishman only
play one tournament in Australia. We need to
get more bang for our buck, collectively, but
it can’t happen in the current environment.”
Private jets, million-dollar endorsements
and the greatest superannuation scheme
in the world, all for hitting a little white ball
around with equipment so good it would
make Ben Hogan turn in his grave.
“Pro golfers take for granted the kind of
treatment that is usually promised only to
winners of lotteries. They have no idea how
good they have it and how unfair life really
is,” Tarde wrote in ’93 . Today’s millionaires
club have Tiger to thank for that. He's made a
lot lesser players a whole lot richer. And he's
one win away from doing it all again.
12 australiangolfdigest.com.au | february 2018
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