Wed, Mar. 31, 2010
When Tiger Woods declared on March 16 that he would emerge from golf hibernation at the Masters, Dalton Daves of Little Rock, Ark., was offering four tickets to Wednesday's final practice round on eBay for $1,400.
The online auction's rules prevented him from raising the asking price to $1,650, as he had wished.
"We all thought Tiger was going to play all along," Daves said, regretting that he had not followed his instincts. "We kind of got caught with our pants down."
At AAATix, a licensed ticket broker near Birmingham, Ala., Steve Susce, a co-owner, added a "Tiger clause" to his deals with providers of Masters tickets for resale.
Before Woods' announcement, the parties agreed on a base price. "Then, if Tiger tees it up and hits one ball, we send you something else - a bonus," Susce said.
Woods' late entry in the wake of his recent personal troubles has affected prices on the so-called secondary ticket market for the Masters. The four-day badges for the tournament proper are otherwise obtainable only by Augusta National members and designated patrons, while tickets to practice rounds next Monday through Wednesday are sold by the club through a lottery.
But rates are not soaring at the same pace as fans' feverish expectation to see Woods swing a 6-iron for the first time on an American fairway since last fall.
"A single player doesn't make a significant impact at this tournament" on prices, said Sam Soni, the vice president for procurement at the broker RazorGator.
The Woods news flash triggered a "slight surge," he said, sending sales up 50 percent for a few days before they subsided.
At StubHub, sales volume quintupled briefly and its Web site page views spiked 75 percent the day after his Masters enlistment became known, according to a spokesman, Glenn Lehrman. But sales prices rose by only 10 percent.
TicketCity had a 30 percent boost in sales prices, although the chief operating officer, Zach Anderson, observed that Woods had merely enhanced the existing momentum.
"The Tiger announcement just pushed it over the edge," he said.
Carl White at WebTickets detected a price increase around 20 percent for the practice sessions, especially Wednesday's.
"People can afford them," he said. And with no leader boards to gaze at, the galleries are looser, with some more likely drawn just to see Woods than to see his putting stroke.
One WebTickets client "doesn't know anything about sports," White said, but contacted him about the tournament.
"He's hearing Augusta will be the center of the universe," White said. "Some people don't really care about seeing a particular person play. They just want to be part of the circus."