Woods visits did nothing for Aussie golf, says Thomson
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tiger Woods's taxpayer-funded visits Down Under did nothing to help Australia's ailing golf tour, which is stuck in a losing battle for relevance unless it does more to embrace Asia, according to five-times British Open champion Peter Thomson.
Woods's tournament appearances in Sydney and Melbourne over the last three years brought crowds and media attention to Australian golf courses not seen since former world number one Greg Norman was in his prime.
Any hopes that Woods had put Australia back on the golfing map, however, were specious, Thomson told Reuters.
"I think Tiger Woods's impact was minimal barring the few days he was here," the 83-year-old said. "It cost heavily and it changed nothing, fundamentally.
"The tour still struggles to attract top players because we can't afford the appearance fees."
Once a drawcard for the likes of Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, Australia's tour has been relegated to a nursery for locals with occasional visits by top foreign players for appearance fees.
The expansion of the U.S. and European Tours into Asian markets has also crimped Australia's room in the crowded golf calendar, leaving the tournaments struggling to attract sponsorship.
Local media reported that Victoria's state government shelled out A$1.5 million ($1.55 million) - or 50 percent of Woods's appearance fee - to attract the 14-times major champion to Melbourne for the Australian Masters in 2009. Continued...