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Masters' ticket prices drop in wake of Tiger's absence

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

It's been nearly six years since Tiger Woods won a major championship, yet there is never a question about his box-office power.

Less than 24 hours after Woods announced he was skipping this year's Masters, tickets for this year's tournament are down significantly on the online secondary market.

Some prices for one-day badges on StubHub.com dropped 10 percent within the first hour of Tiger's announcement and overnight were off by nearly 20 percent, and trending further downward.

As of Woods' midday withdrawal announcement on Tuesday, badges for next Thursday's opening round were going for $1,165 on StubHub.com.

By 11 a.m. (ET) Wednesday they were down to $940, a 19.3 percent drop in less than a day, and will likely continue to drop.

"No single athlete has a greater impact on our ticket prices," said Glenn Lehrman, a spokesman for StubHub who travels to Augusta each April to oversee the operation from the company's badge pick-up/hospitality house across from the Augusta National.

There were similar drops across all four days of competition, with prices going from the $1,200-per-round range to the mid-$900s, between a 16 percent to 20 percent drop in less than a day.

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Tiger Woods tips his cap to the gallery as he walks up to the 2nd green during the 2013 Masters. (USA Today)

The online broker RazorGator.com reports it's seen prices fall also, although not at such a high rate. Badges for the opening round were $1,142 prior to the announcement and $1,036 as of Wednesday midday, a 9.3 percent drop.

Tiger has played the Masters every year since 1995. In 1997. he burst into international stardom by winning the event at 21 (the youngest winner ever) by shooting a record 18-under par and winning by 12 strokes (still a record margin of victory). Since then he's consistently delivered huge interest in not just golf, but this event specifically. He's won four green jackets and finished in the top five 11 times. His roving gallery is exponentially larger than any other golfer's, often bigger than even the leaders on Sunday.

And, the price drop from Tiger's announced withdrawal would have been greater if it weren't so expected. Woods has battled back issues all season and when he missed the PGA Tour event in Orlando last month, his typical Masters warm-up, many assumed he might skip Augusta.

As such, the market was soft to begin with as fans waited to see if Tiger would play – the field will be announced Friday – and risked the ensuing spike if he were healthy enough.

"You saw it over the last month, especially once he didn't play Bay Hill," Lehrman said. "Typically you see some ebbs and flows in the final month but this year the market stayed flat or was even down a little. So his injury was already being felt."

A better representation of Tiger's health impact is that prices a year ago for Thursday and Friday rounds at Augusta were between $1,500 and $2,500.

The website TiqIQ.com, which monitors online secondary brokers, listed minimum asking prices in 2013 at $1,950 for Thursday, $2,300 for Friday and over $2,000 for each weekend session. That site does not have access to actual sales, however, so they may be slightly inflated.

As of Wednesday, TiqIQ.com listed aggregate low asking prices online as $861 for Thursday and $928 for Friday. Those would be off year to year at 55.8 percent and 59.6 percent, respectively.

RazorGator.com reports its Thursday prices are down nearly 35 percent from an average rate of $1,572.35 on this date in 2013.

Woods' injury wouldn't be the only factor in the drop, however. Last year's Masters saw higher than usual prices in part because Woods was playing very well and considered a realistic tournament favorite, the economy was coming to life after a few down years that created pent-up demand, and the NCAA Final Four was held in nearby Atlanta, bringing extra well-heeled sports fans a short drive away.

Still, the allure was undoubtedly Tiger. Lehrman, of StubHub, said Woods' strong play over the first two rounds of the 2013 Masters that left him in contention to win pushed badges for Saturday's round to around $5,000. "Prices nearly quadrupled," Lehrman said.

Then word leaked out Saturday morning of a second-round scoring error that was identified off television coverage and might cause Tiger's outright disqualification. After a dramatic hearing, Woods was allowed to continue but wound up with a devastating two-stroke penalty. By that point badges for Saturday were down to $3,000, according to Lehrman.

"It was that quick," Lehrman said.

Augusta prices likely won't drop too much further, experts say, because there remains relatively low inventory on the secondary market and most people headed to the event have already made travel arrangements. They were just waiting to play the market before inevitably buying a badge.

The Masters itself, and the famed Augusta National course, are also their own draws regardless of who is playing.

Then again, there is still no word on whether Phil Mickelson, battling injuries of his own, will still drop out. That wouldn't help things, although in golf, or in all of sports, there remains no one like Tiger Woods.

 

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