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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tiger Woods isn't here, but the sky-high prices for Masters badges on the secondary ticket market don't just remain from his heyday, they are actually eclipsing them.
The get-in price for a "badge" – as Masters tickets are called – to Thursday's opening round have ranged from $2,100 to $2,900 all week at online brokers.
"It's definitely higher," said Chris Leyden, a content analyst for SeatGeek.com. "A single-day badge will usually cost between $800-$1,200. In 2013 it was high and it ran about $1,200-$1,400. This year has been on the high end of that and right now [Wednesday afternoon] it will cost you about $2,500 to get in on Thursday.
"It's certainly a hot ticket."
That's for a single admission for a single day and is inline with figures across the online secondary ticket market, as well as ticket brokers who work Washington Road outside Augusta National.
According to StubHub.com, prices for Thursday were up 31.3 percent from 2014, the last time Woods missed the event, and 19.4 percent from last year.
Masters tickets work as such: a four-day badge is given to a certain person on a renewable basis. Face value is $325 … for all four days. They are often "rented" for individual days at an extreme mark up. As such, almost no one doesn't renew, even if they have to be handed down through families. The wait list was so bloated that Augusta National closed it in 1978 and briefly reopened it in 2000.
The club does release a small amount of single-day badges via a lottery, but that has done little to curb demand. Even badges for Wednesday's practice round and Par 3 Contest went for about $2,500. To get the full four-day package was about $7,500.
Why so high this year? The reasons, industry people say, range from a vastly improved economy, especially in the corporate sector, excitement over young stars and pent-up demand which has seen plenty of early buying and fewer people putting tickets back on the market.
"Right now prices are high because there is very little inventory left," said Glenn Lehrman of StubHub.com. "We've seen far more advanced sales than we've seen in the past, but less inventory overall."
During Woods' 15-or-so-year run of dominance, he was by far the biggest draw. His mere presence in the field caused ticket prices to soar and TV ratings to spike at various tournaments, including the Masters. The belief was business would suffer without him.
Injuries, however, have stopped him from being part of the week-in, week-out fabric of the sport. He's missed Augusta twice in the past three years.
Rather than the ticket market bottoming out, though, in this case it's now as strong, if not stronger than ever.
"I think the Tiger bump is definitely something that was around in his prime," Leyden of SeatGeek said. "For the casual fan, even when Tiger is playing, it's like he is winning. The prices didn't drop much at all when it was announced he would not play. Golf is not as dependent on Tiger as it was 10, 15 years ago. There are a lot of interesting golfers."
One theory has it that Woods brought so much additional attention to the Masters that it became a magical place for fans even when he is no longer playing. This is an event – the chance to tour the grounds, for some, is more important than the actual golf action.
That isn't to say Woods' absence isn't affecting the market. It may already be big, but it can always be bigger.
"If Tiger was in the field, these prices would be exponentially higher," Lehrman said.
There's always next year.