Yesterday's announcement that Tiger Woods will make his first professional appearance in Australia in 11 years was not greeted with unanimous joy. In fact, the revelation that the world No 1 will receive a $3m (£2.14m) appearance fee to tee it up in the Australian Masters in November was condemned by the most successful Antipodean golfer in history.
Peter Thomson, the five-time British Open champion, believes it could have a negative impact on the Australian Open. "In my view it's going to do a lot of damage to our national Open which comes two weeks after this one in Melbourne," he said. "The Australian Open is our national championship, it is the most important event that we have. He won't be playing in that but that [Masters appearance] sucks up all the potential sponsorship."
Elsewhere there was inevitable criticism about the size of the fee being paid during a recession, particularly as it is reported that the Victoria state taxpayers will cover half the cost of Woods' visit via the Government support for the event. Yet the Victoria state premier John Brumby predicted Woods' visit would earn the state Aus$19m in economic benefits, which would offset Woods' fee. Stuart Appleby, among the Australians who regularly compete against Woods on the PGA Tour, agreed that it was a coup for golf Down Under, even in the current economic climate.
"It will be great for the game and bring out a lot of people who haven't seen him before – in person," Appleby said. "There's a lot of people hurting in Australia, and they might look negatively that one guy is paid $3m just to turn up. The common man won't understand the business model because the government is paying for it. They might not see the money he brings in."
Australasian Tour tournament director Andrew Langford-Jones insisted it was a good investment. "Many, many people in Australia depend on their incomes and their jobs from the golf industry," he said. "And the fact that someone like Tiger Woods... I guess the impetus that will give will be fantastic." Langford-Jones said tickets would be at a premium and the Kingston Heath course would be at full stretch with Brumby estimating about 70,000-100,000 people attending over four days.