What, you might ask, is Tiger Woods doing whacking golf balls across a bridge over the Bosphorus? Like any independent trader, yes that’s how Woods described himself in Turkey, the world No 1 golfer goes where the money is. In this case £1m for tooling up at the Turkish Airlines Open, which begins in Antalya on Thursday. Prize money is just a bonus.
This is Turkey’s entry into the global golf market, the country’s first European Tour event, aimed at driving golf tourism in the south and projecting the country as a nation going places. The appearance of Woods is central to the piece, guaranteeing the requisite media gaze upon the region that your standard world-class golfer just does not command.
Woods plays in the final group today alongside the only current major winner in the field, the US Open champion, Justin Rose. The organisers cleared a conference suite at the Maxx Royal Hotel for Woods, who sat at the top table alongside the Turkish minister for culture and tourism, Omer Celik.
“I’ve hit balls down runways at airports before but never down a bridge,” Woods said. “And the scary part was, I just flew in from a 12-hour journey, hopped off a plane and had to hit a driver down the narrowest fairway I’ve ever seen.
“The wind was coming off the left a little bit and all these cars were driving on the right, so if I lose any balls to the right, there’s an international incident right there. So that was a little nerve-wracking.”
This event is the third of four tournaments in the inaugural Final Series, the European Tour’s attempt to emulate the FedEx Play-offs in America.
The appearance of Woods has plugged the gap left by the absence of other big ticket-sellers but the tour cannot rely on independent tradesmen to bail them out every year. Emergency callouts are just too expensive.