Tossing the ball into the crowd on the 17th and repeating the act on the final hole of the Buick Open was an uncharacteristic display of emotion from Tiger Woods. Even the world No 1 admitted on Sunday, “I don’t ever do that, but this was different.” There was no official announcement from the troubled Detroit automobile giant on the event disappearing from the PGA Tour next season, but succumbing to the mood, Woods, a three-time winner at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club, said: “We are not coming back here and I just wanted to say thank you to the people here.”
Despite talk of the global economy showing signs of revival, recession had served another grim reminder.
More was in store when the European Tour announced on Monday that its marquee event had taken a hit. If reports are to be believed, the Dubai World Championship will cease to be professional golf’s richest event. Weighed down by the effects of downturn, Leisurecorp, the sponsor, is expected to declare a 25% cut in the $10 million prize money. If the announcement comes through, leading lights will be playing at the Earth Course, Jumeirah Golf Estates, for a purse of $7.5 million.
Back home too, the news isn’t encouraging. After last year’s struggle, the AIS Open is off the Professional Golf Tour’s (PGTI) schedule.
An integral part of the calendar since the PGTI’s inception in 2006, the 60-lakh event was off, though briefly, last year but returned with a 50 per cent cut in the prize money. Sponsors Asahi India had attributed the move to economic turbulence.
Though the 2009 schedule had allotted dates, 1-4 October, to the Rs. 30 lakh event, doubts persisted on its take-off.
“The company had told us at the beginning of the year that it would take a call midway. Ten days ago, we had an informal conversation and the sponsor expressed regret,” a PGTI source said on Tuesday.
Asahi India officials could not be contacted to ascertain the reason for this year’s pullout, the source said: “Probably, they’re realigning themselves because of the downturn.”