Tiger Woods set to ‘turbocharge’ new growth in golf

Tiger Woods sparked an “extraordinary” ticket rush for the upcoming US PGA Championship as he re-ignited his bid to beat the record 18 majors held by Jack Nicklaus last month, with that Masters success set to “turbocharge” a growth in golf in America.

Tiger Woods roars with joy after ending an 11-year drought in majors as he won The Masters last month. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty
Tiger Woods roars with joy after ending an 11-year drought in majors as he won The Masters last month. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty

Having traditionally been the final men’s major of the year, the US PGA Championship is now second up, with the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in New York staging the event in its new early-season slot in a fortnight’s time.

“We thought it was smart; it looks brilliant, now,” declared Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, of a switch that sees the tournament being next up for Woods after he decided to skip this week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow on the PGA Tour.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“We couldn’t be more excited both about the timing and the venue and kind of where the game is, I guess, at this point. We were very excited about the May change before Tiger made his fireworks in Georgia in the sense that we think it’s just a better cadence for the whole season.”

Referring to the 43-year-old ending an 11-year drought in the game’s biggest events as he claimed a fifth Green Jacket at Augusta National and 15th major title, he added: “The impact immediately afterwards was extraordinary in terms of ticket sales.

“We were basically sold out for the weekend, but the requests just poured in across the board in lots of ways. So we really expect to have an amazing championship at an amazing place.”

Woods, who is set to be paired in the opening two rounds with Open champion Francesco Molinari and US Open and defending US PGA champion Brooks Koepka, is returning to a venue where he won the US Open in 2002.

“We absolutely now know that the fan base will be cranked up and we hope that it will have the same effect that he had his first go-around on participation, as well,” continued Waugh in a teleconference. “Hopefully we can ride not only the wave and excitement about watching him play, but get others wanting to play. Hopefully that knock-on effect has a long-term effect.

“We hope and we expect that we’ll get a participation bump here, which we’ve been waiting for for a while and hopefully we can ride it into something beyond him.

“I feel like this has been the capstone. Participation is up in the game. We’ve got Top Golf growing at 20-25 per cent a year. Junior League sign ups are blowing up, as well, in a great way.

“It’s not so much 18 holes. The classical measurement of it is flat-ish. But we think participation and kind of interest, and a lot of those kind of growth indicators were already signalling kind of a good market, and we hope that this will turbocharge it a little bit.”

Meanwhile, Woods has announced that he will be a playing captain when he leads the US into battle in the Presidents Cup against an International side with Ernie Els at the helm in Melbourne later in the year.

“With the [Masters] victory, I’ve jumped into ninth place on the latest US Team standings,” wrote Woods, who was one of Davis Love’s vice-captains for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine before returning to a playing role under Jim Furyk at Le Golf National in Paris last year, in a blog for the biennial event.

“While I’ve already got an important role as team captain, I have made it very clear that I also want to be a playing captain when we face the International Team led by Ernie Els.

“Qualifying automatically as one of the top eight players would prevent me from being put in a tricky spot when my captain’s assistants and I sit down to decide on our four picks.”