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He's Money in Bank of England

Woods' three-tournament stay in United Kingdom is said to be worth more than $300 million.

September 13, 2006|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

LONDON — Having lent fresh starshine to tennis Sunday at Flushing Meadow, that multi-tasking jet-setter Tiger Woods turned up Tuesday in East London to start lending the British golf business no less than a September economic boomlet.

He dangled from the back platform of a parked red double-decker bus for a photo op, and you could almost spot two islands of golf-shop owners forming smiles.

His three-week, three-tournament hopscotch through the United Kingdom and Ireland includes a Ryder Cup and figures to be noisy, but its kickoff news conference did feature the sleepy tones of a banker.

"We estimate this will put an estimated 170 million pounds of value into the economy, a growth in the golf economy of 5%," said David Hodkinson, HSBC honcho, whose bank is the title sponsor of this week's match-play championship.

One hundred-seventy million pounds at the exchange window Tuesday would've fetched almost $318 million.

"It's flattering," Woods said later, then said, "I'm as shocked probably as you are to hear that number. I don't know where they get that number."

They got it by commissioning professor Tom Cannon, author of such volumes as "The Good Sales Managers' Guide" and "The Guinness Book of Business Records." A regular guest on British TV news especially on the paramount British matter of soccer economics, and newly minted as dean of the Buckingham University business school, Cannon started computing until left with no choice but to employ the phrase "the Tiger economy."

As gleaned from Cannon's estimates, and widely reported to a grateful public by now, the Tiger economy this month could reap $97 million from broadcasting, $67 million from press coverage, $51 million from equipment and clothing sales boosts, $6.7 million from sponsorships and hospitality.

That's not to mention the $26 million Cannon reckoned could sprout from extra greens fees.

Yeah, extra greens fees.

Evidently the presence of Woods for three weeks in two nations totaling 65 million people figures to wreak an additional 700,000 rounds of golf that would not have transpired had Woods remained in Orlando gazing at his trophies.

All that frustration, stemming from such a placid young man.

Cannon didn't calculate parking fees, which could be astronomical, but already the ticket sales records at the 42-year-old HSBC World Match Play have zero chance of survival.

That event, beginning Thursday and involving 16 players including six from the world's top 10, will play the Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, just southwest of London. It's a European Tour event, so it doesn't weigh in Woods' ongoing streak of five PGA Tour wins.

The Ryder Cup will start a week from Friday, last three days, involve 24 players, two continents and a good bit of loathing. The event will be played in Ireland for the first time at the K Club, just outside Dublin. It's a biennial team competition in which the United States has slumped biennially of late, and also doesn't affect Woods' streak.

Finally, the American Express World Golf Championships, beginning Sept. 28 and with just about all the bright lights, will play the Grove in Hertfordshire, just north of London, one year after playing in San Francisco. It's a PGA Tour event, so the streak Woods began also in England at the British Open could lengthen in England to match the six he hoarded during the fall and winter of 1999-2000.

As Britain's golf economy starts humming happy tunes, Woods will begin the World Match Play's 36 daily holes seeded No. 2 behind Michael Campbell, the defending champion, even though Woods' world-rankings points roughly triple those of new No. 2 Jim Furyk.

"Michael earned it," Woods said. "He won his championship, so he deserves to be seeded number one."

Woods' opening match against Shaun Micheel, the runner-up last month in a PGA Championship from which few will recollect the runner-up, marks Woods' first match in the event since 1998. That tournament offered a sight even more surreal than Woods as a No. 2-seeded player: Woods as overtaken front-runner on Sunday, losing after going 4-up on Mark O'Meara.

If Woods moves along -- he'd get Luke Donald in the second round for a revisit of the Sunday PGA pairing -- the British Isles will accrue their gathering buzz toward the Ryder Cup. Two months after his British Open iron play that so moved the golf sages in the game's birthplace, the same scholars have tracked Woods' path since.

They know his tendency to answer doubt with dominance, and how he outpaced a Brit (Donald) on Sunday in the PGA for his 12th major title, and how he visited Ireland thereafter to (uh oh) study the course, and how he took the American rookies to dinner and solidarity, and how he spoke again Tuesday of assuming team leadership at a wizened 30.

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