Tiger Woods inks 3-year deal to return to Ryder Cup-hungry Turkey

David Cannon

Turkish golf organizers hope to turn the financial success of Tiger Woods’ appearance at last week’s European Tour event into a Ryder Cup invitation.

Tiger Woods had such a good time smashing golf balls across Istanbul's intercontinental bridge last week that he’ll make the Turkish Airlines Open a regular stop on the Tiger Tour for the next three years, according to James Corrigan.

The world-famous golfer reportedly inked a contract that will pay him a yearly sum of almost $3 million with the carrier, which could become Woods’ next sponsor.

"We have tried [a sponsorship deal] with [Barcelona soccer star Lionel] Messi and it has worked -- let’s see," Turkish Airlines chair Hamdi Topcu told Corrigan about the possibility of adding Woods to its endorsement portfolio.

Woods, who banked a reported $3 million for last week’s start as he raked in the lira for officials of the European Tour event,  could be the difference-maker in the organization’s push to attract the 2022 Ryder Cup to its country. His third-place finish in what for him was another meaningless, pocket-lining exhibition was "gold dust" to the guys who opened up their checkbooks.

"More than 1.5 billion will have watched Tiger in our tournament, which showcases our country to the world," Turkish Golf Federation czar Ahmet Agaoglu said to Corrigan. "You get your money back with him and more."

Tiger's appeal -- and the buckets of cash he attracts -- just may be the winning argument for bringing a Ryder Cup to an as-yet unbuilt course to the European nation.

"Turkey is in Europe," Agaoglu told The Independent’s Kevin Garside. "But if we need to, we can build a course on the European side of Istanbul. We are candidates for the Race to Antalya or Turkey in 2016. And what comes after that? The Ryder Cup."

For sure, Topcu was on board with landing the prestigious biennial match between Europe and the U.S., and European Tour chieftain George O’Grady would not rule out such a notion, especially considering how Woods has enhanced the reputation of the would-be host country.

"Turkey would have as good a chance as anywhere," O’Grady said. "We have been staggered by the success of this tournament. This is a country where anything is possible."

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