Tiger Woods’ absence sends U.S. Open ticket prices plummeting

Rob Carr

With no Tiger Woods in the field at Pinehurst and ticket sales once again plunging, Pinehurst may be golf fans’ best chance to attend a U.S. Open.

Tiger Woods will miss his second consecutive major championship, and would-be U.S . Open attendees have taken note, sending ticket prices spiraling downward ahead of this week’s event at Pinehurst.

Reseller StubHub reported the average price for a four-day voucher was averaging about $540 -- almost half of the $1,000 the same pass went for last year at Merion, when Woods was in attendance and seeking to capture that elusive 15th grand slam event, according to spokesperson Cameron Papp.

Sunday, the most lucrative day for ticket sellers, was even less promising, with average badge prices for the final round down to $80, compared with $260 last year.

The absence of the former world No. 1, whose last of 14 major titles occurred six years ago at the 2008 U.S. Open, was no surprise to Papp, whose company weathered a similar sales drop-off before the Tiger-less Masters in April.

"It’s sort of déjà vu for us," Papp told SB Nation on Friday. "It’s the same story as it was for the Masters."

The black cloud for StubHub and others could be the silver lining for golf enthusiasts who may have believed that making the pilgrimage to the iconic Pinehurst No. 2 in hopes of watching Phil Mickelson grab his first U.S. Open title or Bubba Watson sweep the first two majors of the season was out of their price range.

"If you’re a diehard golf fan, this is the time to go," Papp said. "You’re not going to see Tiger, but if the U.S. Open is on your bucket list, it's going to be one of the cheapest ones in a while."

Ticket sales aside, this week’s national championship could also be as pulse-pounding as the Masters was even with Woods sidelined.

"I don’t know that [Tiger] was missed all that much after the first shot went off at the Masters," ESPN analyst Dottie Pepper told us last week. "The ratings suffered but it didn’t seem that there were any less people on site. The excitement of the event certainly wasn’t less."

Speaking of the April tilt, Watson, the exciting but polarizing southpaw was able to boost prices for badges somewhat on Sunday at Augusta, when he was in contention for his second green jacket.

"We did see a modest increase in sales for Sunday tickets to the Masters this year, with a bit of a jump the last day," said Papp, who noted that demand for final-round admission increased each day of the tournament.

The clamor for tickets for the finale doubled from seven percent on Friday to 14 percent on Sunday, but such numbers paled compared to the jump from eight percent to 34 percent that Woods’ presence occasioned in 2013.

Papp observed that Woods’ no-show was not the only factor sending this year’s ticket prices into a free fall. Pinehurst, N.C., is not nearly so accessible a venue as Merion, which drew spectators from the nearby Philadelphia metro area. And unlike other sports, individual players can have a large impact on permit prices over the four-day event.

"If Phil’s still in it [on Sunday], or maybe [Rory] McIlroy, we could see a little jump," said Papp, who acknowledged that such superstars were no match for Woods when it came to luring people to the gallery.

"No one really affects prices like Tiger does," he said. "If some of the larger names are still around, maybe we will see a sales jump but it’s not going to touch last year’s [demand] without Tiger."

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