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Tiger's Cash Flow in Jeopardy

By John M. Ross,
Tiger Woods
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9/11 might not be the only problem ahead on Tiger Woods' path to great riches. (PGA of America)

The terrorists' attacks of September 11, which have cut heavily into the national economy, also made a direct hit on Tiger Woods' multimillion dollar income.

In the wake of the disasters, Tiger's management team announced that he will be cutting out most of the foreign events on his schedule. And since these visits to faraway places involve appearance fees of $1 million to $2 million, it could add up to a substantial slash in his annual earnings.

Tiger's stay-at-home plans could come as encouraging news to the New Zealand players who were threatening to boycott their own championship if Woods was paid to play. Recent reports indicated that the organizers of the New Zealand Open were offering Tiger a fee of $2 million plus just to show up. And since this was several times greater than the total prize pool, the home boys understandably were miffed and ready to turn their backs on it.

There could be other problems ahead on the young millionaire's path to great riches. Supermarket tabloid reports have it that Tiger is dropping huge sums at the gambling tables in Las Vegas - and doing it quite regularly. The tabloid spies also say that when Tiger's father warned him that he might damage his wholesome image and jeopardize his lucrative endorsement contracts with his heavy traffic to the craps and blackjack tables, Woods responded by wearing a false mustache and other disguises.

Since Woods' coach, Butch Harmon, has a home on the edge of Las Vegas, this would provide ample reason for his visits. The spies report, however, that more often he is in the company of Michael Jordan or other superstars.

Incidentally, Jordan's return to the basketball wars is sure to touch off a frantic scramble among the sports media people to decide who is the biggest - and richest - superstar. When Jordan retired he was head and shoulders above all others. In his absence, Tiger quickly soared to the top and has gotten bigger and bigger. It's going to be interesting. Perhaps the two of them might want to settle it one night at a blackjack table in Vegas!

Of course, the biggest winner here might be Nike, which has both players in its stable and in its soon-to-be endless commercials.

The biggest selling sports weekly has proclaimed Pebble Beach the most overrated golf course in the country. I wonder why so many people want to play it at fees ranging from $300 to $500 a pop, especially when, more often than not, they can't get on, or why the Monterey Peninsula course is at the top or next to the top of almost every poll that's ever been taken on best courses, or why so many of the big guns I've talked to over the years - such as Nicklaus, Watson, Miller, et al - give it such high praise?

The negative on Pebble is part of the magazine's attempt to identify "most overrated" and "most underrated" in various aspects of all sports. They also caught my eye by picking Phil Mickelson as the most overrated putter. Well, Phil has blown chances to win a few majors, but he' still No. 2 in the world rankings and No. 2 on the money lists. And as Lee Trevino has often said, "Tell me who are the guys making the most money and I'll tell you who are the best putters."

I did agree with the selection of Muhammad Ali as the most overrated heavyweight champion. I still say Joe Louis would have finished him in five or less. But I'm at a loss to understand the choice of our national anthem as the most overrated overture to a sporting event. In the last few weeks, I've seen a substantial number of fans with tears in their eyes or dampening their cheeks as they sang "The Star Spangled Banner" at the start of a game.

On the flip side, "America the Beautiful" was picked as the most underrated. A beautiful song, and meaningful, but it's not our national anthem.

Magazines do run things like this to stir controversy of course - and sell copies. Well, it stirred me, but I read the barbershop copy.

Not too long ago, when golfers were moaning low over the soaring prices of golf clubs - especially those produced through the new technology - I suggested to a club pro that he'd likely improve his pro shop sales if he established a trade-in program. The automobile people invented it and prospered - trading in a used car as credit toward buying a new one. The pro smiled politely, and changed the subject.

Well, finally someone agrees with me - the Callaway Golf people, no less.

The major club and ball maker will pioneer a test program in limited markets for a period of six months. Instead of "used clubs," the trade-in will be given the more elegant label of "certified pre-owned equipment," again not unlike the automobile people's method. Originally trade-in cars were called "used cars," but eventually the designation was changed to "previously owned" to improve the image - and the price, of course.

Under the Callaway program, a golfer can offer a used Callaway club against the purchase of a new one. The used clubs will be sent to Callaway by the retailer for checking and repolishing, etc., and the retailer will receive a credit to his account. A Callaway partner in the program will then resell the clubs via the Internet. With sales of equipment down, and prospects for improvement not bright in the current economy, Callaway thinks the program will provide an incentive at both ends of the price scale. The selling of Callaway clubs at the more attractive price the trade-ins will offer, it is reasoned, could bring in more first-time Callaway buyers.

Again, it is available only in limited markets, but if it works it is sure to spread rapidly.

I wish I could find the pro who gave me the frost treatment when I tried the idea out on him!

(c) Copyright John M. Ross

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