This just in from the other side of the world: Big-time tournament golf in Australia is in trouble. TV ratings are in the toilet and two of the three Australian majors are without sponsors, including the 104-year-old Australian Open.
Geoff Ogilvy acknowledged the crisis while in Sydney this week to promote the Aussie Open, which begins Dec. 11. “It seems harder and harder to find money for professional golf and sporting events in general in Australia really,” Ogilvy said. “… Hopefully we ride it out until it gets good again and then it’s back to one of the biggest [events] in the world.” At the root of the problem is 7,000 or so miles, or the distance from Australia to California. The American stars have little desire or incentive to make the schlep, which leaves the burden on the Aussie A-listers — guys like Ogilvy, Adam Scott and Aaron Baddeley. Most of them live in the States, but the Aussie press isn’t sympathetic. If Ogilvy and Co. forego a major to play in another event, or, in the case of Scott and the ’07 Australian Open, to be the best man at their friend’s wedding, they’d best be prepared for a media thrashing. It’s kind of like what Kenny Perry went through went he opted out of U.S. Open qualifying this year, except much worse.
“Over the years the press has given all of us a bit of a hard time,” Aussie Robert Allenby told me a few months ago. “They had a go at Stuey [Stuart Appleby] a few years ago when he went down to Sun City [South Africa] instead of playing the Australian Open, and did the same with Geoff and Adam. And they’ve done that for years with [Greg] Norman. It’s a shame. They’re blaming us because we don’t have sponsors for the tournaments because they’re saying we need to perform better. You can make whatever you want of that.”
Whoever is to blame, this much is clear: without an injection of celebrity, the future of televised golf Down Under looks bleak. Darren Clarke has committed to play in this year's Australian Open, which should help the PR cause, but what the event really needs is a visit from golf's biggest star. Ogilvy was asked what it might take to lure Tiger Woods to play in Australia.
“A lot of encouragement,” he said.
He meant the green kind.