Tiger Woods won’t be at Doral’s Blue Monster for this week’s WGC-CA Championship
But Ireland’s Celtic Tiger Padraig Harrington reckons the controversy surrounding the disgraced world No 1 could lead to a long-term financial bonanza for golf when the world No 1 returns to the game.
With insiders predicting that Woods will tee it up in the Masters in four weeks’ time, the accountant in Harrington wonders if the negative publicity might not be a bad thing after all.
Harrington said: “I am not really sure where he is at with coming back. Even going through the first press conference was the first step in saying he will be back.
“What I will say is that it is generating some interest for the business side of the game and it will be interesting to see how it works out.”
Millions around the world stopped what they were doing to watch Woods’ made-for-TV apology less than two weeks ago.
And Harrington reckons that the fact that most of the viewers were ordinary people with no interest in golf, could prove to be a boon to the sport.
Harrington said: “Golf is probably the most clean cut sport out there and Tiger was certainly held up as being the most clean cut athlete out there. The huge focus on this from a sporting sense is because of the nature of the image that has been portrayed.
“The interesting thing from a business sense is that if this was being analysed by somebody in Hollywood let’s say, they might look at things differently. They would definitely use the cliché of there is no such thing as bad publicity.”
Long viewed as a boring game for the rich, Tiger’s transgressions could have opened up the game to a whole new audience.
Speaking at the Honda Classic last week, Harrington said: “From a golf perspective and for the PGA Tour, it totally pushes the envelope. This is not the image that was there.
“Because we are talking about business here, I know at home in Ireland, everybody who had no interest in golf, watched that press conference.
“I have friends who have no interest in the golfing end. They mightn’t have any interest in sport and wouldn’t know a golfer from a footballer, they all watched 15 minutes of Tiger Woods’ press conference.
“I have quizzed a few people that I genuinely knew were not into their golf and they actually watched 15 minutes of the press conference with Tiger Woods and there is no way they would have done that a year ago.
“So while it is negative publicity, it is still a lot of publicity and I am not sure how that is going to pan out in the future.”
Asked for his opinion of the way the PGA Tour and Tim Finchem handle the game, Harrington could not have been more enthusiastic.
“I think the tour is doing a fantastic job,” he said. “I think Tim Finchem does a great job. I think he is a great CEO. He has strengthened this tour no end. Big time. In a business sense and in a player sense. He opened it up to the Europeans and the international players and it has become easier for internationals to join the tour.
“So basically the tour players have become stronger and the business side has been made stronger. These are tough times. He is working with sponsors, he is holding on to sponsors. He has sponsors waiting in the wings….”