Talk of Tiger gives buzz to Match Play - The Explorer: Pima Pinal

Talk of Tiger gives buzz to Match Play

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Posted: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 8:06 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

For the record, Wade Dunagan and Judy McDermott did not call an Australian newspaper to plant a story that Tiger Woods may come out of seclusion to play in the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship next week at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain.

Dunagan, the match play tournament director, and McDermott, who leads the ticket, revenue and volunteer work as executive director of the Tucson Conquistadores, don't mind the buzz surrounding the Match Play Championship since a media report that he may come back to north Marana.

If people are talking about Match Play, for whatever reasons, that's good for the tournament.

"The rumors are exciting," Dunagan said last week. "What would it mean? More interest, more dollars for charity, more ticket sales, more hospitality."

"It's a wonderful buzz, it definitely helps us," agreed McDermott. "There's nothing like free publicity."

If Tiger comes, "it's just more people, that's all," said Jeff McCormick, director of golf operations at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain. "The volume changes. It's good for every one, Tucson, the concessions. The more the merrier."

Phone calls for tickets picked up when the Tiger word began to spread. "It was starting to ring a little more" regardless, McDermott said.

"I had a guy, from Canada, today," she said Friday. "He wants to get out of Canada and experience our sunny weather. He did hear the rumblings about Tiger. He wants to come no matter what."

"No matter what" may mean sunny weather, the world's best 64 active golfers, a beautiful golf course, an $8.5 million purse, outstanding viewing opportunities, a world TV audience in the hundreds of millions …. and no Tiger. Woods' caddie Steve Williams said Monday he doesn't expect a Tiger presence in the foothills of the Tortolitas.

"It's a unique situation," Dunagan said last week. "I'm learning about it the same way everyone else is." His phone started ringing early Wednesday morning, after an article suggesting a Tiger comeback in Tucson was published by a Melbourne newspaper.

"We are a little bit in the dark," said Dunagan. "I feel like a politician. I cannot confirm nor deny."

Dunagan, McDermott and the world will know this coming Friday afternoon, when the world's top 64 players have to indicate whether or not they'll be in Marana for the match play tournament.

"I would tell you, from our perspective, our goals haven't changed," Dunagan said. "With the Tucson Conquistadores, we are trying to raise more than $1 million for charity, and trying to put on a world-class golf tournament," Tiger or no Tiger.

Geoff Ogilvy, the defending Match Play champion who's won it twice and finished second to Tiger once, told the media in Marana last month that Tiger's absence is "obviously strange. Nobody knows what's going to happen, I guess. I don't think it's that weird that he's not playing. I think it's just a great unknown that's kind of strange."

That unknown loomed a year ago, when Woods was recovering from knee surgery. He returned to the world golf stage at Match Play. "We found out he was going to play the Thursday afternoon prior" to the tournament's start, Dunagan said. When Woods committed, media requests went from 340 to more than 500. If Woods were to come to Marana next week, the media volume might double that.

Dunagan and the PGA Tour work with a number of different contingency plans. "What if Mr. Woods decides to come back this year?" More media, more fans, more volunteer help. "An increased or decreased volume affects the tournament the same way," Dunagan said. "It's preparations, and a lot of what-if scenarios."

"I really think we've already been through this," McDermott said. "Inside the ropes, I don't think anything really changes."

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