Loyalty begins at home

IAN HUTCHINSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

The difference between Tiger Woods and executives with their snouts in the bonus trough after government bailouts is that Woods actually produces positive results for the company or group that pays him handsomely.

There is no doubt that Woods will draw crowds and television attention in November when he plays in the Australian Masters for what is hardly a munchkin-like appearance fee, believed to be $3-million US.

Despite those benefits, the world's No. 1 player has been the centre of controversy since the announcement, with Victorian taxpayers on the hook for half of the fee being paid to Woods, so it appears no different than the government bailouts being handed out on this side of the ocean and there are no jobs being saved.

The defenders of this move point out that Woods will bring somewhere between $12 million and $19 million into the local economy and that his appearance will be good for golf Down Under.

Does the good of the game outweigh what's good for Victorian taxpayers, ask opponents of this government decision. Not only is the area suffering from the world's economic doldrums, but also devastating bushfires that have struck the region recently.

Appearance fees are nothing new, so any vitriol should be directed at the government, not Woods, but this case is reinforcing the perception of golf that the rich get richer in an era when sensitivity is needed, as white collar executives discovered recently when they scooped up excessive bonuses at taxpayers' expense.

While the government defends a financial bailout for a golf tournament in Oz, you have to wonder if a different type of bailout is happening on this side of the ocean, with star players bailing out to other parts of the world for lucrative sums at a time when golf in North America needs all hands on deck.

Woods routinely has said that he wants to play around the world, but his Australian appearance will come in a year in which PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has asked players to consider playing a few more tournaments at home in these tough economic times.

Of course, nobody would be welcomed at a have-not tournament more than Woods, who apparently has one more tournament left in him after his normal tour season ends. Considering the arduous trip to Oz, he may have two extra tournaments left in him that won't be played in North America.

Meanwhile, the tour presented the Transitions Championship last week in Tampa. It was an event lacking in top-ranked players in a week that saw Stanford dropped as sponsor of the Memphis event in June after FBR announced earlier this year that its name was coming off the popular tournament in Scottsdale, Ariz.

It remains to be seen what Buick's association will be with the tour, considering the state of the automobile industry.

With the tour blowing a few tires itself, will star players go the extra mile and help out? With Tiger heading Down Under and more players expected to participate in the European Tour's lucrative Race to Dubai later this year, the answer at this point is apparently no.

Quit with Tiger and Phil

The golf media is positively giddy with spring fever and anticipation of a Woods-Phil Mickelson showdown on the 18th hole at Augusta National in a few weeks.

Of course, all of this is sparked by Mickelson's recent win at the CA Championship and his victory earlier this year at the Northern Trust Open. Did anyone, by the way, notice that Geoff Ogilvy has won twice this year as well, including a World Golf Championships event?

Tiger-Phil has been the dream matchup for years, but the truth is that they're more competitive as Ryder Cup teammates than against one another.

Since 1995, both players only have finished in the top five at the Masters on four occasions, three of those coming when either Woods or Mickelson won the first major of the year.

In 2001 when Woods won, Mickelson tied for third, three shots off the lead. When Woods defended his title the following year, Mickelson was third, but four back. When Mickelson won in '06, Tiger tied for third, three shots back. Last year, Tiger was second and Mickelson tied for fifth.

Anything can happen, but there is little historical evidence to suggest that any Woods-Mickelson fireworks will be lit this year.

Mickelson may not be the best player never to win a major anymore, but he did little last year to stand out in Tiger's absence because of his knee problems. The sad part is that, because Woods' time off, Mickelson actually has a chance to catch Woods for top spot on the World Golf Rankings.

If that happened, it would definitely be time to employ an asterisk next to Mickelson's name.


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