Tiger Woods’s Absence Brings 20% Decrease in U.S. Open Ticket Resale Price

Ticket prices for golf’s U.S. Open have dropped 20 percent on the resale market since Tiger Woods withdrew from the event two days ago.

Four-day tickets to the tournament on EBay Inc. (EBAY)’s Stubhub dropped today to $402 from almost $500 on June 7, when Woods withdrew because of leg injuries, company spokesman Glenn Lehrman said in a telephone interview.

Lehrman said he anticipates prices will continue to drop another 17 percent by next week. The tournament, the year’s second major championship, begins June 16 at Congressional Country Club outside Washington.

“Missing Tiger is a big deal,” Lehrman said. “He’s a huge draw, not only for tickets, but also for television ratings.”

The tournament will be televised by Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN and Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC.

Tickets are available on-site for the opening round, the United States Golf Association said today in an e-mailed release. The tournament has sold out for the past 24 years and organizers expect that streak to continue, U.S. Open Managing Director Reg Jones said today in a telephone interview.

“Our ticket sales are consistent with what we have seen for the past three years, really just based on the economy,” he said. “We are pretty happy with our ticket sales.”

Jones said the U.S. Open doesn’t track its tickets on the secondary market. He said the absence of Woods, the winner of 14 major titles, does affect a tournament’s popularity.

‘Iconic Figure’

“He is certainly an iconic figure and I think he certainly has an effect on attendance at our golf events,” Jones said.

Ticket prices on the secondary market for last year’s U.S. Open, where Woods finished tied for fourth, were comparable to this year’s, said Lehrman, who attributed the 2010 prices to the tournament’s remote location. It was played at Pebble Beach Golf Links, roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of San Francisco.

Jones said the economy has a larger effect on ticket sales than the tournament’s location.

“I think it’s just a sign of the times,” Jones said. “One thing we’ve noticed is people, like everything else, purchasing a little bit later.”

Of the three major tournaments played in America, the U.S. Open is typically the second-most popular in terms of ticket prices, behind the Masters Tournament and ahead of the PGA Championship, Lehrman said. The volume of sales on Stubhub has stayed relatively flat, abnormal for the final two weeks before a major, when it typically picks up, Lehrman said.

Woods’s Fall

Woods, who has not won a tournament in almost two years, has fallen to No. 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking after holding the No. 1 spot for a record 281 weeks. His 14th major title came at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he beat Rocco Mediate in a 19-hole playoff before disclosing that he had played on a fractured leg.

“We are disappointed that Tiger Woods, a three-time champion, will not be able to play in the 2011 U.S. Open,” USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said in a June 7 statement on the association’s website. “The excitement that he generates will be missed, but the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club will surely provide an excellent test for the 156 world-class players in the field.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Eben Novy-Williams in New York at enovywilliam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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