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Tiger Woods’s Bad Back Shrinks Prices for Masters Golf Tickets

Tiger Woods’s withdrawal from next week’s Masters Tournament has trimmed ticket prices now and kept them from skyrocketing later.

Woods, who’s been stuck on 14 career major victories since June 2008, said three days ago that he’ll miss the April 10-13 tournament in Augusta, Georgia, after having surgery to fix a pinched nerve in his back.

The least expensive entry to the final round tracked by resale market aggregator TiqIQ fell 14 percent since Woods announced his withdrawal. With inventory among the lowest of any major sports event, which can cause a wide variance in pricing, EBay Inc.’s, the biggest individual reseller, saw about a 25 percent price decline. Had Woods not withdrawn and played himself into position to end a 22-major drought, the ticket market would have moved much more dramatically in the opposite direction, the company said.

“If Tiger jumps into contention the badges that right now are being listed for $995 will go up to $5,000 per day,” Glenn Lehrman, a spokesman for StubHub, said in a telephone interview. “That’s how big an effect he has. There’s no one else who will have that dramatic effect on prices.”

Augusta National Golf Club sells tickets to the practice rounds and uses badges for entry to competitive rounds from Thursday to Sunday. StubHub has about 100 available per day. In contrast, for college basketball’s Final Four games in Arlington, Texas, this weekend, the website will list about 8,000-10,000 tickets.

Resale Laws

“Most of that lack of quantity has to do with strict resale laws put on ticket holders by the Masters committee and the state of Georgia,” said Chris Matcovich, vice president of data for New York-based TiqIQ.

Many fans who have lifetime badges won’t sell them because they don’t want to lose future privileges. Fans who gain the right to buy tickets cannot resell them for a profit without giving the tournament the right to revoke them, leaving brokers licensed by the state as the only people able to resell them, Matcovich said.

The list price for the least expensive four-day badge fell 11 percent to $3,602 from $4,050 on TiqIQ with Woods’s disclosure.

“There has been a steady decline in prices across the board since Tiger announced that he would be withdrawing,” Matcovich said., a Marina del Rey, California, reseller, saw a 9.3 percent drop in the average price of opening-round badges, to $1,036 from $1,143.

Injury Layoff

Woods, No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, said he’ll try to return to competition this summer after missing several events. A four-time Masters champion, he’s four short of Jack Nicklaus’s career record of 18 career major titles and nine away from tying Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour victories.

Woods said in a statement that he was “absolutely optimistic about the future” and his chances of breaking the two records.

Having won the Masters in 1997, 2001, 2002 and 2005, Woods finished tied for fourth last year, four strokes behind champion Adam Scott. The tournament was notable for a two-stroke penalty Woods took at the 15th hole after an improper ball drop.

Without Woods, who’s been the No. 1-ranked golfer for a total of 677 weeks, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the favorite to win the green jacket at the Masters, with 8-1 odds at the Las Vegas Hotel SuperBook.

While Masters prices might have dipped, expect the toughest ticket in sports to remain just that.

“Demand still far outstrips supply for Masters badges, so we’d still expect this year’s tournament to remain one of the toughest -- and most expensive -- sports tickets of 2014,” said spokesman Will Flaherty of SeatGeek, another resale market aggregator that tracks prices paid for tickets.

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