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Tiger Follows the Cash to Australia

October 1, 1996

Being young, talented, rich and successful can have its pitfalls. As much as Tiger Woods has going for him, he still better watch his step. A shining image can tarnish with astonishing speed.

Just days after citing exhaustion and withdrawing from a tournament he entered through a sponsor’s exemption, it was announced that Woods accepted a hefty appearance fee to play in the Australian Open next month.

And as if the megamillion-dollar Nike man needs more money, Woods agreed to a $2.2 million two-book deal with Warner Books _ on the condition that he have three to six years to produce the books.

Woods ruffled a few feathers when he abruptly pulled out of the Buick Challenge last week in Pine Mountain, Ga., and walked away from the Haskins Awards dinner honoring him as college golfer of the year.

Stunts like that won’t increase Woods’ public appeal.

Right now, the 20-year-old is in a marketing league with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman, an astounding fact considering his pro career is only four tournaments old. He has a worldwide appeal enhanced in Asia by the fact that his mother is from Thailand.

Now it looks like Asia and the Pacific _ where unlike in the United States it is legal to pay huge appearance fees to attract players _ will be the next target in the International Management Group marketing of Woods.

Australian Golf Union executive director Colin Phillips said Tuesday that Woods will play in the Nov. 21-24 Australian Open.

``It is a big coup, this being his first event outside the U.S. as a pro,″ Phillips said. He refused to confirm a report that Woods would receive $190,000 to play in the event, more than the $158,000 Norman is reported to be getting.

``I can’t comment on the figures,″ Phillips said. ``It’s part of the contract.″

The Australian Golf Union runs the Australian Open in conjunction with IMG, which manages Woods, and IMG senior vice president in Australia Paul Gregory said Woods is ``very keen to come out″ to the Australian Open.

No one at IMG in the United States denied that Woods would go to the Australian Open. His agent, Hughes Norton, told The Associated Press, ``I would say that something positive is going to happen.″

Woods’ certainty of going to Australia was such that his previously reported appearance in the Shark Shootout _ the week before the Australia Open _ was downgraded to ``still up in the air,″ by IMG.

Woods is also committed to playing in the Skins Game the week after the Australian Open.

The Australian Open would likely be just the start of a Woods’ market campaign in the Pacific.

Steven Foxcroft of United Distillers Asia, who is assembling the field for the Johnnie Walker Classic on Jan. 23-26 in Australia, said last week he spoke with IMG about getting Woods for the event.

``While his first priority is to establish himself on the U.S. tour, there’s no doubt he’d like a presence in Asia,″ Foxcroft said.

``This event is the perfect vehicle for him to do that,″ Foxcroft said, ``and we’re doing our best to get him here.″

One source familiar with overseas events and with IMG told the AP: ``If Steve Foxcroft wants to get Tiger, he has the money to do it.″

Other Australia events are not as fortunate.

The Heinenken Classic, the week after the Johnnie Walker apparently can’t afford Woods.

``We’ve made contact with him and he appeared interested in playing here,″ tournament manager Rod Leembruggen said Tuesday.

``If he is getting the $240,000 ($190,000 U.S.) to play at the Open, then it would be hard to get him here for less and we won’t be paying him that much,″ Leembruggen said.

``The people at Johnnie Walker also have got an unlimited budget, but unfortunately we haven’t,″ he said.

Warner Books apparently went deep into it’s pockets to land Woods and it was willing to wait a while to get a return on its investment.

Just a week after virtually everyone involved in Team Tiger said they didn’t want the distractions of working on a book to take away from Woods’ focus on golf, IMG negotiated a two-book deal for Woods with Warner Books.

The key factor was that Woods has three to six years to produce an instructional book and biography, a source told the AP. The source also said the deal was worth $2.2 million and it would be announced early next week at the latest.

``We are not going to comment on any financial details or comment upon any speculation,″ IMG publicist Bev Norwood said.

Unfortunately for Woods, public speculation on the financial details of his life will follow him throughout his career. He better make certain the public understands that it’s golf _ not not money _ that matters most to him.

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