Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Where's Tiger? Advertised Woods a No-Show at Buick Open
To the disappointment of many, last week's Buick Open--a PGA Tour golf tournament held annually at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc Michigan--struggled to draw fans and failed to generate much business for local companies. Sally York of Michigan Live writes, "Empty bleacher seats, lots of parking and flat sales at local businesses have people wondering why the turnout at this year's Buick Open was lower than usual, despite nearly perfect weather."
Some blame the sluggish local economy, others attribute the struggles to an unusually large number of people on vacation this year.
But there is another reason that may be more explanatory: neither Tiger Woods nor Vijay Singh, the world's first-rated and sixth-rated golfers, respectively, played. Woods's wife, Elin Nordegren, gave birth to their first child two weeks ago, while Singh's elbow is injured. So the big draws weren't there, and that seems like a very plausible reason for fewer folks showing up.
But say you bought a ticket to the Open (which are non-refundable and which range in price from $15 to $35 a day) because you wanted to see the world's greatest golfer play golf? After-all, you may have decided to buy the ticket after seeing one of the Open's ads--the one that prominently featured Tiger Woods. Over on CNBC's Sports Biz, Darren Rovell asks:
I wonder if anyone who bought tickets to the Buick Open this weekend could claim they bought it because of this ad from weeks ago and try to get their money back. It features Tiger Woods and Woods isn’t playing because of the birth of his daughter. It doesn’t promise that Tiger Woods will be there, but it also doesn’t say “Not guaranteed to appear” either. On an interesting note, the Los Angeles Galaxy have added David Beckham non-guarantees to its Ticketmaster site.It's an interesting question, especially if people bought the tickets to see Tiger Woods and didn't care at all about the rest of the tournament. Considering that Woods is probably the greatest golfer of all-time, I am sure there are many people--and especially casual fans--who buy tickets to golf tournaments that feature Woods just to see him play.
For a number of reasons, however, I suspect that a court wouldn't be too receptive to compelling the Buick Open to refund those fans because Woods had to bail out. For one, many, if not most, fans were on notice that Woods was an expecting father. In fact, on May 21, he said that while he intended to play in the Open, the expected birth of his child was (obviously) his top priority, and that he would adjust his playing schedule to fit the needs of his family.
For another, those who bought tickets to the tournament, which featured over 100 golfers, bought tickets to the tournament; the tickets weren't to see Tiger Woods play golf, even if the tournament's organizers clearly knew, by virtue of their ad, that Woods was the tournament's most marketable player. As an analogy, one who buys a ticket to a Washington Wizards game to see Gilbert Arenas play cannot demand a refund if Arenas doesn't play in the game; the ticket was to the Wizards game.
Then again, say someone buys a ticket to see a popular band play, and its lead singer can't sing? Because the lead singer is essential to the event, often the concert is canceled and tickets are refunded, as opposed to proceeding with the concert and finding some other guy to sing the songs. But for a number of reasons, the concert example seems different than the tournament's best golfer not playing. What do you think?