Tiger Woods arrives in Melbourne with his United States teammates on Monday, fresh from his tournament in the Bahamas, and more than 120,000 fans are due to watch him play for one of the last times on our shores.
The Presidents Cup, the biennial golf event between the US and internationals minus Europe, kicks off on at Royal Melbourne this week after local Matt Jones scraped home on Sunday to win the Australian Open in Sydney.
Presidents Cup director Matt Kamienski said he was 99.99 per cent sure US President Donald Trump would not drop in – but remains ready just in case – and believed Woods would spark almost as much buzz.
“Tiger is just a huge draw, he transcends the sport. There are not many athletes that come around like Tiger Woods in any sport. The Michael Jordans, the Lebron James, the Tom Bradys, the Shane Warnes,” Mr Kamienski told The Australian Financial Review.
“He hasn’t played here since 2011 when the Presidents Cup was last here. It is going to be one of the last times you can see him playing at this level.”
Woods is in rare form, making golf history at the Zozo championship in Japan six weeks ago by tying the record for most career titles on the PGA Tour with his 82nd win.
“Tiger announced himself as a playing captain, so he will definitely play on Sunday in the singles, he has to play one time before then, so two days at least,” Mr Kamienski said.
Mr Kamienski said the event had become much bigger than golf with a Curtis Stone pop-up restaurant, Crown Riverwalk for fans, bands, food trucks and DJs for non-golfers.
Investment bank Citi has been making the most of their major sponsorship with Rolex, including a round with player Cameron Smith for 44 clients and a women-only client event with Karrie Webb at Huntingdale on Wednesday.
“Australians love the best and if it’s not the best, go watch something else,” Mr Kamienski said.
“The Presidents Cup is the best of the best. It is much bigger than just a golf tournament and it’s the best players in the world.”
The event director also urged fans not to write-off the international team, especially given their local knowledge.
“We all know Royal Melbourne is one of those golf courses that is about placement and not hitting it in the wrong spot, staying below the hole.
“You have a captain in Ernie Els who has the course record on the composite course and [assistant] Geoff Ogilvy grew up around the corner. The guys like Adam Scott have been in a tie and seven losses, he wants to win so badly.
“The US team looked unbeatable going into the Ryder Cup in France last year but got beaten pretty easily, so you just never know.”
Victorian Sports Minister Martin Pakula used the event to launch a new EY report showing major events are bringing $2.5 billion a year to the state’s economy and almost 6.9 million in interstate and international visitors.
He also denied the Boxing Day Test at the MCG was at risk, despite a Sheffield Shield cricket game at the venue being abandoned on Saturday because of an unsafe pitch.
“Major events are supported by the four pillars, the Australian Open, F1 grand prix, AFL grand final and spring racing carnival but filled in with wonderful events like the Presidents Cup but also Harry Potter, the fashion festival and airshow.”