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Expensive lessons learned in New Zealand

Greg Norman, big-hitting John Daly, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, Michael Campbell and Robert Allenby will be teeing it up in the Heineken Classic at Royal Melbourne later this month.

We can smile and savour the fact that the one big name the Australians are missing out on is Tiger Woods, and New Zealanders had him all to themselves last week.

It was at a cost, however. Those wanting a peek at the world's most recognisable sportsman in the flesh had to fork out between $45 (Tuesday practice day) and $175 (Saturday and Sunday).

Apart from Michael Campbell, a collection of Kiwi golfers and three or four top-notch Aussies, the New Zealand Open field was made up of journeymen Australian professionals who come here every year.

At Royal Melbourne, Norman and his world-class mates will be on show for the, wait for it, princely sum of $18 a day. Yes, $18 a day.

Another benefit of Melbourne, as against Paraparaumu, is that there will not be the totally over-the-top security that marred the Open and stopped New Zealanders really enjoying Woods's visit.

When Woods plays in the British Open in front of crowds upwards of 40,000 a day there is nowhere near the security on show as there was at Paraparaumu.

It was almost as if some of those members of the diplomatic protection squad charged with guarding Woods enjoyed the opportunity to flex their muscles on home ground. Most were fine, one or two obnoxious.

Woods was never in any danger while being interviewed by journalists after his final round, yet one so-called bodyguard could not resist pushing people around.

He was not in danger from golf fans, who paid big money to watch him either. They just wanted to get close to Woods, to enjoy the moment. No chance.

Tournament organisers went so far as decreeing that people living in houses alongside the course, especially by the 11th fairway, could not walk out of their gardens on to the course even if they were in possession of valid tickets.

They were supposed to leave by their front door, walk down the street and enter at the main gate. Over-kill again.

Shareholders who financed the tournament will not be getting a return on their money with Open2002 sure to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Should they try to repeat the exercise, those responsible will have learnt some costly lessons.

The 5000-seat grandstand on the 18th hole was an expensive white elephant, the stand at the 14th green unnecessary and getting sponsorships should have been left to IMG, who have been securing backers and running the New Zealand Open for several years.

As for the hospitality area on the ninth green, anyone could have told them that it would not be worthwhile.

Despite all that, the atmosphere was wonderful, especially on the course when Woods was playing.

Those responsible for getting Woods to New Zealand deserve credit, but they have a lot to learn when it comes to running a golf tournament.

WHILE walking the course during the New Zealand Open this writer was approached by two elderly women, who asked did I "take notes".

Having been answered in the affirmative, the women proceeded to give their theory on why players at the tournament were putting so badly.

The reason, they said, was that players leaning on their putters while awaiting their turn were making indentations in the green. Also, they pointed out, many players were exerting pressure on putters in their left hand while extricating the ball from the hole with their right hand.

Again, so the theory went, that made indentations and led to what Tiger Woods described as "waves" in the green close to the holes.

After watching this exchange, a smiling Australian PGA Tour official asked what it had been about. Told what had been said, the official agreed that the women had a point and said he would raise it with his colleagues.

Simple, isn't it?


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