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Tickets on the cheap for PGA Championship

When Tiger Woods' bid for the Grand Slam sputtered at the windy British Open last month, people holding on to PGA tickets, hoping for a huge windfall, instead created a glut. And on Monday morning, the Canterbury Park parking lot, where school buses shuttled thousands of spectators to Hazeltine National, became a marketplace for some of those tickets.

This week's PGA Championship is technically sold out, but ticket brokers insist there are plenty of face-value tickets available to watch golf's elite.

"Everyone thought this was going to be the hottest ticket since sliced bread, but it's really not a big deal," said Tom, a veteran ticket broker from Minneapolis.

Tom added that there are plenty of tickets available. He declined to give his last name because selling tickets for more than face value is illegal in Minnesota.

From his perch near the front gate of Hazeltine National, Tom was selling Monday practice-round tickets for $10. He and other brokers were buying full-week packages that originally sold for $265 for half that much. Fans were required to buy the whole set, which included three practice rounds and four tickets to watch the competition. Special packages that included clubhouse access or admittance to the huge Wanamaker tent, cost $350-$375 originally.

"Practice rounds are throwaways, and people can get the whole week for way less than $265," he said.

One look in the classified ads in local newspapers confirmed his analysis of a buyers' market. Calls on the classified ads showed that Sunday's final-round tickets were going for around $80 and prices for the first three rounds ranged from $45 to $75.

"Everyone snatched up tickets when Tiger won the U.S. Open, and they were going for $600 to $800 on the Internet," said Lisa, who also declined to give her last name because she rents furnished apartments around Chaska and traded some units for PGA tickets. "When Tiger lost the British Open, the market crashed."

The PGA is considered the least prestigious of golf's four major tournaments, and "people are tired by the time the last tournament comes around," Tom said. "The kids are getting ready for school, and the PGA is never too tough of a ticket to get."

The event, which sold out just two days after Woods won the U.S. Open in mid-June, could have been a historic stage if he had won the British Open last month. While it is still the first major golf tournament to come to the Twin Cities in 11 years, the supply of tickets is outweighing demand, brokers say.

For nearly two weeks, Philadelphia-area golf antiques dealer Allen Wallach has been attempting to sell a set of tickets he received from a customer in Minnesota.

"It doesn't seem to be as hot a commodity as he thought it would be," Wallach said. "I've tried to sell them for $400; $100 a day. If that were the Master's or something, it wouldn't be a question either way."

Crowds of 40,000 people are expected each day, an increase of 7,000 from last year's tournament near Atlanta. This is the third straight year the PGA Championship has sold out. It was also sold out in 1996 and 1997.

Ed Caffrey of St. Paul unsuccessfully tried to auction some tickets for face value on Caffrey, who had planned to use the tickets as a business incentive but had several extras, said he believes Woods' British Open loss will have the largest effect on the early rounds.

"Even though they anticipate all these full crowds out there for the whole tournament, I don't know where the people can come from to go out there Monday through Friday," he said. "Everybody I know seems to have to do something called work.

"There were a lot of people that bought tons of tickets based on an assumption of Tiger Woods winning the British Open, and when he didn't, all those tickets came out," Caffrey said. "If he was looking at a grand slam here, there would be people selling one series of tickets for a couple grand. Suddenly, the ticket brokers and everyone else are trying to get rid of them."

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