Telecoms tycoon counting on Tiger to swing election

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 12:00am

Tiger Woods, shotmaker supreme, is quickly becoming the ultimate kingmaker. Thailand's Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecoms tycoon and leader of the Thai Rak Thai political party, has reportedly bankrolled Woods' appearance at this week's Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok.

In return for his US$1 million outlay, Thaksin will be pictured with the sports superstar at various functions just a few weeks ahead of a general election, which he is favoured to win. Some happy snaps with Woods, who is huge in his mother's homeland, will do Thaksin a power of good with the electorate.

There is the small matter that Thaksin is not the registered owner of the Alpine Golf & Sports Club where the Classic is being staged, with Thai newspapers reporting that the shares had been transferred to members of his domestic staff, but that's unlikely to stop the garrulous billionaire from glad-handing Woods.

Woods is aware his name and image can open doors, and influence decisions, but there are times when he cannot stop the hijacking of his celebrity.

The team bidding to bring the 2009 Ryder Cup to Scotland is all but touting Woods as one of its supporters although the world number one has nothing whatsoever to do with the campaign.

The Scots have seized on a Woods comment that he would 'love to play in a Ryder Cup in Scotland, that would be a fantastic thing to do' and are using it as an endorsement. Cheekily, they have also trumpeted the fact that two Scottish youngsters were invited to a clinic for hundreds of kids which the American gave in London's Hyde Park on Monday as 'Tiger Woods' support for core element of Scotland's Ryder Cup initiative'. The 'core element' being that every child in Scotland will be introduced to golf before they reach nine years old. Tenuous or what?

Woods, and his management company, want to tighten up on the indiscriminate bandying about of his name and image and a war is brewing with the US PGA Tour.

He claims that the Tour, and some of its sponsors, frequently use the most powerful words in golf, 'Tiger Woods', to promote events that he is playing in.

As appearance money is banned on the US PGA Tour, meaning Woods cannot pocket his usual US$1 million to US$2 million just for teeing up, he does not get any financial benefit for bringing in extra spectators.

Woods also feels that in 'a perfect world' he should receive a personal percentage of the Tour's television revenues, which amount to around US$500 million. He argues that when he is playing an event the TV ratings shoot up 40 per cent and, when he is leading on the final day, they register a 100 per cent increase.

The Tour does not dispute those figures but is in no mood to hand over a slice of the cake to Woods. That, in effect, would be saying that Tiger is bigger than the game itself.

Currently, the television money is used to bolster prize pots and this is the main reason why a staggering 46 golfers won more than US$1 million on the US Tour this season, which officially ended with the World Championships at Valderrama last weekend.

Those guys will be the first to admit that the phenomenal success of Tiger, who will top the US$9.5 million mark in winnings overall this year with victory in Bangkok, is the reason why the US Tour is sloshing about in cash.

Woods is projected to earn more than US$8 billion, yes billion, in his career so it is almost petty that he is looking for television revenues from the US Tour.

He is not - and should not be allowed to become - more powerful than golf.