Golf fan Robin Dill has been a regular visitor to Torrey Pines Golf Course for the Buick Invitational in recent years.
A resident of Garden Grove, he would make the trip down from Orange County each year, and even dished out large sums of money to play in the pre-tournament pro-am multiple times.
He decided to pass on the Buick this year, though, and he wasn’t alone. Hit with the triple whammy of a poor economy, the absence of golf’s biggest star in Tiger Woods and inclement weather throughout the week, the PGA Tour event was met with noticeably smaller crowds than in years past.
Numbers unofficialWhile official numbers haven’t been released, tournament officials estimated attendance to be down anywhere from 10 to 20 percent from last year’s figures, and the event’s contributions to charity were estimated to be down more than 25 percent.
“I didn’t come down, because I thought it was raining,” Dill said. “I was going to come down Sunday, but because of the weather, I thought it was going to be rained out.”
Dill said that the economy directly affected his decision not to play in the pro-am.
Woods’ absence wouldn’t have kept Dill from buying a ticket had the weather cooperated, but he was clearly in the minority among golf fans. Casual fans of the sport are plentiful, and without Woods, the Buick simply didn’t have the same draw as it has in the past.
TV ratings dropWith relative unknown Nick Watney winning the tournament that had crowned Woods its champion each of the previous four years, television ratings on Golf Channel and CBS were 50 percent lower than last year’s, according to Nielsen.
Phil Mickelson, the Rancho Santa Fe resident who is currently ranked No. 5 in the Official World Golf Rankings and is arguably golf’s biggest star aside from Woods, admitted that the tournament was lacking something without the game’s brightest star.
“I think that this tournament certainly misses his presence,” Mickelson said. “You know, he’s been such a mainstay of this event. … He played so well on the course that I know the tournament misses him immensely.”