Hero Motorcorp’s MD and CEO Pawan Munjal pulled off a major coup by getting sporting legend Tiger Woods to make his first visit to India, and playing almost an entire round of golf with him at the Delhi Golf Club (DGC). For a golfer, playing one-on-one with Tiger Woods is the equivalent of having an intimate dinner with Angelina Jolie or playing tennis with Roger Federer. In fact, Woods and Federer are known to charge huge amounts for making an appearance at events, while Jolie will do the same if you contribute large sums to her favourite charity. If most reports are to be believed, Woods charges appearance money in the region of $2.5-3 million, which suggests that Munjal would have coughed up between Rs 10 and
Rs 15 crore (not to mention the private jet that brought Woods from Dubai and back
to Florida) just for the honour of playing a round of golf.
There’s two sides to the debate about appearance money. One side says for someone who is passionate about golf, as Munjal is, to play with the best golfer in the world in front of your home crowd is priceless. There is also the side benefit of a major boost to the sport in India and inspiring kids to take up golf. There is, of course, the other side: that appearance money to top sportsmen generally outstrips the prize money on offer for other players, and since it’s restricted to a chosen few, it dilutes professional sport and negates a level-playing field. The Professional Golf Association (PGA) of America forbids appearance fees in its tournaments. So Woods skipped a PGA event in America in January and played in the United Arab Emirates, where he reportedly received appearance money close to $2.7 million, the equivalent of the total purse on offer at the event.
In Abu Dhabi, the appearance fees to attract top players were estimated to be $5 million, twice as much as the tournament purse. Not surprisingly, 11 of the world’s top 25 players opted for the Emirates. It’s a situation that leaves PGA tournament directors and sponsors infuriated. Sports is now as commercial as any other enterprise, and for most events these days, to attract big names adds prestige and guarantees a crowd. Woods, of course, is in a class by himself. A week earlier, he showed up at the Turkish Airlines Open,