The “Tiger Effect” and Economic Impact

The Buick Open this year will be without Tiger Woods who is out with his well-publicized, but self-inflicted, “injury.” So what effect does this have on the Buick Open and specifically the local economy of San Diego?

According to an economic impact study published by the tournament, the 2007 and 2008 Buick Opens, each won by Tiger Woods, both attracted roughly 45-55,000 out-of-town visitors and generated economic impacts of around $30 million for the city. Out-of-towners represented 26% of the crowd in 2007 and 37% of spectators in 2008.

“Tigerless” tournaments generally attract 10-25% fewer spectators than those with the sport’s premier player. Taking the economic impact numbers at face value, an admittedly unusual move here at The Sports Economist to be sure, if the reduction in attendance is evenly distributed between locals and non-locals, Tiger Woods’ absence means a reduction in economic impact for the city of 10-25% or roughly $3 to $7 million.

But there is ample reason to believe his absence is not uniformly distributed. Even without Tiger, the Buick Open is a fun event for locals to attend right in their own backyard. However, the tournament may no longer be worth a long trip for the serious golf fan. Indeed, tournament officials have hinted that out-of-town visitors may comprise fewer than 10% of spectators this year. Since out-of-towers represent the only real source of potential economic impact, this represents a possible reduction in economic impact of 60-75% or a fall of $18-22 million from the previous $30 million figure.

Looks like Tiger might owe an explanation to all of the poor economic analysts in San Diego.