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Match Play fails to deliver on behalf of Tucson

Ticket prices out of sync with today's economy and inclement weather are a formidable combination to overcome for a niche sport, particularly one without Tiger Woods for the foreseeable future.

The Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles recently was pummeled by the combination, attracting an estimated 30,000 spectators for the week.

Now, the Tucson Conquistadores, the organization responsible for staging the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, are lamenting a falloff in local interest, resulting in a failure to meet their goal of raising $1 million for charity, according to Ryan Finley's story in the Arizona Daily Star.

"I think it's a combination of the three," Judy McDermott, executive director of the Conquistadores," told Finley, citing the miserable weekend weather, a difficult economy and no Woods.

A ticket at the gate for the Northern Trust Open cost $50. A single-day ticket for the Match Play cost $65, in an area with a population base a fraction of that of the greater Los Angeles area. The Conquistadores will discuss lowering prices next year, the Daily Star said.

A potentially greater issue is that the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain has a contract to host the event only one more year. Tucson has hosted a PGA Tour event since 1945. Included in its roll call of winners are Tommy Bolt, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson.

When in 2006 Tucson was asked to give up what was then known as the Chrysler Classic of Tucson in exchange for hosting the Match Play Championship, the town was
euphoric. I wondered then whether it would regret surrendering its second-tier PGA Tour event that had staying power for a world class event that wasn't likely to put down similar roots, ultimately leaving it with no tournament.

I still wonder.

-- John Strege

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