After becoming the first man to hit golf balls from one continent to another on Tuesday, Tiger Woods is hoping his huge presence can help Turkey build golfing bridges and develop the game in the host nation of the US$7 million Turkish Airlines Open by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.
Woods struck balls from Asia to Europe from the iconic Bosphoros Bridge in Istanbul before flying to Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Belek, Antalya, where he will join the majority of Europe’s best in the third event of The European Tour’s Final Series and the penultimate event of the 2013 Race to Dubai.
The World Number One joked that he was delighted to avoid “an international incident” in Istanbul on Tuesday as he faced one of the toughest drives of his life.
“I tell you what, I've never done that one before,” smiled Woods. “I've hit balls down airports before on runways but never down a bridge. The scary part was just getting off a plane having flown for 12 hours and having to hit driver down the narrowest fairway I've ever seen.
“The wind was coming off the left a little bit, all these cars were driving on the right, so if I lose any balls to the right, there's an international incident right there. So that was a little bit nerve wracking but, trust me, every ball drew! But it was pretty cool – somebody was telling me I hit one 550 metres or something like that, which was not too bad.”
Woods is making his second appearance in Turkey, having competed in the eight-man Turkish Airlines World Golf Final last year, and he is hoping the significant support from Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, combined with golf’s inclusion in the Olympics, will help the sport grow to a similar level as the 37 year old has witnessed in China since his first there over a decade ago.
“It's exciting for me as a player to have seen certain countries develop and get involved in the game of golf; Turkey being one of them, and the other one, as we have all seen is China. I went there around 12 years ago for the first time and to see now the amount of kids with clubs in their hands and the amount of kids with really good swings, it's just staggering.
“And Turkey is trying to do the same. You can't have this happen unless you get the government behind it, and we've seen it in certain countries like Sweden, they have done it, where they have had the government provide subsidies to these junior golf programmes and amateur golf programmes and they travel all around the south of Europe and they play in all of these team matches and tournaments, and they gain experience.
“Without the government support and trying to drive this, I don't think it would happen. But I think that what's really changed a lot in our landscape is the inclusion of the Olympics. Countries that haven't really traditionally been golf countries are now getting involved in it and getting behind it, and they want to have their country's athletes represented in the Olympics to try and get a medal.”