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Cash Finally Flies On Masters Tickets

Around 4 p.m. yesterday, near the door of a vacant formal wear store close to the gates of Augusta National, a ticket broker had a stack of $20 and $100 bills so large it took him more than a minute to count it.

Tickets scalpers look for badges along Washington Road in front of Augusta National Golf Club.
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Tickets scalpers look for badges along Washington Road in front of Augusta National Golf Club.

Folks, the Tiger Woods Masters ticket bump has finally arrived.

When Woods announced on March 16 that he'd be making his comeback at the Masters, badge prices budged just a tad.

The excuses? A Tiger comeback at the Masters was already factored in. Even more importantly, insiders said, was the lack of corporate interest, with the big wigs still scared to show up in mass to golf tournaments on the company dime.

The truth is, there was a huge Tiger ticket bump — it only took until Monday for those peddling the badges to understand it.

Why?

Because unlike any other ticket in sports, there is no public sale. Four-day badges are only sold to Augusta National members and certain patrons, though they of course get into the hands of ticket sellers.

And perhaps more key here is the fact that many of the badge transactions happen offline, meaning there's really no way to see how many badges are left at any given time.

So what happened?

"I think people just thought the prices would hold and promised too much, thinking they'd be able to pick them up for the same prices," said Jim Zissler, vice president of Inside Sports and Entertainment Group, which provides travel packages to corporate clients.

The badges are complicated because they are only for the entire tournament, which means selling individual days relies on passes being returned. StubHub, for example, charges a $3,000 fee for someone who buys individual days and fails to return the badge.

But even that charge might not be rational now. Zissler said fans could buy Thursday and Friday for $500 each last week. Now, you can't find tomorrow's round for anything less than $2,800.

"It's nice to finally see a market that's so strong," Zissler said. "But this is pretty crazy."

FanSnap.com, a ticket event search engine that compiles the feeds of 60 sites, said four-day badges weren't available for anything less than $8,000 yesterday. Contrast that with a couple weeks ago when those who bought early could have gotten in for $2,500 for the four days.

Stubhub spokesman Joellen Ferrer said the per day averages are still on par with last year and that prices are being reported now are skewed because the final badges are going for a fortune.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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