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U.S. Open for Business

The 2007 U.S. Open teed off on Thursday at the Oakmont Country Club near Pittsburgh. CNBC is there with highlights from the tournament and reports on the business of golf.

Paying For The Privilege

About 250 companies are paying millions of dollars to do business out at the U.S. Open, CNBC's Darren Rovell reports.

Largest spenders are shelling out $200,000 for their hospitality tent. Meals are costing roughly $130 per person and some companies even spend an extra $95,000 to make their tent look more attractive.

“You might say $200,000 for a tent is a lot of money, and it is!” said Mimi Griffin, director of marketing in the U.S Open Championship.

“Except when you break it down on a cost per person basis, you’re talking about 100 tickets per day, seven days," she added. "You’re talking about a cost of maybe $250 to $350 per person. And if you have a company or client that’s bringing tens of thousands of dollars in business, of course you’re going to spend that kind of money on them.”

Around 60% of the companies who have tables and tents are located in the Pittsburgh area near the Oakmont Country Club, while the other 40% are national. But they all say it’s hard to even estimate return on investment.

Bubba's Rising Star

The next golfing superstar may be an unlikely one, reports CNBC's Darren Rovell. 28-year-old Bubba Watson ostensibly has had no formal lessons and has no swing coach. But the wunderkind has the biggest drive on the tour, and played even par on Thursday. Watson is starting Friday playing third place.

If Watson continues to surprise, the "average guy" from Bagdad, Fla. may land an endorsement deal with apparel chain Steve & Barry's -- and that's just for starters, says Rovell.

Play Like The Pros

To play Oakmont you have to be invited. But several professional-level courses are accessible to individuals and corporate entities, thanks to Tour GCX. For $156 per person per round, the service's members can pick from 36 private courses.

"Most of our members are using Tour GCX as a client entertainment solution," said Gary Rosenberg, partner and CMO.

Projected Winner: Memorabilia Sales

U.S. Open Director of Merchandise Mary Lopuszynski predicts sales of 100,000 branded hats, 40,000 T-shirts and 70,000 golf shirts -- in a shopping area of 36,000 square feet.

CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell says the event has an edge over the Super Bowl: Every U.S. Open host club has a 100-mile buffer zone around it, where sales of official merchandise cannot be sold.

Investing in Paradise

Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are rivals at the Open, but the golf greats are partners in a real estate development in the Bahamas, CNBC's Scott Wapner reports.

The new community for the super-rich, backed by the private equity firm Tavistock Group, offers 350 homes and luxury apartments ranging in price from $4 million to $20 million.

“It’s a great get-away,” Els says. “It’s close to the U.S. – not a lot of time zones you have to cross – and it’s almost like being in Florida.”

Wapner says the development comes with amenities worthy of a five-star resort, including a 17-acre marina, a water park for the kids, five-star dining and – don’t forget your clubs – a championship golf course designed by Els.

“It’s a complete community,” says Clarence Otis, chief executive officer of Darden Restaurants. “Really designed for families – intergenerational – which was appealing to us.”