Ticket prices for April's Masters tournament spiked this week on news that Tiger Woods would return to golf after a four month hiatus, according to online ticket sellers, making the already rare tickets even more difficult and expensive to buy.
Badges to the Masters are some of the most coveted tickets in sports, and Woods is golf's most popular star, under normal circumstances. But in the wake of last year's whirlwind sex scandal and months spent in hiding, interest in watching Woods play has reached a new pitch.
The waiting list to acquire Masters tickets through the PGA was closed in 2000, meaning most fans must purchase tickets from scalpers or through online secondary marketplace sites like StubHub.com or auction sites like eBay.com.
On Tuesday, following Woods' announcement that he would play his first professional round of golf at the Augusta, Ga., event on April 8, StubHub reported a huge surge in traffic, boosting ticket prices to the weeklong event -- including the pre-tournament practice rounds -- by 10 percent.
"By no surprise we saw quite a bit of activity on StubHub yesterday as soon as Tiger confirmed his participation," StubHub spokeswoman Joellen Ferrer told ABC News.com.
Single tickets on the site sold Tuesday for an average of $500, more than double their average face value and 25 percent more than the average price for a badge to last year's Masters.
"Last year we saw a bit of a decline in prices, largely due to the economy. Prices are falling in line closer to 2008. On an aggregate average basis, we're seeing the average price for a ticket is $500," Ferrer said.
StubHub, the largest of the online secondary sales sites, did five times more business on Tuesday than an average day, and visits to Web pages on which Masters tickets could be purchased experienced a 70 percent surge in traffic.
Tickets to the Masters are famously difficult to come by, including the no-less-difficult-to-ascertain passes just to watch the players practice before the tournament officially starts.
"These are definitely hard tickets to find," said Ferrer. "There are waiting lists and different hoops you have to jump through. In reality, the only place to find them is on the secondary market."
By Wednesday afternoon, prices on StubHub for a single ticket for the event's first round on Thursday, April 8, ranged from $641 to $2,509.
Most of the tickets for sale on the auction site eBay.com are for practice rounds on Monday, April 5 to Wednesday, April 7. A package of four practice tickets was listed for just under $1,000 on Wednesday afternoon.
Woods, who has won the Masters four times, on Tuesday announced he would return to golf in April tournament, ending a months-long break and weeks of speculation.
"The Masters is where I won my first major, and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I'm ready to start my season at Augusta," the golfer said in a statement.
Woods last played competitive golf Nov. 15 at the Australian Open. A fortnight later, he took an indefinite leave of absence from golf after a bizarre car accident outside his Florida home Nov. 27 led to an avalanche of allegations and reports that he had cheated on his wife, Elin Nordegren, with multiple women.
In a public apology issued last month, Woods said he was undergoing therapy, presumably for sex addiction.