AP News

Woods to play in China before going Down Under

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Tiger Woods is beefing up his international schedule at the end of the year, saying Wednesday that he will play the HSBC Champions in China the week before he heads to Melbourne for the Australian Masters.

Woods shut down his overseas travel in 2007 after the birth of his first child, and couldn't play last year as he recovered from knee surgery. He announced last week he would play in Australia for the first time since the Presidents Cup in 1998.

The trip Down Under comes with a $3 million appearance fee, half of which comes from taxpayers in the state of Victoria.

Woods defended the appearance money when asked about it at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

``This is the only place that doesn't have appearance fees,'' Woods said of the PGA Tour. ``Most of the guys get appearance fees to play around the world. I've played all around the world and I've thoroughly enjoyed going.

``Obviously, there's some controversy behind it, but I'm really looking forward to getting down there and competing.''

The HSBC Champions is expected to become a World Golf Championship, and when it does, it will be the only WGC event that Woods has not won. But it won't be his first appearance at the tournament in Shanghai.

He was runner-up in 2005 and 2006. Phil Mickelson won the HSBC a year later.

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ADVICE FROM THE KING: Despite his clout and respect, Arnold Palmer isn't one to dispense advice on how players should behave. His only request might be that they remember how the PGA Tour started - and how good they have it now.

In his first PGA Tour event, the total purse was $10,000. Even last-place money at the Arnold Palmer Invitational gets more than that.

But it's not only about the money.

``I can think about the years that I played the tour from 1955 to present day, and I can tell you that things have changed,'' he said.

Palmer said the tour began with what he called the ``Winter Tour,'' which now is the West Coast Swing. From there, players would drive across the country, eventually heading to Florida and then north to Augusta National for the Masters.

``When we played the Winter Tour, we always looked forward to getting to Augusta because of the condition and things at Augusta that we didn't have generally,'' he said. ``That doesn't mean that I'm being critical. I'm only pointing out that the conditions of the golf course and the purses that we played for have all changed. I think more than ever, we kind of took all that for granted.

``I would say that they need to understand more about what the tour is all about, how it got to be where it is, and my advice would be to take a good, long look - and then maybe realize it didn't just happen. It's taken a lot of years for it to happen.''

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McCORMACK AWARD: The Mark H. McCormack Award was created in 1998 to honor the player who was ranked No. 1 for the most weeks during a season. The list of winners is the shortest in golf.

Tiger Woods was presented with the award Wednesday for 2008, the third straight year he was No. 1 every week of the year.

McCormack, the late founder of IMG, was responsible for creating a world golf ranking, which was launched at the 1986 Masters. Since then, 12 players have been No. 1 in the world. The only players to be No. 1 since Woods first reached the top on June 15, 1997, are Ernie Els (nine weeks), David Duval (15 weeks) and Vijay Singh (32 weeks).

Woods has been No. 1 a total of 540 weeks.

His ranking is now in jeopardy, however, with Phil Mickelson closer than he has ever been. Depending on how Woods does at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Lefty might have a chance to become No. 1 in the world with a high finish next week at the Shell Houston Open.

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PAR FOR THE COURSE: Arnold Palmer says Bay Hill is in the best shape he can remember, but he's not done with it yet.

Palmer said the course would be redone on May 15, mainly changing the soil on the greens to make them more consistent and eliminate the problem they had with nematodes last year that nearly killed them. The routing will not change, but Palmer said he would create more collection areas and eliminate a few bunkers that aren't in play.

And he suggested returning Bay Hill to a par 72 for his tournament.

``We're not going to try to make it any more difficult than it is,'' he said. ``We'll probably go back to a par 72, I don't know. That's something we can talk about. ... What we do to Bay Hill for next year will be something that we hope will make it more exciting and bring the golf course back to where we'd like to have it.''

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