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World Golf Championships Expands

April 27, 2009

SHANGHAI, China (AP) -- The HSBC Champions in China has been elevated to a World Golf Championship this year with a new qualifying criteria and a $7 million purse, the highest ever for a golf tournament in Asia.

Tiger Woods already has said he will play, along with defending champion Sergio Garcia.

The HSBC Champions began in 2005 and had been sanctioned by every major golf tour except the PGA Tour. That changes with its designation as the fourth World Golf Championship, and the only one not staged in the United States.

Woods was runner-up his first two times playing the HSBC Champions, and will return for the Nov. 5-8 event.

"It is an event that symbolizes the amazing progress of golf in Asia, and its new World Golf Championships status underlines how firmly China has established its place on the global golf calendar," Woods said. "I enjoy playing around the world when possible, and having a WGC event in China is very important to the global growth of the game."

The world's No. 1 player has won at least one WGC event each year since the series began in 1999.

The HSBC Champions again will be played at Sheshan International Golf Club. It will not count as official money in the United States.

"This is one of the most significant steps ever taken in the globalization of golf, and one of the most logical," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

The 78-man field will be limited to winners from every major tour in the world. Along with the major championships, the three WGC events in America and The Players Championship, qualifying will include winners from 23 top-rated tournaments on the PGA Tour and the European Tour, nine tournament winners from the Asian Tour and five each from the Japan Golf Tour, Sunshine Tour in South Africa and Australasian Tour.

But it will not be known until the fall how many Americans will bother going, especially after their official season has ended and any money earned will not count toward the PGA Tour money list.

Even when a WGC event previously was played in Europe, several U.S.-based players did not attend.