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Tiger Woods brought into Thai political row

Tiger Woods could find himself in the middle of a Thai political feud for next month's homecoming tournament.

The government is looking into accusations that a leading politician owns the golf course -- in violation of asset disclosure laws -- where Woods is to play in the Johnnie Walker Classic on Nov. 16-19.

Woods, whose mother is Thai, is a national hero in Thailand and is certain to draw huge crowds on the Alpine Golf Course.

In 1998, Woods staged one of his great comebacks in Thailand, making up an eight-stroke deficit on the final day to beat Ernie Els in a playoff in this event in Phuket. His mother, Kultida, rushed to the green to embrace him.

This edition of the tournament features 156 golfers from the European, Australian, and Asian tours.

The course was designed by American Ronald Garl. Other courses in Thailand are designed by Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Robert Trent Jones.

The government contends that Thaksin Shinawatra, who aspires to the prime minister's job, bought the course for $11.9 million and did not disclose it to authorities.

According to Thai law, Cabinet ministers and their spouses must disclose assets before taking office, while in office and one year after leaving.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon, also faces another investigation for transferring assets to his three domestic servants before taking office in 1994.

The same servants are the proxy owners of the Alpine Golf Course, which reportedly paid $1 million to win the right to stage the Johnnie Walker Classic.

With elections approaching, Thai Rak Thai and the ruling Democrat Party have accused each other's leaders of corruption.

A spokesman for Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party denied that Thaksin owns the golf course, saying he is not cited as a shareholder in the company that owns the property.

Spokesman Suranan Vejjacheeva said Thaksin will welcome Woods, but in his capacity as an avid golfer and not as someone connected to the course.




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