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Strong field for The International

David Duval heads a list of top names including all 14 previous winners at The International this week, the only stop on the U.S. Tour using a modified Stableford scoring system.

"It's really exciting to think that all 14 winners are going to be competing this year, which adds a certain historical dimension," said tournament executive director Larry Thiel.

The one big omission is Tiger Woods, who is taking the week off.

Newly crowned British Open champion Duval will be challenged by defending champion Ernie Els and world number two Phil Mickelson, the 1993 and 1997 champion and who finished second to Els last year.

Nearly all of the other prominent U.S. Tour players are in picturesque Castle Pines, as is Spaniard Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and 1989 champion Greg Norman.

Other entrants for the event starting on Thursdady include John Daly, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sunday's John Deere Classic winner, David Gossett, who played last year on a sponsor's exemption.

The International was founded in 1986 with a philosophy of inviting as many overseas players as possible.

More than 50 non-Americans are now regular members of the U.S. Tour but The International remains one of the favourite events.

Castle Pines is also one of its prettiest courses, many players taking advantage by renting luxurious houses with mountain views that dot the area.

The Stableford format also gives the event a unique twist.

The system awards eight points for double eagle, five for eagle, two for birdie, zero for par, and deducts one point for bogey and three for double bogey or worse.

That encourages aggressive, attacking golf, with the reward for birdie greater than the penalty for bogey.

The par-five 17th -- reachable in two shots for most players -- is often a pivotal hole.

Furthermore, due to the altitude of more than 5,000 feet, players hit the ball roughly 10 percent further than at sea level.

The purse for The International is $4 million, with $720,000 going to the winner.


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