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Top Australians commit to NZ Open

Four of New Zealand's best golfers may be conspicuously absent from next month's New Zealand Open but Australians will be represented in force.

Nick O'Hern and Lucas Parsons are the latest Australians to confirm their appearance at the $US1 million ($A1.95 million) tournament, at Paraparaumu Beach on January 10-13, which promises to attract unprecedented interest due to the presence of world No 1 Tiger Woods.

O'Hern is a four-time winner on the Australasian PGA Tour, while Parsons' seven tour wins include the 1995 New Zealand Open played at Heretaunga in Upper Hutt.

United States-based Craig Parry was among the first Australians to sign up for the open, and he has since been joined by Scott Laycock, Brett Rumford, Peter O'Malley, Craig Spence, Peter Senior, Brett Ogle, Andre Stoltz, Scott Gardiner and Ken Druce.

While the Australians have no doubt been attracted to Paraparaumu Beach on the Kapiti Coast by the chance to play in the same field as Woods, the doubling of the tournament prizemoney from this year's $US500,000 ($A975,039) has also been an influential carrot.

Their presence will help offset the notable absence of prominent New Zealand players Frank Nobilo, Grant Waite, Phil Tataurangi and Michael Long.

All four are based in the US and have all cried off for various reasons.

Tournament organisers are happy the Australian response has been so positive.

"We are pleased that such a strong group of excellent Australian players have entered the tournament," Open2002 managing director David Pool said.

"We believe we will have the strongest line-up of Australasian players in several years tee up at the Telstra Hyundai New Zealand Open. "The testing nature of the Paraparaumu Beach course is a drawcard and of course the prizemoney is doubled for next month's tournament.

"And I am sure many players want to have the opportunity to play alongside Tiger Woods. For many it will be the chance of a lifetime."

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