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PGA Tour returns to Boston in 2003

The speculation about a major PGA Tour event at the Tournament Players Club of Boston became reality yesterday with the announcement of the $5 million Deutsche Bank U.S. Championship to be played the next two Labor Day weekends at the Norton facility, which opened for play this past summer.

The deal is between Deutsche Bank and the PGA Tour for a four-year sponsorship that will have the Tiger Woods Foundation as main charitable beneficiary, which means Woods, the world's top-ranked player, will make his fourth tournament appearance in New England starting next Aug. 29.

The tournament, which will run through Sept. 1 (Labor Day), will be a full-field event and televised the first two rounds by USA Network and the final two rounds by ABC.

The Norton tournament is set for 2003 and 2004, with $900,000 going to the winner. Sources have indicated the tournament will be moved to San Francisco's Harding Park in 2005 and 2006, although one source said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told him the two-year deal in Boston carried with it a two-year option.

Despite tour denials, there are still sources who say the World Golf Championships' American Express Championship, an elite, short-field international event, will come to the TPC Boston course in 2005 and return in three-year intervals.

International Management Group, which manages Woods' business affairs, will manage the tournament and name a tournament director from within its ranks.

``I am thrilled that Deutsche Bank has selected the Tiger Woods Foundation to be the beneficiary of this new PGA Tour event,'' Woods said in a statement. ``This will certainly assist our foundation's goals in helping and reaching out to youngsters in need, who will lead this nation to a brighter tomorrow.''

PGA Tour spokesman Bob Combs said the tournament is set just for the next two years.

``The first two playings in 2003 and 2004 will be at the Tournament Players Club of Boston,'' Combs said. ``No decisions on the site have been made past 2004 at this time. Discussions are continuing as to what might happen beyond 2003 and 2004. It's a four-year agreement.''

Peter Manning, FleetBoston vice-chairman and newly elected chairman of TPC Boston, started the tournament ball rolling seven years ago when he acquired the 600-acre piece of land while he was the merger and acquisition guru at BankBoston. When that bank merged with Fleet and became FleetBoston, the project became a reality.

``We are very excited about the event,'' Manning said. ``We welcome Deutsche Bank and the Tiger Woods Foundation to TPC at Boston. The goals of the Tiger Woods Foundation in supporting children are totally consistent with FleetBoston's long-standing commitment to children. The event culminates a four-year development project and effort to bring world-class PGA Tour golf back to this area.''

Manning dealt with the town of Norton to get permits to construct a world-class course with a tournament in mind, as well as a substantial office park on part of the property.

``We went with the TPC because the bank wanted to get behind (a tournament),'' said Manning, whose FleetBoston institution is the title sponsor of the Champions (nee Senior) Tour's FleetBoston Classic at Nashawtuc in Concord, which ends less than a month before the Deutsche Bank event begins next summer.

``I think (the area) can easily support both events,'' said Manning, who revealed that after 2003, the next three FleetBoston Classic events will be played in June, which allows for more time between tournaments.

Jim O'Mara, general manager at TPC Boston, said work will begin this morning on the event. There is a much smaller window for organization than usual, but O'Mara doesn't see any problems.

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