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Nelson unhappy with schedule change

A new PGA Tour stop in North Carolina next May means the Byron Nelson Classic will be moved back one week, leaving tournament officials wondering whether Tiger Woods will return for a seventh straight year.

While Woods has played in the Nelson Classic every year since winning it in 1997, he has taken the following week off to play in Germany for appearance money that has grown to a reported $2 million.

This will be Woods' fourth straight year at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open, which he already has won twice.

If the Nelson Classic and Deutsche Bank-SAP Open are played the same week next year, Woods could face a tough decision.

``It would be hard to say 'no' to him,'' Woods said of Nelson, the 90-year-old tournament host who gave Woods a sponsor's exemption in 1993 when Woods was still in high school.

He also has played the Bay Hill Invitational and Memorial, where Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus are the tournament hosts, every year since turning professional.

``That's why you play Bay Hill. That's why you play Memorial,'' Woods said. ``That's how you honor these guys who have made all this possible.''

The Wachovia Open in Charlotte will be played May 8-11 in 2003, offering a purse of $5.6 million that is sure to attract a strong field.

Nelson officials have been told their tournament will be the following week.

``I think they could have handled it a little better,'' Nelson said Tuesday. ``That's not being critical. They have their own way doing things.''

Nelson said he expected next year's tournament to be successful no matter what, although Woods clearly has an impact. This is the sixth straight year the Nelson Classic has been a sellout, and it donates more to charity than any other PGA Tour event.

``Our mission is to maximize the contributions to our charity, and Tiger helps us tremendously,'' Randy Engstrom, the 2003 tournament chairman, told The Dallas Morning News. ``We've seen a dramatic increase in attendance since he's been here. A conflict with Tiger is a concern for us, but that's something we can't control.''

Whether there is a conflict next year is uncertain.

The European tour schedule is more flexible, and officials could move the Deutsche Bank to accommodate Woods and other top players.

``I have no information at all at this point that the Nelson Classic and Deutsche Bank are going head-to-head next year,'' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG. ``At some point, he might not play Germany. They're both great events. It (Deutsche Bank) falls at a time when he enjoys going overseas for the week.''


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