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Tiger Woods to play in China in 2005

Tiger Woods is returning to China next year, this time with a trophy at stake.

Woods confirmed Saturday he would be playing a tournament in China next year, and a source involved with international golf said it would be a new event with the richest purse ever in Asia.

Woods made his first trip to China in November 2001 for a junior clinic, followed by a pro-am at Mission Hills Country Club in Shenzhen in which amateurs paid $18,000.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the tournament would be held in Shanghai on Nov. 10-13, the week after Woods concludes his PGA Tour season at the Tour Championship.

The field would be limited to winners on every major tour except the United States, along with some exemptions. The source said it would be co-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Japan tours, meaning world ranking points would be available. The purse would be in the $4 million to $5 million range.

One of the few decisions left is whether it would be at the end of 2005 European tour schedule, or the start of its 2006 season. The '05 schedule in Europe has already begun with events in China (Hong Kong Open) and South Africa.

"I think it's reasonable you would see Tiger play a fair amount -- not every year, but a fair amount," the source said.

That would limit Woods' international schedule next year to Asia and the British Open at St. Andrews. Woods won the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last month, and is expected to return to defend his title.

He is not expected to play in the Dubai Desert Classic, which leaves open the possibility of Woods returning to play in the Ford Championship at Doral on the PGA Tour.

China is regarded among tour officials as the next golf mecca. Augusta National invited its first player from the Republic of China -- Zhang Lian-Wei -- to compete in the Masters this year. Jack Nicklaus is heavily involved building golf courses in China, with a dozen already open for play and eight more under construction.

Asian Golf Monthly heralded Woods' appearance in 2001 as "a historic occasion for golf in the region."

The only drawback to his last visit?

Woods had to pay $500,000 (4.2 million yuan) in taxes on his appearance fee, making him the largest taxpayer in 2001 in Shenzhen, a prosperous center for finance and high-tech industry near Hong Kong.

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