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Australian Open may move to attract stars

Australasian PGA Tour officials will consider holding the Australian Open a month earlier -- in October -- if it would entice international stars like Tiger Woods to play in the 101-year-old national championship next year.

Robert Allenby won the 2005 Australian Open on Sunday, although the tournament attracted few foreign players and the venue, Moonah Links, was heavily criticized by competitors.

Woods, who has not played in the Australian Open since his rookie year in 1996, said he'd consider traveling Down Under for the Australian Open if it was held soon after the bulk of the PGA Tour season finished next September, according to a report in The Australian newspaper.

"I think it will be great for the Aussie tour, as well as Japan," Woods said. "They've got some great events there, and obviously Australia has lost some events. I think that would be a great way for them to move it away from Christmas time and the holiday season, and move it back to where it used to be. I think some of the top players would play."

Fred Couples agreed that the tournament would be more appealing to American players if it was scheduled ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation period.

"I want to use these words correctly ... that the PGA Tour has kind of devoured some of the other tours," Couples said at the Skins Game. "I always have gone down to Australia, and there's just no time to go. As Tiger said, it would totally help that."

''For the players of the caliber of Tiger and Fred Couples and Fred Funk to come out and publicly offer support for our tour is just fantastic,'' Australasian PGA Tour General Manager Gus Seebeck told the (Australian) ABC radio. ''For them to say they would consider coming down here and playing is something we need to take very, very seriously and we hope to have further discussions with them into the future.''

Seebeck said domestic sponsorship and broadcasting rights would be tougher to negotiate in October due to competing sports.

''But these guys would obviously make a huge impact on any tournament we have down here,'' he added, ''so we need to make sure we give their comments due credit.''

The Australian Open had no trouble attracting the biggest stars in the 1960s and 70s. Gary Player won the event a record seven times, one more than Jack Nicklaus, and Greg Norman has won it five times.

But the event has struggled in recent years to attract the big names due to shrinking sponsorship revenue and the diminishing size of the Australasian Tour.

November 30, 2005

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