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World's top players line for HSBC Champions Tournament

Tiger Woods only American in HSBC field

Tiger Woods considers traveling the world to be "one of the perks of professional golf." However, the $4.71 million HSBC Champions Tournament proves not every star shares that view.

As of September 12, the world's top 50 golfers were eligible for this event. Just 15 have made the trip, with Woods the only American.

"With the travel comes certain challenges, but you also get the chance to sample the passion for golf in other parts of the world," said Woods, the top-ranked golfer in the world.

Asked if he thought more leading players should embrace the global stage, Woods added, "I think a lot do, but at the end of the day it is a personal decision and when you have such a successful tour as we do in the United States, then it is always going to be difficult for other tours to compete."

Nevertheless, Woods and second-ranked Vijay Singh are the tournaent's big catches and add real glitter to what is not only the richest golf tournament ever staged in Asia but also the opening leg of the new European PGA Tour season.

Europeans entered include Colin Montgomerie, who won a record eighth Order of Merit title two weeks ago; Volvo Masters champion Paul McGinley; Ireland's Padraig Harrington; and David Howell. They will vie for a first prize of over $828,000 and the requisite Ryder Cup points.

Montgomerie has been paired with Woods in the first two rounds. They last played together in the third round of the British Open, where Montgomerie scored lower but went on to finish second. The Scot never has won an event in which Woods is playing.

Woods, who is believed to be receiving an appearance fee of $2 million this week, went straight from his arrival to a clinic at the Sheshan International club, then played nine practice holes. His busy day also included a city center news conference attended by a horde of local media, followed by a publicity stunt that saw him hit balls into the Huang Pu River, which is 580 yards wide.

"I am really excited to come to China," said Woods, whose mother is of Thai descent. "There is a real buzz about golf in China and that is only going to grow as the game's popularity increases.

"There is no doubt that the hunger for the game in this part of the world will have a positive effect on the professional game. It is also sure to nurture future talent and before long it will result in not just one, but a generation of world-class players. You only have to look at the women's game to see that."

This year, Woods already has captured The Masters and British Open, two World Golf Championships events and the PGA Tour money title for the sixth time in his career with more than $10 million. He was second to Bart Bryant in last week's Tour Championship.

"After putting in so much hard work to make things right it's great to reap the rewards," he said. "I've always strived to be the best, by setting myself tough goals. So many people said I was doing the wrong things. They can now understand why I made those changes.

"Each and every week I feel as if I just play my game I should have a chance come the back nine - and that's where you want to go. I'm still driven by the desire to be the best."

November 9, 2005

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