Tiger Woods gets VIP treatment in Thailand

BANGKOK (AP): Tiger Woods met the prime minister of Thailand on Monday as he received VIP treatment during a short visit to his mother's home country.

Woods will take part in a one-day, charity skins tournament later Monday, on his first visit to Thailand in 10 years. The event is part of celebrations marking King Bhumibol's 60th year on the Thai throne.

Woods also made an early morning visit to pay respects to the ailing 82-year-old king, who has been lodged at a Bangkok hospital for more than a year. The golfer did not meet the king but signed a get well book at the hospital.

A 14-time major winner, Woods has not won a tournament this year after stepping away from the game for nearly four months in the wake of an infidelity scandal that destroyed his image and led to the breakup of his marriage.

Thais adore Woods because of his Thai family connection. But the golfer displayed his American side by shaking hands with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and ignoring the leader's "wai," the traditional Thai greeting of palms pressed together with a head bow that is a sign of humility and respect.

Dressed in a grey blazer and black trousers, Woods and Thailand's top player, Thongchai Jaidee, presented Abhisit with a golf club during a brief meeting at his stately office, the Government House.

The golfers handed Abhisit a check for 2.2 million baht ($73,000) from ticket sales they are donating to the victims of recent floods that left more than 100 people dead.

Woods then boarded a helicopter for Chonburi, a seaside province southeast of Bangkok, where the one-day tournament was being held at the Amata Spring Country Club.

Paul Casey of England, Camilo Villegas of Colombia and Thongchai were also competing for total prize money of $300,000. All players have agreed to donate their winnings to charity projects overseen by Thailand's king, organisers said.

Woods' stay in Bangkok was scheduled to last about 24 hours. He arrived in Bangkok on Sunday night after competing in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and is scheduled to leave Monday evening for Australia to compete in the Nov. 11-14 Australian Masters in Melbourne.

Woods first played in Thailand in 1997, when he won the Asian Honda Classic and was greeted by large crowds. He also received a royal decoration and was feted by the then prime minister.

He last played in Thailand in 2000, winning the Johnnie Walker Classic. He also won the inaugural event in 1998.

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