Prime Minister Najib looking forward to game with Woods

PUTRAJAYA: A string of PGA Tour players will once again grace the Mines Resort and Golf Club for the CIMB Classic golf tournament from Oct 25-28 and, yes, this time Tiger Woods will be in the mix.

The organisers have been trying to get the former world No. 1 since the inaugural tournament in 2010 but unforeseen circumstances prevented him from competing.

“I have fond memories of the country and its people. I’ve heard that CIMB does a good job staging the event and I look forward to being part of it this year,” said Woods in a statement.

Woods won the individual and team titles in the 1999 World Cup at the Mines course.

The CIMB Classic began two years ago with a limited-field exhibition tournament that featured PGA Tour and Asian Tour players.

It will become a full-fledged PGA Tour event starting in 2013, when the Tour begins its new season in October after the FedEx Cup competition.

“It has always been the plan to upgrade the tournament to become a full-fledged PGA Tour event with an increased total prize money of US$7mil (RM21.8mil),” said CIMB group chief executive, Datuk Seri Nazir Razak at the launch of the event in Putrajaya yesterday.

The launch was graced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who revealed that his childhood dream of having a PGA Tour event in the country will eventually be fulfilled.

“It is a marquee event for this part of the region and it underscores just how far Malaysia has grown to be a major player in golf,” said Najib.

“I’m looking forward to the event and also to the tee-off with Tiger Woods. It will perhaps be the most daunting thing I have ever done.”

This year’s edition of the tournament will maintain the same format as last year with 48 players, 72-hole stroke-play and a purse of US$6.1mil (RM18.95mil).

Last year’s winner Bo Van Pelt, currently ranked 22nd in the FedEx ranking, will return to defend the title.

The organisers have also announced that 2010 winner Ben Crane (FedEx ranking 36th) will be coming.

Another big change is that CIMB is handling the tournament directly, which has been rebranded as the CIMB Classic from the previous CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic.

In line with this and to make the tournament a full PGA Tour event next year, the PGA championship management division will take over the managing and running of the tournament with Todd Rhinehart as the executive director.

On the challenge to bring PGA Tour players on a long haul trip to play at the Mines next year, Rhinehart believes it will not be a huge problem.

“The HSBC World Champion­ships will be held in China a week after the CIMB Classic next year and that should entice them to come.

“Plus, it will also be a no-cut event so everyone is guaranteed a prize,” said Rhinehart, whose last job was the running of the Players Championship for the PGA Tour.

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