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Shanghai event awarded WGC status

SAME city, same course, but this time with a world-class field and increased prize money.

The HSBC Champions tournament will be elevated to the elite World Golf Championship series from November 5 to 8 at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, making it the highest-level tournament in Asia, the International Federation of PGA Tours, the China Golf Association, IMG and HSBC announced yesterday.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 3 Sergio Garcia, the defending champion, have already confirmed they will compete in the event, as has World No. 7 Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner.

"It is an event that symbolizes the amazing progress of golf in Asia and its new World Golf Championships status underlines how firmly China has established its place on the global golf calendar," Woods said in a statement.

"I enjoy playing around the world when possible, and having a WGC event in China is very important to the global growth of the game."

The prize money will be increased from US$5 million to US$7 million, making it the richest event in Asia.

The WGC-HSBC Champions will feature revised qualifying criteria for the field of 78 golfers from around the world. The event will also include four wildcard Chinese players, who will be selected by the China Golf Association.

"As a Chinese golfer, to have a PGA tournament at home is like a dream come true to me," said veteran Zhang Lianwei.

The Guangdong-based golfer made history by becoming the first Chinese mainland player to earn an invitation to the United States Masters at Augusta in 2004.

Woods has dominated WGC events, winning 15 of the first 31 tournaments. Woods was the runner-up in the 2005 and 2006 HSBC Champions, but he didn't play the next two years.

"After two year's time, we have Tiger Woods back, who is a big attraction to local fans," Giles Morgan, head of HSBC global sponsorship, said in Shanghai.

"A more detailed player field will be announced in August."

Players to be invited include Major winners, WGC event winners, PGA tour winners and other top-ranked golfers. Morgan said the WGC approached HSBC about elevating the event because they felt it was a mature tournament.

The World Golf Championship is a series of high-profile events created by the International Federation of PGA Tours. The events are considered among the leading golf tournaments after the four Majors (the Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA Championship). It's also the first time in two years that a WGC tournament will be hosted outside the US.

The 2010 WGC-HSBC Champions will remain in Shanghai at Sheshan International Golf Club to coincide with World Expo 2010.

Zhang Xiaoning, general secretary of the Chinese Golf Association, said the decision on future venues would hinge largely on support from the local government. "The course is important but the other issue is the attitude of the local officials and their support," Zhang said.

The WGC-HSBC Champions will be the fourth and final WGC event following the Accenture Match Play Championship and CA Championship in March, and the Bridgestone Invitational in August.


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