MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Tiger Woods will play at the Australian Masters in November, his first tournament appearance Down Under since 1998.
A government spokesman confirmed premier John Brumby’s comments in a Melbourne newspaper that Woods would play in the event at Kingston Heath, scheduled for Nov. 12-15.
A news conference was planned in Melbourne later Thursday.
“We are delighted Tiger Woods has chosen to come to Melbourne, further cementing our position as the major events capital of the world,” Brumby told the Herald Sun newspaper. Melbourne also hosts the Australian Open, the first of four majors each year on the international tennis circuit, and the season-opening Formula One Grand Prix.
Brumby predicted the visit by the world’s top golfer would earn Victoria state $12.54 million in economic benefits, which would offset Woods’ $3 million appearance fee.
Woods has recently returned from an eight-month layoff following season-ending knee surgery last year after winning the U.S. Open, his 14th career major.
Stuart Appleby, among the Australians who regularly compete against Woods on the PGA Tour, said it was a coup for golf Down Under, even in the economic climate.
“It will be great for the game and bring out a lot of people who haven’t seen him before _ in person, not on a video game,” Appleby told The Associated Press. “There’s a lot of people hurting in Australia, and they might look negatively that one guy is paid $3 million just to turn up. The common man won’t understand the business model because the government is paying for it. They might not see the money he brings in.”
But he predicted huge galleries for Woods at Kingston Heath.
“He not been down here since the Presidents Cup,” Appleby said. “He’s been to Asia multiple times. He’s been to Europe multiple times. I think it’s good that he’s bringing his game to Australia.”
Woods, who was not immediately available for comment, is very selective about his appearances outside of the United States.
It will be Woods’ fourth tournament appearance Down Under and first since the 1998 Presidents Cup, when the U.S. lost to the International team at Royal Melbourne. Woods was 1-1 in foursomes play, 0-2 in fourball and beat Greg Norman in singles as the Americans were beaten 20 1/2 to 12 1/2.
His first visit was at the 1996 Australian Open in Sydney, where Woods finished tied for fifth, 12 strokes behind winner Norman.
He played in the 1997 Australian Masters at Hungtingdale in Melbourne, where he finished tied for eighth in the event, seven shots behind winner Peter Lonard of Australia.
Woods also played in the 2002 New Zealand Open at the Paraparaumu Beach course north of Wellington, where he finished tied for sixth, six strokes behind winner Craig Parry.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson in Palm Harbor, Florida, contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects money in 5th, 8th grafs.)