One year before the PGA Tour stop in Malaysia becomes an official event, it will get the biggest draw in golf — Tiger Woods.
Woods said Monday he will play in the CIMB Classic on Oct. 25-28 at The Mines Resort in Kuala Lumpur, his first time competing in Malaysia since he won the individual and team titles in the 1999 World Cup.
The CIMB Classic began two years ago as little more than a limited-field exhibition that featured PGA Tour players 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.
The tournament this year features a 48-man field — 30 from the PGA Tour, 10 from the Asian Tour and eight exemptions — competing for $6.1 million. When it becomes part of the 2013-14 tour schedule, the CIMB Classic will have at least a 78-man field and a $7 million purse.
It was a big coup to get Woods one year ahead of joining the PGA Tour schedule.
A year ago, the Malaysian event was largely overlooked the last week in October when IMG put together the Shanghai Masters at Lake Malaren, a 30-man field that featured an All-Star cast that included Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan and Padraig Harrington. It now is an official European Tour event, the BMW Masters, with the highest purse ($7 million) among regular European Tour events.
It revives a decade-old debate — would a tournament rather have most of the top-10 players, or only one if that player is Tiger Woods.
The announcement Monday in Malaysia also said the first two winners, Ben Crane and Bo Van Pelt, would return.
”The early confirmations will give this year’s event great early momentum,” said Dato’ Sri Nazir Razak, group chief executive of CIMB Group. ”Ben and Bo have developed a good local following, and Tiger will be a huge draw.”
Woods is just starting out on a stretch could see him play as many as 10 times in 14 weeks. His overseas schedule is to start the second week in October in Turkey with an unofficial event that pays $2.5 million to the winner in a short field that includes McIlroy, Westwood and Luke Donald. The CIMB Classic would be two weeks later, followed by the HSBC Champions, the final World Golf Championship of the year.
Woods has not said if he is playing the HSBC Champions, which is at Mission Hills this year. He has not missed it since it received WGC status in 2009, though he was not eligible to play last year because he had slipped out of the top 50 in the world.
”I look forward to coming out to Malaysia at the end of October,” Woods said. ”I played the World Cup in 1999 and have fond memories of the country and its people. I’ve heard that CIMB does a good job staging the event. It has traditionally boasted a strong field and I look forward to being part of it this year.”
CIMB signed a five-year extension with the tour as title sponsor. The tour will take over management of the Malaysia event, with Todd Rhinehart as the executive director. He previously was tournament director of the Tour Championship.
”The plan has always been to become a full-fledged event of the PGA Tour, so this is fantastic news for us, for Malaysia and for the region,” Nazir said.