Tiger Woods blasted for skipping WGC-HSBC Champions tourney in China

Ross Kinnaird

‘I’m not here to knock Tiger,’ says the WGC-HSBC Champions sponsorship chief, who proceeds to knock the world No. 1 for skipping the contest for the third straight year.

Tiger Woods is not the only elite golfer without a tee time for this week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China, but he’s the one taking the heat for passing on the match that he last played in 2010.

Woods, who battled a cold and some rust in losing to Rory McIlroy on Monday in the duo’s Money Money Money exhibition game that was also in China, will miss playing in the sanctioned PGA Tour contest with McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, and a host of other stars of the game. His no-show at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai did not impress the folks who stage the competition.

"I do think that’s something, from the tour’s point of view, that does need to be looked at," Giles Morgan, HSBC’s global head of sponsorship and events told the Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson on Tuesday.

"I’m not here to knock Tiger at all, because I feel that he’s been absolutely instrumental in the growth," Morgan said before taking a shot at the world No. 1. "But we’ve reached a point where it’s not about individuals. It’s about growing the game of golf globally."

Morgan dusted off his complaint from last year, when he blasted both Woods and McIlroy for bypassing the tilt, which in 2012 was not in the official FedExCup rotation.

''To have a World Golf Championship in Asia is really important for the sport, to balance the sport out, and to grow,'' Morgan told the AP last October about the gaping hole in the field, when McIlroy was the top golfer and didn’t need any more reps to fix his game and Woods chose to honor "corporate commitments" rather than play. ''And because it's a World Golf Championship event, it requires the best players to be here.''

This year, Woods, with five wins and another Player of the Year trophy under his belt, will again stay clear of the HSBC in favor of his sponsors, a decision that clearly did not sit well with Morgan, especially since the world’s best player was already in the country.

Morgan suggested that Woods, who has taken part in the action four times, with second-place finishes in 2005 and 2006 and T6 in both 2009 and 2010, stayed away because officials no longer lay out fat sums for superstars just to show up.

"What I can’t do is pay him," said Morgan, referring to the $8.5 million purse that’s up for grabs this week. "And I feel enormously strong about that. This is a World Golf Championship. This is the flagship event of Asia. This is going to be the beacon to carry the game into this continent for many years to come.

"We could do the wrong thing by golf and drop the prize money right down and just pay one or two players huge fees. From a publicity standpoint, that would give us a certain amount of kudos because we’d get the top player in the world," Morgan added. "And I’m absolutely not going down that route."

The WGC clash has the potential to become one of the most prestigious in the world -- "Asia's major," according to Morgan, who believes that a truant Tiger tarnishes its image. Woods’ take-the-money-and-run attitude about playing a meaningless bro-fest with McIlroy instead of vying for a legitimate prize package frustrated Morgan.

"We have an opportunity to be a genuine top 10 event in the world. That requires a massive investment, which we’re pleased to do. And that means we want to be an authentic sponsor in the world of golf," said Morgan, who will get to host 40 of the world’s top 50, according to Ferguson.

"I really hope that Tiger will want to come back in following years. China is a vast country, so him playing a meaningless match yesterday doesn’t really affect us," Morgan said. "But yeah, we’re disappointed."

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