Woods told to show respect

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Tiger Woods Getty Images Tiger Woods is absent from the Masters for the first time in his career this week, but that has not stopped him from being one of the hottest topics at Augusta National. Photo: Ross Kinnaird

Singapore – HSBC's sponsorship chief has urged Tiger Woods to respect the bank's large investment by playing at this year's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai instead of “meaningless money-making opportunities”.

Giles Morgan, HSBC's global head of sponsorship, said the bank had “had words” with the golf tours about impressing on players the importance of appearing at the sport's biggest events.

World number one Woods has caused controversy by skipping the last two editions of the $8.5 million tournament, the richest seen in Asia, in favour of exhibition appearances in the region.

“I do think the tours – and I think the tours are working on this – should make sure that there is respect to the tournaments,” Morgan said in an interview in Singapore.

“As opposed to playing in meaningless... money-making opportunities around the World Golf Championships (WGC).”

He added: “It's up to the tours to enforce the criteria to their membership. And we've expressed our position to the tours, which is that we know they can't enforce their players to play and that's fine, we understand that.

“But we do think that players need to be respectful of ... these major events (which) are really at the top and the pinnacle and the lifeblood of the sport.

“If you've got sponsors investing that level of money, the players should respect the calendar.”

Morgan was speaking on Tuesday ahead of this week's $1.4 million HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, the bank's only other event in the Asia-Pacific region.

The WGC-HSBC Champions, played in November, is one of four World Golf Championships a year which rank only behind the majors in terms of prestige.

Over the last two years, Woods has opted for highly lucrative exhibition appearances in China and elsewhere instead of playing the Shanghai event.

“The World Golf Championship is an enormous event and we pay a major prize fund for that and we are absolutely not in the business of paying appearance fees on top of that,” said Morgan.

He also ruled out an HSBC rescue for the troubled Singapore Open, which is without a title sponsor and facing a second straight year on the sidelines.

“I don't think so,” he said. “We have enough golf tournaments around the world... Golf tournaments cost a lot of money to sponsor and we don't have bottomless pockets.

“So us having a north and south Asia men's Champions and women's Champions works very well for us.”

And he said he expected Asia's golf schedule, split between two competing tours and crowded with events, to gain cohesion in the coming years.

“The trouble is when you have different tours and different administrations with different goals it means that you don't necessarily get a timetable that is entirely worked out,” he said.

“I think things will settle because inevitably what will happen is that the cream rises to the top. The tournaments that succeed will create a timetable that will work.

“But at the moment there do seem to be a lot of events growing in Asia that haven't necessarily established themselves.

“And this is the moment that I suspect over the next three or four years you'll see an establishment and proper roots settling down of an Asian schedule... that will gain momentum and some structure.” – Sapa-AFP

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