New event to give amateurs shot at Masters

INTERNATIONAL golf officials yesterday announced a major new tournament for Asian amateurs, with the winner earning a coveted spot at next year's US Masters.

The winner of the inaugural Asian Amateur Championship, to be played at China's Mission Hills from October 29 to November 1, will also go into final qualifying for the 2010 British Open.

“The tournament will positively impact the game for years and we hope for generations to come,” said Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC) chairman Tommy Lee.

The event, announced by the Royal and Ancient golf club and the US Masters along with the APGC, was billed as a big boost for amateurs in Asia, where the sport is growing quickly.

The 72-hole stroke-play tournament, at the giant Mission Hills complex in southern China, will have a maximum field of 120 amateurs from the APGC's 32 member associations which stretch from Iran to the Pacific islands.

Selection will be based on the R&A's world amateur golf rankings with the top two ranked players from each country qualifying plus the top four from the hosts. The rest of the field will be drawn from the next highest ranked players with a maximum of six from each country except China.

Meanwhile, the man who has won the US Masters four times, Tiger Woods is ready to return to the PGA Tour, according to American golfer Mark O'Meara.

But he stopped short of saying the world No.1 would be at the Accenture Match Play Championship that starts on February 25. Woods is the defending champion at Match Play and has an endorsement deal with Accenture.

Speculation has increased over the past week that Woods would make his return in Tucson, Arizona, because his wife gave birth to their second child - a boy named Charlie Axel - last Sunday.

Woods has not played since reconstructive surgery on his left knee after winning the US Open in June.

  • Fierce winds and rain wiped out play on Sunday at the PGA Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, leaving officials hoping to complete the $US6.1 million tournament last night (AEDT). Dustin Johnson held a comfortable four-shot lead after 54 holes, with Canadian Mike Weir second and South African Retief Goosen lying third.

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