Debate ends with Australian Open in desired slot before Presidents Cup

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The PGA of Australia decided that playing the Australian Open instead of the Australian Masters in the sought-after slot the week before the 2011 Presidents Cup in Melbourne was in the best interests of Australian golf.
By
Dennis Passa
Associated Press

Series:

The Australian Open will precede the Presidents Cup next November, a decision that could put the Australian Masters -- an event Tiger Woods has played the last two years -- opposite the American star’s own tournament in California.

The PGA of Australia announced Sunday that the Open, likely to be held at a Sydney-area course, will be held from Nov. 10-13. The Australian PGA Championship at Coolum will be played Nov. 24-27, a week after the Presidents Cup between the United States and an International team at Royal Melbourne.

The PGA of Australia also said that the Australian Masters was tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1-4, but that was still to be confirmed. Woods, the Australian Masters winner in 2009, has said he’d prefer to see it played the week before the Presidents Cup.

The Masters is scheduled to be played at Kingston Heath, another sandbelt course near Royal Melbourne and one that would have given Woods and other Presidents Cup players an ideal preparation for the team event.

IMG, which manages Woods, also runs the Australian Masters and had hoped to get the prime slot before the Presidents Cup to boost its field. The Australian Open in Sydney will now have that opportunity, although the likely course, The Lakes, doesn’t have as much in common with Royal Melbourne as Kingston Heath does.

“We would like this date. It’s critical to us,” Mark Steinberg, head of IMG’s global golf division, said in November during the Masters. “We feel like we took on the risk by moving to this date a few years ago, going up against some big events, and we made it successful. We feel we deserve to keep the date, now that it’s a coveted date for next year.”

Woods received a $3 million appearance fee -- half of that paid by the Victorian state government -- but in his first year, a government study showed the economic return was more than $30 million.

Max Garske, the chief executive of the PGA of Australia, said Sunday that the decision “was made in the best interest of both Australian golf and the PGA Tour of Australasia.”

“There were a number of factors that needed to be carefully considered in finalizing the scheduling for 2011, including the timing of a number of international events, the availability of certain venues and the domestic schedule that best serves the Australian golfing public,” Garske said.

“With the focus of the golfing world set to be firmly on Melbourne come mid-November 2011, it is a given that the Presidents Cup will offer up a number of benefits to events falling on either side,” he explained. “So with these factors in mind, we feel we have made the decision in the best interest of the game.”