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Capital gain

Woods helps bring PGA event back to D.C. area

Woods helps bring PGA event back to D.C. area

March 08, 2007|by TIM KOELBLE

WASHINGTON - When it comes to an association with professional golf, bogey is about the best Washington has been able to mark on its scorecard.

Double bogey might even be a more worthy score.

It all changed officially Wednesday when PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced an agreement with the Tiger Woods Foundation to be the host organization for the new AT&T National, likely to be held July 2-8 at the famed Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md.

What started as the Kemper Open 27 years ago, eventually labored as the FBR Capital Open and then the obscure Booz Allen Classic before falling off the PGA Tour schedule map and into oblivion this year.

Because Washington's tournament stop was usually slated near the U.S. and British opens, it was difficult to draw many of the PGA's big-name stars. Add to the problem lackluster playing conditions at the TPC Avenel at Potomac and the D.C. tour stop became a second-rate event.

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It kept professional golf from being up to par in the Mid-Atlantic region.

With Wednesday's announcement - and Woods' presence - there's a chance the new connection might have a better ring to it.

The tournament announcement by Finchem, Woods and AT&T Chairman and CEO Edward E. Whitacre Jr. at Washington's National Press Club, gives the event four months to com together.

"This is a historic day for me and the Foundation and it is a dream come true to be the host of a PGA tournament," said Woods. "When we started the foundation in 1997, the focus with my father (Earl) was to host an event on the Tour. I just wish my father was here to see it.

"It was a no-brainer to come to the capital, with my father's history in the military and being the holiday."

Woods said military personnel and youth under 12 will be able to attend the tournament for free.

The AT&T National will carry a sizeable purse and will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation, along with other area programs such as The First Tee.

"The purse size will be no less than $6 million and we've had preliminary talks with CBS and The Golf Channel," said Finchem, who also indicated the tournament might become an invitational-type event.

It is expected that Congressional's members will support and give approval of the club as the venue for the next two years. Membership will vote in the next few days and then it will take 21 days for final approval.

If any club can make the adjustments, it is Congressional - site of the 1997 U.S. Open, the only time Woods has played in Washington. It is scheduled to host the Open again in 2011.

Congressional's members stepped forward eight times to host the troubled Kemper Open in an effort to keep a Washington tournament afloat.

When Finchem announced Washington was losing its Booz Allen tournament date, he said he would do his best to find another event if one ever became possible.

Finchem acted quickly, with the blessing of the most attractive draw in all of sports and a company that already has a major involvement in professional sports, which includes the PGA Tour's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the AT&T Classic in Atlanta.

"We'll celebrate our nation's birthday with an event that will involve the No.1 player in all of sports," said Finchem. "We were able to achieve this by doing three things. First, it was Tiger's direct involvement; second, was Tiger's foundation; and third, it was the nexus between the 4th of July and D.C."

Whether Woods plays in Washington this year remains to be seen. The birth of his first child might decide his schedule. Woods and his wife, Elin, have not announced the due date, but it's expected to be near the British Open (July 19-22) and that means Tiger's focus won't be on the golf course.

"I've been a host of a tournament (Target Challenge) as a player and understand the duties of a host off the course," said Woods, who smiled when he thought of his duties as a player on the course. "I'm planning on playing but that depends on the birth of my first child. That's most important."

Woods is proud of his foundation, which has reached an estimated 10 million youth since its inception and includes the Tiger Woods Learning Center on the West Coast. That too will change as Woods said he plans to add a new facility on the East Coast.

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