Players soon might have another option.
According to three TOUR officials, plans are coming together for a tournament next year in Puerto Rico, which would be held opposite the WGC event at Doral. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been completed.
The TOUR has been looking at Puerto Rico for the last year and had hoped to make it part of the 2007 schedule, but it could not make arrangements for a golf course. One official said the tournament likely would be played at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club, on the northeast end of the island. A security detail went to Puerto Rico earlier this month.
The TOUR has provided opposite-field events ever since the WGCs were created in 1999. This year, however, the old American Express Championship (held alternately in the United States and Europe) took on a new title sponsor and was folded into Doral, leaving those outside the top 50 in the world or top 30 on the money list with no place to play.
The timing would help the current climate on TOUR.
Some players are still angry over speculation that Tiger Woods' new tournament in Washington will be considered an invitational and have a limited field. Their argument is that opportunities are more limited under the shorter FedExCup season, particularly with the 'playoff' events eliminating players each week.
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem was working the range at Bay Hill on Wednesday, presumably to take a pulse on how players feel about new Washington event - or perhaps sharing news that the tour is close to creating another playing opportunity.
Starting with his first full season as a professional, Tiger Woods has played at least twice overseas every year, not including the British Open.
But after a trip in early February to the Dubai Desert Classic, he's done traveling the globe this year.
'I'm taking a little time off this year,' Woods said. 'I'm not going overseas.'
His contract to play the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan has expired, and Woods does not plan to compete in the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, were he was runner-up the last two years. He also will not return this year to the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, where he lost in the first round to Shaun Micheel.
Most of his scheduling has to do with his family. His wife, Elin, is expecting their first child this summer.
'I still enjoy playing overseas. I always will play overseas,' Woods said. 'As far as the number of events I go to depends on where our family situation is, and how much time Elin needs me around.'
Woods has competed in 14 countries outside North America.
Tiger Woods says his new tournament in Washington will have no bearing on the Target World Challenge, a 16-man field at Sherwood Country Club in California held in December.
'It stays,' Woods said last week. 'We thoroughly enjoy it and think it's a wonderful tournament. The guys enjoy playing it, and there's nothing in the foreseeable future that it would go away.'
The only thing Woods doesn't like about the Target is the dates - held this year Dec. 13-16, which makes it difficult for some players who are eligible for the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii two weeks later.
Now he must deal with another wrinkle.
The Australian Open has been moved to the same week, meaning Woods could lose Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy.
Michelle Wie has played every LPGA major the last two years, but her next start is up in the air.
Greg Nared, her agent at the William Morris Agency, said the 17-year-old from Honolulu was starting to chip and putt after injuring her right wrist during a fall last month. Doctors at the time set the recovery at about two months.
Wie turned down an invitation to play next week outside Phoenix, and Nared said he was not sure whether she would be play the Kraft Nabisco Championship, which starts April 29 in California. Wie finished one shot out of a playoff at the Nabisco last year.
'We'll see where it goes,' Nared said. 'If she can hit balls next week, we'll take it from there.'
The Safeway International was moved back one week in the schedule to allow it go back-to-back with the Kraft Nabisco, and that made it more appealing to Wie, who is in her senior year of high school.
That she has turned down the invitation raises speculation that she won't return from injury at a major championship.
J.P. Hayes, who withdrew from the PODS Championship in the final round after feeling minor chest pains and dizziness, was released from a Tampa-area hospital Monday. The tour said Hayes was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and flew home to El Paso, Texas, for further tests. ... The PGA TOUR's Web site Sunday featured a picture of Chris DiMarco and noted it would be a big day for him. He was in contention in Tampa and his beloved Florida Gators were going for another SEC basketball title. Never mind that another former Gator, Mark Calcavecchia, was actually tied for the lead. ... Peggy Kirk Bell has been chosen to receive the PGA First Lady of Golf Award. Bell, 85, will be honored at the Senior PGA Championship at Kiawah Island on May 23.
STAT OF THE WEEK:
Justin Leonard has missed the cut in all six PGA TOUR events he has played this year, dropping to No. 210 in the world ranking.
'Are they tax-free?' - Brad Faxon, when told he had earned his FedEx Cup points of the year.
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