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Woods Mickelson Up in the Air on Presidents Cup

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KAPALUA, Hawaii -- At the end of the 2000 season, a dozen Americans declined to take an eight-hour charter to Spain to play in a World Golf Championship that paid $1 million to the winner and $25,000 for last place.
 
Phil MickelsonThat prompted Stuart Appleby to say of U.S. golfers, ''They're like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday. They don't travel well.''
 
The real test comes in November, when a dozen Americans will be asked to fly twice as far to South Africa to play for free in the Presidents Cup.
 
Tiger Woods is said to be leaning toward playing. Phil Mickelson is on the fence, and probably will stay there until the last minute. David Duval, who might not even qualify for the U.S. team, already said he will play the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan that week.
 
''I'd be very disappointed if a lot of the U.S. players didn't go,'' said Nick Price of Zimbabwe. ''They have to understand the impact they're going to have on golf in southern Africa, not only with the juniors, but how much interest is being created there.
 
Tiger Woods''I think it's very important that they look outside of themselves for this short time and just look at how much good they're going to do for golf in southern Africa.''
 
The timing and location make this Presidents Cup a tough sell.
 
While every American who qualified for the '98 team traveled to Australia, all of them grumbled out being halfway around the world so close to the holidays for matches that don't have the intensity or appeal of the Ryder Cup.
 
This year's Presidents Cup will be Nov. 20-23, the week before Thanksgiving.
 
Worse yet, it follows one of the best Ryder Cups in its 75-year history, a European victory at The Belfry in which every match mattered. Three of the four Presidents Cup matches have been decided by a whopping eight points or more.
 
''The Presidents Cup has to be competitive,'' Price said. ''That's what made the Ryder Cup what it is today. If the Presidents Cup can be the same way, it also will become popular.''
 
Still, the most critical factor is getting everyone to play.
 
Even if Woods plays -- that usually gives any tournament credibility -- the message clearly will be that Americans don't consider the Presidents Cup a priority unless it's a home game.
 
Ernie Els says the PGA Tour has asked him to encourage top Americans to go to the Links Course at Fancourt.
 
''I'll do whatever I can,'' Els said. ''I think Tiger will go. I think Phil will also go. It's a tournament that our tour started. To support the tour and golf in general, especially South African golf, would be a big help.''
 
Price, Els and Greg Norman are some of the biggest stars in golf. All of them say they might have chosen another profession if not for the global travels of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
 
''Tiger ... he travels all over the world. He knows that it's good for golf where he goes,'' Retief Goosen said. ''Phil Mickelson and David Duval, unfortunately, they don't really travel. But I think the rest of the world would like to see the guys play a little bit more worldwide.''