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ATT Signs on to Sponsor Tigers DC Event

PGA Tour (75x100)WASHINGTON, -- Tiger Woods joined elite company Wednesday as one of only three players to host a PGA TOUR event during their careers.
But this wasn't about taking his place with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Woods was more interested in the dozen children seated to the side of a packed lounge in the National Press Club, where Woods and PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem announced plans for the AT&T National that marks the return of golf to the nation's capital.
Still to be determined is where the tournament will be played and the size of the field.
Woods made clear, however, that the tournament would pay tribute to the military over the Fourth of July, and pay for a new Tiger Woods Learning Center in the Washington area as he expands his foundation's goal to help children.
'The last year or so, we've been looking up and down the Eastern seaboard for a new learning center,' Woods said. 'And then this opportunity fell into our laps. It makes sense to build it here, we just haven't had time to find a site yet.'
The first step is to build a tournament.
The AT&T National replaces the International outside Denver, which shut down last month when tournament founder Jack Vickers couldn't find a sponsor, which he blamed in part on Woods not playing the event.
It will be played July 5-8, and Woods isn't sure if he will be able to play this year because his wife is expecting their first child. But while Palmer bought the Bay Hill Club and Nicklaus built his own course in his hometown outside Columbus, Ohio, Woods is establishing his tournament roots in Washington.
'That's our intent, to stay here and have this be our home event, hopefully for perpetuity,' he said.
The Tiger Woods Foundation will run the tournament, with charitable money going to the foundation toward building a learning center. Woods' first learning center, which cost $25 million, opened a year ago in Anaheim, Calif.
Woods becomes the youngest player to host a tournament. Bobby Jones was 32 when the Augusta National Invitation -- which later became the Masters -- was held in 1934. Nicklaus was 36 when the Memorial was played for the first time. Palmer was 44 when he took over at Bay Hill, and Byron Nelson had been long retired when he gave his name to a tournament in Dallas.
'Not too many people are fortunate to have an opportunity like this,' Woods said. 'What Bobby Jones did for golf and starting the Masters, that won't be touched. As far as what Jack has done at the Memorial, or Arnold at Bay Hill or Mr. Nelson in Dallas, those have been true legends of the game. They made a tremendous impact on our sport.
'I want to build something along that level,' he said. 'Obviously, with my competitive nature, I want it to be better.'
First the tour has to secure a golf course.
All signs point toward Congressional Country Club for 2007 and 2008. The club is to vote on the tour's request over the next few weeks, and Woods and Finchem openly lobbied members to approve it.
'Right now, the energy at Congressional is very, very positive and very supportive,' Finchem said. 'And we hope that carries over to the response from the overall membership.'
Finchem said the purse would be at least $6 million, but he hasn't decided the size of the field. He said it likely would be comparable to other invitationals -- Memorial, Bay Hill, Colonial -- which have fewer than 156-man fields typical of summer events.
Woods always dreamed of being host of a regular PGA TOUR event -- he just didn't expect it this soon.
He started the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event held in California in December, in 1999 and spoke to his father about finding a way to earning full TOUR status.
'The way the TOUR is structured, it didn't look like we would have an opportunity until 2010, '11 or '12,' Woods said. 'But we were lucky enough that this one came up.'
It came at the expense of the International, played at Castle Pines outside Denver. Woods only played there twice, the last time in 1999, and didn't return because he didn't care for the golf course.
AT&T now is title sponsor of five tournaments. The company sponsors PGA TOUR events at Pebble Beach and in Atlanta, along with two tournaments on the Champions Tour. Finchem said the deal in Washington would be for at least five years, with an option to sponsor the event through the end of the TV contract in 2012.
Why couldn't AT&T work in Denver?
'For whatever reason, we couldn't find any magic for sponsors as it relates to Denver,' Finchem said. 'We had been trying two years. The second this is, the International is run by the club and its member. This concept was one where it would be run by the foundation.'
Woods already has put his mark on his new tournament.
He said all active military and all children under the age of 12 will get free admission to the tournament. Both instances are a tribute to his father, Earl Woods, who died last year of cancer.
Earl Woods spent 20 years in the military and did two tours in Vietnam with the Special Forces. Tiger Woods went through training at Fort Bragg a few years ago, and he has made trips to aircraft carriers while in the Middle East for the Dubai Desert Classic.
'I remember when I first came on tour, my goal one day with my father was to host an event on the PGA TOUR. I just wish he could be here to see it,' Woods said. 'I think he probably would have shed a few tears.'
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