• European Tour

Sponsor angry at Woods & McIlroy absences

ESPN staff
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Tiger Woods are not playing at Mission Hills this week © PA Photos
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The title sponsor of the WGC-HSBC Champions has criticised Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy for skipping the lucrative event.

Golf's two stars have opted not to tee it up at Mission Hills Golf Club this week, despite playing an exhibition match at nearby Zhengzhou on Monday. McIlroy has travelled to Bulgaria to spend time with his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, while Woods is in Singapore to fulfil some corporate commitments.

As a World Golf Championship event the Champions tournament should be one of the most prestigious on the calendar, but HSBC is aggrieved the game's two most marketable stars are not in attendance this week.

"On one level, we are delighted because we have a really strong field, but we are disappointed that the top two players in the world aren't here," Giles Morgan, the head of sponsorship at HSBC, said on Tuesday. "Both have sent their apologies, but from our point of view this is a World Golf Championship - an event which should be regarded by all players, as it is by the tours and the media, as one of the top events in the world.

"I feel strongly that the top players should be here. We look forward to seeing them [McIlroy and Woods] in January at the Abu Dhabi Championship [also sponsored by HSBC], but I believe that golfers have a responsibility to their sponsors. Without the sponsors there isn't professional golf. And I speak on behalf of the industry."

Woods has received significant sums from HSBC over the years to appear in various events linked with the company, but that has not led to his attendance this week.

"We believe very strongly in supporting golf around the world at all levels because we believe the sport has great potential to grow," Morgan said. "But to showcase itself, particularly in emerging markets for golf, which China is, we feel as many of the top players [as possible] should be here."

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