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Golf notebook: World Match Play returns to England

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--The Volvo World Match Play Championship, which once lured the best golfers in the world, will return to England for its 50th anniversary edition on Oct. 15-19 at London Golf Club in Kent, England.

Graeme McDowell claimed the title last May in the $3 million event with a 2-and-1 victory over Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand at Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort in Kavarna, Bulgaria.

"I think it is fantastic that the Volvo World Match Play Championship will be played in England for this special anniversary," said McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion. "I enjoyed everything about my victory last year at Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria. ...

"It seems right, though, to celebrate the championship's 50th anniversary in England, where the tournament was held for so many years. I have heard that the International Course at the London Golf Club is a great track. I'm looking forward to defending my title there in October."

In addition to returning to England, the tournament will be back in its traditional October slot on the European Tour schedule.

Arnold Palmer captured the inaugural event with a 2-and-1 victory over Neil Coles of England in 1964 at Wentworth Club outside London, where the tournament was played every year until through 2007.

After a one-year hiatus, the event was played at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Casares, Spain, from 2009-12, before its one-year move to Bulgaria.

England, the site of few tournaments in recent years, will have three Euro Tour events in 2013. It hosts the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May.

Ernie Els won the World Match Play title a record seven times at Wentworth, where he owns a home, while Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros each claimed five titles.

Other winners include Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Hale Irwin, Greg Norman, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Corey Pavin, Bill Rogers, Bob Charles, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Isao Aoki, Vijay Singh and Mark O'Meara, who beat Tiger Woods in the 1998 final, 2 and 1.

--D.A. Points was disqualified from the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for using a practice device during a long wait on the 18th tee at Pebble in round two, but was given the option of playing in the third round with his pro-am partner.

Points' partner was Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State who is on the faculty up the California coast at Stanford University, and not surprisingly he chose to play.

"It's not every day that you get to play 18 holes at Spyglass, let alone 18 holes at Spyglass with Secretary Rice," said Points, who won at Pebble in 2011. "She's such a sweet, just warm-hearted woman and she loves golf and she's wanting to get better.

"I signed up to play at the (AT&T) Pebble Beach (National) Pro-Am. It's not just about me and the golf tournament, it's about playing with our amateurs and making sure they have a good time."

Said Rice: "It meant an enormous amount to me. He didn't have to do that. And I, more than anybody, know what it's like to be on the road a lot and perhaps get to go home early, but he's a wonderful, wonderful person. It speaks really well for him and for the (PGA Tour) that he came out and played anyway."

Points took a green spongy ball out of his golf bag while waiting on the 18th hole, put it under his arm, and practiced his swing.

His "crime" was caught on tape by a spectator and shown to officials, so Points was found in violation of rule 14-3: using an artificial device or unusual equipment.

Points said he didn't know he was breaking a rule, but he added that he should have known.

--Tiger Woods, off to the worst start of his career, stopped off in India on his way home from the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and shot 9-under-par 63 in an 18-hole exhibition match at Delhi Golf Club, which is known for its tight fairways.

Woods reportedly was paid a $1.2 million appearance fee by Pawan Munjal, chief executive officer and managing director of Hero MotoCorp.

"It's hard to describe how much fun we had today," said Woods, who tied for 80th in the Farmers Insurance Open to miss the secondary cut, and tied for 41st in Dubai. "I do have to say, though, this was the narrowest golf course I've been to. I'm a pro for a living and I was nervous on those tee shots. I had a great time. I would love to come back. ...

"One of my best buddies, Arjun (Atwal, also a pro golfer) back home told me so much about India. He said you need to get (to India). You can have a great time and blast. He was right."

Munjal played much of the match alongside Woods, Shiv Kapur and Anirban Lahiri, two of India's better pro golfers.

Sharmila Nicollet, the top woman golfer in India, also played a few holes, as did other dignitaries.

Woods played the front nine in 6 under before carding his only bogey at No. 11. The crowd was estimated variously at between 2,000 and 5,000 people.

Munjal and Woods teamed against Kapur and Lahiri for a skins game on the last three holes, with the host and the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world winning the final hole when both made birdies, Woods' being his 10th of the day.

The 16th hole was halved, and Kapur and Lahiri won No. 17, so the three-hole match ended in a draw.

Woods' play was a continuation of his finish in Dubai, where he birdied the last three holes. He reportedly donated a portion of his fee to Indian charities.

--The Blue Monster is back.

The iconic Miami course at what is now Trump National Doral, home of the WGC-Cadillac Championship on the PGA and European tours, was retooled by designer Gil Hanse, part of $250 million makeover of the resort by business entrepreneur and avid golfer Donald Trump.

The reworking of the course reportedly cost $13 million.

"It's a brand-new course, not a redo," Trump said after playing the course for the first time since the work was completed. "We felt it was just an amazing piece of land that we could do something spectacular with, and we built a new Blue Monster.

"It's a bigger course with bigger lakes. It's a more spectacular course. The old Blue Monster was a good course, but this is better. There is nothing like this in golf. I had a great time playing it."

The course was lengthened from 7,334 to 7,450 yards, with the famous 18th hole virtually the only one that remains unchanged.

Tiger Woods will defend his WGC-Cadillac title on the new Blue Monster from March 6-9.

--Juli Inkster is a native of Santa Cruz, Calif., and played at San Jose State, so she is more than happy that the LPGA Tour is returning to the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time in four years.

The 53-year-old Inkster, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is cutting her schedule back to 12 events from 21 a year ago, but she will be in the field for the new Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic from April 24-27 at Lake Merced Golf Club in Daly City, just south of San Francisco.

"I'll be in a swinging skirt, too, by the way," quipped Inkster, who has won 31 LPGA Tour titles including seven majors, but will work five events this season as an on-course commentator for the Golf Channel. "You know me, I love a skirt.

"It's great to have (the LPGA Tour) back here. We just need something to stick; we need something to stick for 10-15 years. I'd love to have this established for a long time. I think we can build a fan base, start from the bottom and build up, for years to come."

The LPGA Tour has not held a tournament in the Bay Area since the 2010 CVS/pharmacy LPGA Classic at Blackhawk Country Club in Danville. CVS dropped out as title sponsor, and tournament officials could not find another.

--Veteran Fred Couples and youngster Max Homa are among several players who received exemptions to play in the Northern Trust Open this week at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

Couples, 54, is a Riviera favorite who has made 31 appearances in the old Los Angeles Open, winning it in 1990 and 1992.

Homa, 22, is from Valencia, Calif., and he captured the 2013 NCAA individual title in his senior year at the University of California.

"I feel incredibly lucky to have the chance to compete against the PGA Tour's best, especially in my home state at a tournament I grew up watching," said Homa, who has playing status on the Web.com Tour after finishing sixth at Q-school.

Three players from the European Tour -- Victor Dubuisson of France, Joost Luiten of the Netherlands and Francesco Molinari of Italy -- also received exemptions.

Earlier, Harold Varner III, who was 2012 Conference USA Golfer of the year while at East Carolina University, was granted the Northern Trust Open Exemption.

The Northern Trust Open Exemption provides an opportunity for a top golfer who represents the advancement of diversity in golf and wouldn't otherwise be eligible to compete in the event.

Varner, 23, also has Web.com Tour status after finishing 32nd at Q-School.

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