TIGER planning on New York tournament

Tuesday, May 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(JACKSONVILLE, Florida) - Tiger Woods plans to play the Buick Classic in New York the week after the U.S. Open, his agent said Tuesday. This would be the first time Woods has played at Westchester Country Club since 1997.

``He's intending to play,'' Mark Steinberg of IMG said. ``Things can change. He can go on a tear and win every event, which he's done since Bay Hill. But his intentions are to play.''

Woods has not officially entered the dlrs 3.5 million tournament, to be played June 21-24, and typically does not commit to a tournament until the Friday leading to the week. An announcement could come as early as Monday when the Buick Classic has its media day.

Tournament director Peter Mele has been preparing for a tournament with or without the No. 1 player in golf. He already has asked for double the number of buses to shuttle fans from the parking areas.

``If he does play, it's a huge impact on the tournament,'' Mele said. ``From everything I can tell, it can be a 50 percent increase to doubling the size of the gallery.''

Woods signed a five-year, dlrs 25 million deal with Buick a year ago, although he said the contract does not require him to play a certain number of the four PGA Tour events that Buick sponsors.

The only other time he has played the Buick Classic was in 1997, when he failed to break par and finished at 3-over 287, in a tie for 43rd.

The Buick Classic usually falls the week before the U.S. Open, but this year comes a week after the Open at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Woods will be trying to win his fifth consecutive major championship.

Woods has won his last three tournaments - Bay Hill, The Players Championship and the Masters, where he made it a clean sweep of the majors. He returns to the PGA Tour this week in the Byron Nelson Classic.