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Westwood absence stings Charlotte

Lee Westwood's announcement this week that he will not play in the Players Championship in May also means the current world No. 1 won't play in the Wells Fargo Championship either.

It's not that Westwood doesn't want to play here, but new PGA Tour rules limit him to 10 starts and he's chosen not to make the Players one of them. Therefore, he won't come to Charlotte either.

If you get a whiff of politics in there, you should.

Westwood's announcement in Abu Dhabi didn't come as a shock. It had been hinted at for weeks. But it's a shot to the PGA Tour, which desperately wants the Players Championship to be considered the equal of the game's four major championships.

When No. 1 chooses to skip the event, it stings.

"I'd go over for the Players if I could play in the tournament the week before (the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow), but I don't want to pitch up at the Players cold, having not played for four weeks since Augusta. So, I'll play a couple of tournaments on the European Tour instead," Westwood told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Because Westwood surrendered his PGA Tour membership in 2008, which required him to play 15 events annually, he's now limited to 10 events, 11 if he includes the Players. Seems a little self-serving on the PGA Tour's part to make an exception for the Players.

Westwood plans to play the four major championships, the three World Golf Championship events, Houston the week before the Masters, Honda in Florida between two WGC events and Memphis where he's the defending champion.

That's 10.

Allowing an 11th spot for the Players wasn't enough, not without making Quail Hollow available also.

Though he hasn't said so, officially, Rory McIlroy has indicated he may pass on the Players, as well.

McIlroy will play here as defending champion, but he must do so on a sponsor exemption because he's not a tour member.

At a time when professional golf is fighting to maintain its audience, making rules to keep the best players out of top tournaments doesn't make much sense.

Given today's climate, golf tours - including the PGA Tour - should be begging the top players to come and play. Yes, tours have to protect their rank and file, but keeping Westwood and McIlroy away isn't in anyone's best interest.

CHIP SHOTS: It will be interesting to see what happens to the Hooters Tour now that the formerly family-owned business is being purchased by a Charlotte firm. The Hooters Tour has been perhaps the most recognizable mini-tour, but its future is uncertain, given the costs associated with the tour. It wouldn't be a shock if the Charlotte-based eGolf Professional Tour winds up in control of the Hooters Tour, further solidifying its place as the strongest mini-tour in the U.S.

New U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III already has some thoughts about how he'll work to have his players ready in 2012.

"I think the only thing we have been missing is a little bit of getting over the hump of being nervous playing on the world's biggest stage," Love said at his introductory press conference.

"I think if there's any problem the American team has had in the seven Ryder Cups I've been involved in, is that we just try too hard. I know it's an over-simplification, but you put together a game plan and you try to go execute it. That's what we are going to try to do."

Charlotte resident Robert Karlsson will make his 2011 debut next week at the European Tour stop in Bahrain. He'll play there and Qatar, where he's the defending champion, before heading to the west coast to join the PGA Tour.

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