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Sponsors warn Rory and Tiger

RORY McILROY and Tiger Woods have been reminded about their "responsibilities to the sponsors" after both missed the HSBC World Championship, which starts at Mission Hills tomorrow.

Giles Morgan, the group head of sponsorship at HSBC, today expressed his "disappointment" at the no-show from the world No 1 and 2. The pair played against each other in an 18-hole exhibition match, but after picking up €2.3million (between them) in appearance fees, declined to fly a few hours south to play in one of only four World Golf Championship events, which offers €5.4m prize money.

"On one hand we are delighted to have 13 of the world's top 20 here, but of course we're disappointed not to have the two top players in the world," said Morgan. "Both have sent me apologies but this is 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.

"Therefore I feel strongly that the top players should be here. I believe that golfers have a responsibility to their sponsors. Without the sponsors there isn't professional golf. I speak on behalf of the industry."

Morgan has been contacted by other sponsors who share his concerns that they will not be able to justify the huge outlays without the top names.

"I feel very strongly, as I know a number of sponsors do particularly, in a downturn, particularly when there are financial difficulties around the world, that golf cannot be immune either," he said.

Woods is in Singapore this week fulfilling corporate commitments, while McIlroy has travelled to Bulgaria to watch his girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki, compete in the WTA's season-ending Tournament of Champions. The Irishman will return to the Far East next week to play in the Singapore Open.

There is still a stellar field in China, with 15 players from the recent Ryder Cup in attendance. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley won three out of three as a partnership at Medinah and both expressed their on-going sorrow at the defeat.

"The first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was one of the biggest lows of my career," said Mickelson, who has played the event nine times.

"It was a very emotional time because we really thought we were going to win (at 10-6 up).


"I still feel disappointed from it and think it will last a long longer than a month." Bradley concurred: "I still can't watch the Golf Channel or read anything about it, as it hurts so much," said the rookie who made such an impression.

"It would be amazing to win this event at any time," he said. "But I think this year I think a win would help all of the Americans and especially myself."

Peter Hanson, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, who finished first, third, fourth and sixth respectively at last week's BMW Masters in Shanghai, have the opportunity to cause Bradley yet more European misery.

If Hanson or Rose win the €925,000 first prize, they will overtake McIlroy at the top of the Order of Merit with three weeks remaining.