Changes may lure better field for LV

When the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open decided to change its format for 2008, it wasn’t done with the intention of luring Tiger Woods back to Las Vegas. But it ultimately might have that desired impact.

With the elimination of the Pro-Am during the first couple of rounds and the decision to have the tournament played at one course — TPC Summerlin — instead of multiple layouts, the Shriners Open hopes to attract a better field than in years’ past. And, yes, maybe even get Woods, who won his first professional event when he captured the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996.

“I’d love to see Tiger come here,” said former UNLV star Chris Riley, who along with another former Rebel, Charley Hoffman, were in town Tuesday to promote this year’s tournament from Oct. 13 to 19. “I think it’s a good fit for Tiger. He loves Las Vegas.”

Woods is recovering from knee surgery and isn’t expected to play until next spring.

Hoffman said of the changes: “Hopefully it will make the field better. I think you’ll get a few more players with the new format. I talked to (former UNLV star) Adam Scott, and he’s thinking about coming.”

Perhaps Timberlake can convince Woods to put Las Vegas on his 2009 calendar. But the format change for 2008 already has yielded some positive results.

Mike Weir has decided to return for next month’s Fall Series event. So has Jesper Parnevik and Bubba Watson. Another former Rebel, Chad Campbell, who will play for the United States in next week’s Ryder Cup matches and became a first-time father this week when his wife, Amy, delivered a boy, also will play.

The changes will be good for everyone. There still will be a Pro-Am, but it has been moved to Oct. 13. On Oct. 15, there will be a celebrity Pro-Am, which will feature Timberlake and several of his friends from the music industry.

“I didn’t mind the Pro-Am, but there’s a lot of guys who don’t want to deal with it,” Hoffman said.

All play will be contained to one course. At least two courses have been used and as many as four during each of the 25 years the PGA Tour has played here.

“The scores are going to be really low with just one course,” Hoffman said. “Guys will be better prepared with just one course, and it’ll show. Fans want to see birdies, and I think if the conditions are good, you’re going to see a birdiefest out there.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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