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Jeff the dinosaur scares Australian PGA away from resort

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian PGA Championship will leave its traditional Queensland venue next year after the Coolum resort painted adverts on the fairways and put a giant replica dinosaur on the course.

This year's A$1.25 million ($1.3 million) tournament starts on Thursday but according to local media reports it was nearly scrapped after a dispute between the PGA and mining tycoon Clive Palmer, the resort's new owner.

While late negotiations ensured the 2012 event would go ahead, players will be greeted by the sight of 'Jeff', a 20-metre long and eight meter-high dinosaur plonked between the ninth and 10th holes.

PGA chief executive Brian Thorburn said the tournament, one of four marquee events on Australia's golf calendar, would move to another Queensland course in 2013 after an 11-year run at the Coolum because the resort would not meet sponsorship demands.

"Commerce plays a part in these things, you've got to make the books balance ... but emotionally it'll be sad, the PGA's had a great run here and we're sorry to be leaving," he said.

This year's competitors will be allowed to lift and place their balls if they land on any of the 61 adverts and slogans painted on the fairways.

"Only about six to 10 of them are in landing zones and come into play," added Thorburn.

Players were amused by the course's unusual decoration during practice rounds on Tuesday.

"It's different, that's for sure," said 2011 British Open winner Darren Clarke. "But it's fine, sponsors give us a lot and in this day and age you accept that it is what it is."

Peter Senior, who won the Australian Open on Sunday, was also unfazed by Jeff the dinosaur.

"It doesn't worry me as long as it doesn't crap everywhere," he quipped.

Billionaire businessman Palmer, who also has grand plans to build a replica of the Titanic, has had other brushes with professional sport.

Palmer launched soccer club Gold Coast United to much fanfare in the top-flight A-League in 2008 but the club were booted out earlier this year after the mining tycoon rowed with administrators.

($1 = 0.9526 Australian dollars)

(Writing by Ian Ransom; editing by Tony Jimenez)

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