NORTON, Mass. – The next tournament in America for Tiger Woods will be in California. The question now is whether he can play another tournament in California at the end of the year.
Woods is host of the Chevron World Challenge on Dec. 1-4 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Two years ago, it began awarding world-ranking points, but it could only award sponsor exemptions to players in the top 50 in the world.
That even applies to the host.
Woods, who started the season at No. 2 in the world, dropped to No. 38 this week.
The cutoff to be in the top 50 is Sept. 20, after the BMW Championship. Tournament director Greg McLaughlin is confident Woods will be in the top 50, although it still depends on which PGA Tour players do well during the next two playoff events, and on certain Europeans faring well in Switzerland.
Asked if the tournament would consider relinquishing world-ranking points for a year if Woods needed a spot, McLaughlin said, “We haven’t contemplated anything relative to that at all.”
“We’re confident he’s going to be in the top 50 and will be eligible to play,” McLaughlin said.
Then came a dose of sarcasm to show he was not worried about Woods making it to his own tournament.
“He most likely would need an exemption,” McLaughlin said. “We have two, and we would happily extend one to him.”
SINGH ON SONG: Vijay Singh was an afterthought following the PGA Championship. Not only was he in the middle of the pack in the FedEx Cup, he was 16th in the Presidents Cup standings and likely to miss the matches for the first time in its history, dating to 1994.
Two weeks have changed everything.
Singh shot 65 on the last day at Greensboro to tie for fourth. A week later, he played in the final group and tied for third at The Barclays. The 48-year-old Fijian is No. 8 in the FedEx Cup and is No. 12 in the Presidents Cup standings, with two tournaments remaining to boost his world ranking and go back to Australia.
Singh went to Germany for shots in his back, as did Fred Couples a few days before him.
“It’s worked miracles,” Singh said. “I’m feeling good. I can be more aggressive and not really worry about how I’m going to wake up the next morning, and if I can play or not. So I’ve been struggling with this for two years. It’s the first time I feel really comfortable.”
Singh blamed his back problem on age and his work ethic. No one has dug more trenches in the dirt over the years. He said as he got older, he began having trouble with a bulging disk.
“If you’re not playing golf, it’s fine,” he said. “But if you’re hitting the ball day in and day out, it’s going to take a toll. I thought I was a bionic man. But the amount of practice you put in, sooner or later it’s going to take its toll. And now I’m paying for it.”
Singh said he tried to alleviate the pain by shortening his swing during practice.
“Now, I’m starting to swing the way I used to swing,” he said.
KUCHAR’S GOAL: One mark of a good year is when it becomes more difficult to set goals. Such was the case of Matt Kuchar, who won the PGA Tour money title and the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average in 2010.
Winning a major is the obvious goal, along with winning any tournament. But having finished second to Jim Furyk in the FedEx Cup last year, Kuchar’s mission for 2011 became obvious.
“A goal of mine last year after finishing No. 1 on the money list, finishing No. 1 in stroke average - tough to kind of put new goals out there - finished second in the FedEx Cup. And I said, `Well, I know I can go higher than that.’ It’s only one spot, but it’s doable,” Kuchar said. “So that’s been a goal, to try to jump up that one more spot.”
He is off to a decent start.
Kuchar began the playoffs at No. 12 - the highest seed of any player who failed to win this year—and was runner-up to Dustin Johnson at The Barclays, which moved him to No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings.
“Now I’ve put myself in position where a few more good weeks and I’ve got the Tour Championship to try to get in that No. 1 spot for the FedEx Cup,” he said.
THE LOW LIGHTS: The PGA Tour did well to complete 54 holes at The Barclays, especially since Plainfield Country Club received more than 8 inches of rain that submerged at least three holes.
But it put a damper on the start of the season - and the end of the year for CBS Sports. For one thing, the final round was washed out and its final day of live coverage (Saturday) was on tape delay.
Worse yet, with everyone getting out of town ahead of Hurricane Irene, the CBS Sports crew had to cancel its famous “Low Lights” party. The celebration is held the Saturday night before its final telecast, and it includes video of the network’s year in golf featuring its entire crew. The “Low Lights” has been rescheduled for Torrey Pines, where CBS starts its 2012 season.
Some of the crew still got together Saturday night after the tournament. The ballroom and food already had been paid for. Though several staff had left town, executive producer Lance Barrow decided to stick around.
DIVOTS: After the first week of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Camilo Villegas made the biggest jump, moving up 58 spots to No. 51 with his tie for sixth at the Barclays. Brian Gay missed the cut and had the biggest drop, 15 spots to No. 71. … The Players Championship has created $500,000 scholarship endowments at the University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville, the largest scholarship in the Jacksonville area. … Keegan Bradley was to throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. He showed up at the TPC Boston with his clubs slung over his left shoulder, and a baseball in his right hand. His caddie asked if wanted to hit balls. “First, I’ve got to warm up,” Bradley said with a nod toward the baseball.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Two of the top 10 players in the FedEx Cup standings - Matt Kuchar at No. 2 and Vijay Singh at No. 8 - have not won a PGA Tour event this year.
FINAL WORD: “It gives you a boost that, yeah, I might be 40, but it’s not over yet.” - Thomas Bjorn, 40, after winning the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles for his second win this year.