Woods pulls his weight as PGA Tour playoffs begin

By Doug FergusonAugust 26, 2009, 4:00 pm
The Barclays JERSEY CITY, N.J. ' No matter what players think of the golf course, Liberty National gets universal praise for its intimate view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, so close to the shore she looks as if she could tend a flag on the green.
Equally impressive is the view of Tiger Woods suited up for the opening of the PGA Tour Playoffs.
Woods has not played The Barclays in six years, and this will be the first time he competes in all four of the playoff events for the FedEx Cup. At a time when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is asking players to do more for sponsors in a tough economy, the worlds No. 1 player is pulling his weight.
Tiger Woods playing is really good, Geoff Ogilvy said. Hes been very good for golf lately, not just because of the TV ratings, but hes playing a lot more. Our tour is always better when hes here. Golf is getting spoiled.
Golf went eight months without Woods as he recovered from knee surgery. Now it cant get rid of him.
The Barclays, which gets under way Thursday, is part of a nine-week stretch in which Woods will be playing seven times. He hasnt played that much in such a short period since the end of the 2006 season, when he missed nine weeks because of his fathers death.
Asked why he was playing this year, Woods replied, I qualified.
That he did, winning five times in 13 starts to be the top seed among 125 players who qualified for this $63 million bonanza at the end of the year ' $7 million purse at each of the four events, with $35 million in bonus money for the FedEx Cup.
The points system has been tweaked to put more emphasis on the eight months that comprise the regular season, with quintuple the value of points during the playoff events, then a reset of the points that allows for a shootout at the Tour Championship for the $10 million prize.
Woods could have skipped The Barclays and won the FedEx Cup, as he did in 2007. He learned Wednesday that it was possible for him to win the next three tournaments, finish second at the Tour Championship and not capture the FedEx Cup. Or that someone could win the big prize without having won a single tournament this year.
It is different, theres no doubt, he said. But then again, this is what were playing for. This is our opportunity to play well. You play well at the right time, you should be all right.
Whether the system works to everyones satisfaction this year, the playoffs is off to a solid start, mainly because Woods is playing.
Its great that everyone is here, Steve Stricker said. It gets this off on the right foot.
For Woods, it is a continuation of quiet support.
In March, he hosted 16 chief executives of companies that sponsor the PGA Tour for lunch and golf at Isleworth, some of them trying to decide whether to renew contracts. After the second round at Firestone this month, Woods hopped into a cart and headed for a meeting with sponsors.
Corporate duty, he said with a smile.
He played the Buick Open, even though his endorsement contract with the automaker ended late last year. That meant playing three straight weeks, the final tournament being a major, and Woods said Wednesday that being in contention three straight weeks ' two victories and blowing a two-shot lead at the PGA Championship to Y.E. Yang ' took its toll.
And now The Barclays.
I think we have to support the tour, especially in this economy right now, Woods said. Thats one of the reasons why I played Flint, to show my support and my thank you to Buick, and a lot of guys did the same thing. And certainly, Barclays has been just a great sponsor over the year, and hopefully, they will continue and we can continue building the partnership.
Woods conceded that he felt a greater responsibility as the sports top player. He said he couldnt play more earlier in the year because he didnt want to push himself physically while returning from reconstructive knee surgery.
As for his responsibility to tee it up when the playoffs begin?
You want to be here. You want to be in the playoffs, he said. And ultimately, this is our opportunity to get in the Tour Championship. So it starts here.
It will end at Liberty National for 25 players who dont finish among the top 100 and advance to the next week at TPC Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship.
No one has played the golf course in competition, and while the architecture isnt overwhelming anyone, the length has their attention. Liberty National is 7,419 yards and plays as a par 71. The meat of the course is in the middle, with three par 4s at least 474 yards, a par 5 that is 611 yards and the par-3 11th that is 250 yards. The 18th hole is a par 4 at 508 yards, and another great view of New York.
Adding to the difficulty are the undulating greens, with some of the most severe on the long par 4s.
The holes that are 480 and above, Woods said. Its going to be hard to get the ball close. But everyone has got to play them.
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