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Woods' focus not on Ryder Cup yet

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 20, 2002

THOMASTOWN, Ireland -- No one can accuse Tiger Woods of looking ahead to next week's Ryder Cup.

Woods birdied the last two holes Thursday for 7-under 65 and a one-stroke lead in the American Express Championship, a tournament he said means more to him than winning that little exhibition next week at the Belfry.

Asked which was more important, Woods chose an individual title and the $1-million check over a Ryder Cup team victory and a 14-inch gold chalice.

"Why? I can think of a million reasons," he said.

Woods has never had much success in the Ryder Cup, going 3-6-1. This week he complained the team concept doesn't allow him to prepare for the matches the way he does other big tournaments.

And he made it clear after his bogey-free, record 65 at Mount Juliet that his focus is squarely on winning his sixth tournament this year and a World Golf Championship event for the fourth straight season.

David Toms and Steve Lowery were at 66, and defending champion Mike Weir, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen were among those at 65.

In nearly perfect conditions, 28 players were within four of the lead. British Open champion Ernie Els plodded along to 68, and Sergio Garcia and Davis Love were another stroke back. "This is a big event. These are the best players in the world," Woods said. "You're playing stroke play on a great golf course. That's pretty important. I'm not saying the Ryder is not important. It's a completely different animal.

"You can play absolutely lousy and the team can win, or you can play absolutely great and win all five matches, and lose the Ryder Cup."

It was a blunt assessment about the Ryder Cup, one sure to delight the British tabloids.

Woods struggled with his driver, which was the case much of the summer, and didn't hit a fairway on a par 5, but he set the course record at Mount Juliet. Only 14 players failed to shoot par or better.

"I didn't drive the ball particularly well on the par 5s, but overall I can't be too disappointed with 65," Woods said.

Woods said he enjoys the Ryder Cup from Friday to Sunday, but he doesn't like the preview galas and black-tie dinners. He said the Ryder Cup has never been his top priority.

CBS STICKS WITH MASTERS: CBS Sports informed a women's group it intends to go ahead with coverage of next year's Masters. The network and its parent company, Viacom, received a letter from the National Council of Women's Organizations asking that it not broadcast the Masters until the club opens its membership to women. The letter, signed by Martha Burk, chairwoman of the group, said it is wrong for CBS to broadcast a tournament at a place that is "flaunting its practice of sex discrimination." CBS Sports president Sean McManus replied by sending a letter to Burk, informing her that the network has no intention of pulling out of the broadcast.

PGA TOUR EVENT MOVES: The tournament formerly known as the Pennsylvania Classic has been renamed the 84 Lumber Classic and will be played at the Nemacolin Woodlands resort's boulder-strewn Mystic Rock course near Pittsburgh in 2003-06. The sponsors have an option through 2008. The Pittsburgh area, host to seven U.S. Opens and five PGA Championships, will have a full-time PGA Tour stop for the first time. It also means Philadelphia, the nation's fifth-largest metropolitan area, is without a PGA tournament.

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