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Woods on the winning end of PGA Tour's loss

Tiger Woods' victory Sunday at the WGC-NEC Invitational was his ninth in the world events that started in 1999.

By BOB HARIG
Published August 23, 2005


You can make a strong argument that the World Golf Championships are not good for the PGA Tour. But they sure are good for Tiger Woods .

His victory Sunday at the WGC-NEC Invitational was his ninth in the world events that started in 1999. And the win was another reminder that Woods has built his resume against the best.

Of his 45 PGA Tour victories, 10 have come in the major championships, nine in the world events. He also has won one Players Championship, one Tour Championship and two Mercedes Championships. That is 23 titles, more than half of his victories, coming in tournaments where elite fields are assembled.

The NEC had 49 of the top 50 in the world entered, with only injured Ernie Els missing. Nothing seems to get Woods going more.

"You're playing against the best players in the world, so it's basically a continuation of last week," said Woods, referring to the Aug. 11-14 PGA Championship after his victory Sunday at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. "It's the same guys, and I think that's what's got my juices going because it's the best in the world and we don't get a chance to face each other very often. And when we do, it's a lot of fun."

Woods is correct, the World Golf events do bring the best in the world together. That was the intention. The Match Play Championship and the American Express Championship, which will be played in October in San Francisco, are the other world events that count as official tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.

But there is debate about whether, overall, they are good for the tour. This week's tournament, the Buick Championship in Hartford, Conn., will suffer as many of the big names take a week off. The Greensboro and Las Vegas tournaments, which are sandwiched around the American Express, also will suffer.

Look at Woods' schedule: If he plays the four majors, the three World Golf events, the season-opening Mercedes, the season-ending Tour Championship and the Players Championship, that is 10 tournaments.

He has typically been a lock for the Buick Invitational and Nissan Open in his native southern California, as well as the Bay Hill Invitational near his Orlando home. He is also a regular at Jack Nicklaus ' Memorial, the Western Open and the Deutsche Bank Championship, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

That's 16 tournaments. Last year, he played 19 times, which means very few opportunities for the rank-and-file PGA Tour events that are the backbone of the tour to attract him.

The World Golf events are nice, but they don't come without a price.

DRIVE FOR SHOW: He might not always keep it in play, but Woods is crushing the ball off the tee. According to the tour's ShotLink statistics, Woods sent 41 of his 54 tee shots more than 300 yards at the NEC - and not all were with a driver. For the tournament, he averaged 317 yards off the tee. There were 24 drives more than 330 yards, 14 more than 350 and seven that went beyond 370. It is interesting to note, however, that Woods has not improved his driving accuracy much. He hits the fairway just 56.5 percent of the time, which ranks 180th on the PGA Tour. Last year he hit 56.1 to rank 182. In 2003, Woods hit the fairway 62.7 percent of the time to rank 142nd.

RULES: Stuart Appleby was a victim of the complicated rules book Sunday. Appleby was taking relief from a cart path. He took a drop that rolled too far, then took another. When it headed for the same place, his caddie picked up the ball before it stopped rolling. It's a technicality - Appleby would have had to drop again - but because his caddie touched the ball before it had stopped, a two-stroke penalty was assessed. That led to a final-round 74.

SHOOTING FOR AUGUSTA: Vaughn Taylor has two career PGA Tour victories, and both have come at the Reno-Tahoe event played opposite the NEC Invitational. Now he has his sights on an obvious goal. "My goal is to play in the Masters," said Taylor, who grew up and lives in Augusta, Ga., and attended Augusta State. One way to get there is to finish among the top 40 money-winners on the PGA Tour. With the $540,000 Taylor earned, he has moved up to 45th.

STAYING AMATEUR ... FOR NOW: Boca Raton's Morgan Pressel has sponsor exemptions to play in this week's Wendy's Championship and next week's State Farm tournament on the LPGA Tour. Pressel, 17, considered turning pro but decided to remain an amateur so she can compete in a junior Solheim Cup event later this year.