JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) By adding a couple of tournaments to an already thin schedule and paying a small membership fee to join the European Tour, Tiger Woods already could have won the Order of Merit seven times.
That was never his priority.
And there's no reason to believe that will change after Monday's announcement in Dubai.
Starting in 2009, the European Tour season will end with the new Dubai World Championship, where the $10 million (6.8 million) purse makes it the richest tournament in golf - for the moment. Also, the Order of Merit now will be called the Race to Dubai, offering $10 million (6.8 million) in bonus money with $2 million (1.36 million) for the winner.
But there's a catch.
The Dubai World Championship is for the top 60 on the European money list, which would exclude Woods, Phil Mickelson and four other players among the top 10 in the world who aren't European Tour members and aren't likely to join.
"You've got to be committed to the European Tour to be in it," European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said at a press conference in Dubai. "And I think it's not a huge commitment."
All it takes is 11 tournaments to be a European Tour member. That includes the four majors and the three World Golf Championships, so a player really only has to play four times to keep his membership. Justin Rose played six rank-and-file tour events this year and captured his first Order of Merit.
Woods played nine events that count toward European membership last year, and 10 events the year before. Would a potential $3.66 million (2.5 million) payoff in Dubai, where he is building his first golf course, be incentive for him to join the European Tour?
"No," Mark Steinberg, his agent and the leader of golf division at IMG, said Monday. "He'll always play where he wants to play, and he's building a schedule around what's most important to him. And that's the majors."
There had been talk the week leading up to Monday's announcement that Europe was considering changing membership requirements to nine tournaments, making it even easier for Woods or any other top American to join. O'Grady said any decision would come in January at the next player committee meeting.
But he seemed to quash the notion in comments to PA Sport.
"There is absolutely no way it will be dropped from 11," O'Grady said. "Quite a lot of our players think we should raise the number, and that is being discussed by the committee in January. This isn't all about Tiger Woods."
That's refreshing - a tour making wholesale changes for the good of the whole.