By Jim Gorant
Thursday, March 08, 2007

Tiger woods completed a trip to Asia, and the operative number was two. In two weeks he played two events (HSBC Champions and Dunlop Phoenix) in two countries (China and Japan) and finished second in both. The runners-up are a mild surprise, considering that Woods began the excursion having won six straight official PGA Tour events. What did him in at the HSBC was a rusty first-round 72 in his first competitive 18 since the last week of September. More troubling was his finish at the Dunlop Phoenix, in which he went into the final round tied for the lead with Padraig Harrington. With six holes left, Woods was three shots up, but Harrington went four under on the back nine to force a playoff, then birdied the first two playoff holes to win. It was only the sixth time in 51 worldwide starts that Woods either led or held a share of the lead after 54 holes and failed to win, and only the second time in 16 playoffs that he's lost. Still, it's unlikely that Woods considers the trip a disappointment. He played in the final group both weeks, ringing up untold exposure for himself and his corporate sponsors, and just for showing up, he reportedly collected $3 million checks. Two of them to be exact.

Dropouts

In the final stage of the PGA Tour's Q school (Nov. 29-Dec. 4 in La Quinta, Calif.), 163 guys will play for 30 Tour cards, but the pros who've made it that far have already locked up a spot on the Nationwide tour. That's why a loss in last week's second stage was so devastating. The former Tour winners who washed out have no place to play in '07. They include Bobby Clampett, Michael Clark, Trevor Dodds, Joel Edwards, Jim Gallagher, David Gossett, Gary Hallberg, Nolan Henke, Brian Henninger, Gabriel Hjerstedt, Mike Hulbert, Greg Kraft, Neal Lancaster, Ian Leggatt, Len Mattiace, Blaine McCallister, Jim McGovern, Spike McRoy, David Ogrin, Steve Pate, Phil Tataurangi and Grant Waite.

ALSO ...

• The PGA Tour announced a change in the FedEx Cup Championship Series. Instead of 144 players advancing each week, the field will be reduced after each of the first three events, from 144 at the Barclays Classic, to 120 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, to 70 at the BMW Championship and 30 at the Tour Championship.

Brian Whitcomb, 51, of Bend, Ore., was elected the 35th president of the PGA of America last Saturday. Whitcomb, who replaces Roger Warren, had been vice president for the last three years.

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