(AP) — The PGA Tour has touted its new FedEx Cup competition by making references to the Green Bay Packers and New York Yankees. But when golf’s version of the playoffs begin new week in New York, it won’t include Tiger Woods.
Golf’s star attraction said Friday he will sit out the first playoff event at The Barclays, saying he was worn out from back-to-back victories at Firestone and Southern Hills.
“My body is spent and I need a break,” Woods said on his Web site.
The announcement was a setback for the PGA Tour, which had promoted the FedEx Cup as a “new era in golf” and instead was left with an old problem of convincing fans that golf was still relevant after the majors were over.
The FedEx Cup is a season-long points race that culminates with the playoffs, when the points are reset for four tournaments through the Tour Championship. The winner gets a $10 million annuity from a $35 million bonus pool.
Woods is the No. 1 seed and still can win the FedEx Cup despite skipping The Barclays. He is the defending champion at the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston, and he is a three-time winner at the BMW Championship outside Chicago. The Tour Championship is held in Atlanta at East Lake, where Woods has twice been runner-up.
There were indications last week that Woods might skip the Barclays, even though he said he “intended” to play them all.
He won the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, which played as tough as a major — Woods was the only player to break par. He followed that with a victory at the PGA Championship, which featured 100-degree weather the entire week. Woods said majors are grueling and require more time to recover.
Plus, he has never finished in the top 10 at Westchester Country Club, site of The Barclays.
“This is in no way a knock on Barclays, their new event next week or the new FedEx Cup series, which I fully support,” Woods said in his statement. “I just hope that this extra week of rest will rejuvenate me for the final three playoff events and Presidents Cup. It is still my goal to win the FedEx Cup and I am hopeful this will give me the best opportunity to finish the year strong.”
Woods was not at Kapalua in January when the FedEx Cup began, with tour officials asking players to deposit their golf ball into the trophy to signal the start of this new era. And he won’t be at Westchester for the start of the playoffs.
“We’re disappointed that Tiger will not be playing The Barclays next week,” PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said. “It’s clear from Tiger’s statement he remains focused on winning the FedEx Cup. Whether he can do it will be one of the many exciting things our fans will be following over the next four weeks.”
Tour officials had suggested that players would have to play all four weeks to have a serious chance at winning.
Woods’ superlative season gave him an 11,000-point lead over Vijay Singh at the end of the regular season, although the reset reduced his lead to only 1,000 points — and 15,300 points over the 144th and final seed — going into the playoffs.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem last year compared that to the New York Yankees winning the AL East by 20 games, then starting from scratch in the playoffs. More recently, PGA Tour spokesman Ric Clarson spoke of the significance of the FedEx Cup by suggesting the Green Bay Packers did not know in 1967 that their league championship would become known as the Super Bowl.
Woods, however, made clear what matters most — golf has been defined by the majors for the last 50 years, and his decision not to play all four playoff events drives home that point.
Despite not having Woods at Westchester, the PGA Tour most likely will have the best players in the world — Woods included — over the final three weeks of the season. That kind of participation after the majors are over is unprecedented.
The biggest issue is 2008 and beyond.
After the Tour Championship, most players will get one week off before the Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal. Next year, the top players will be asked to compete four consecutive weeks and then go straight to the Ryder Cup, one of the most draining weeks in golf. It is not likely that Woods or others will play all the playoff events.
Woods was among those who asked Finchem to shorten the regular season, and some thought he would show his support by playing in all four events. Woods even contributed to the tour’s marketing campaign. One spot showed Woods lacing up his golf shoes in the locker room while whistling the song, “Eye of the Tiger.”
But when the PGA Tour Playoffs begin on Thursday, its All-Pro quarterback will be on the bench.