The season is winding down, but Woods and McIlroy still have a lot to play for

The season is winding down, but Woods and McIlroy still have a lot to play for

Tiger Woods is playing in the CIMB Classic this week in Malaysia.
Khalid Redza/Getty Images

Mark Twain said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times."

The 2012 golf season has no trouble with endings-it seems there's a new one ending every week, as evidenced by this week's 60-man Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas-the 27th of 27 events on the Tour. The top 25 on the money list after Sunday will advance to the PGA Tour for 2013, a perk that comes, fittingly, with a hand-engraved, Tiffany money clip at Sunday's card ceremony for "The 25."

No. 25 Camilo Benedetti is $287 ahead of No. 26 Doug LaBelle II.

Photos: Tiger on the cover of Sports Illustrated

Higher up the list, No. 3 Russell Henley is arguably the hottest player on the circuit. The University of Georgia product is coming off his second victory in three weeks at the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open at TPC Sawgrass, and took third in the one he didn't win. Henley began the month of August at 88th in earnings. The late-season jockeying for position will only intensify as all 50 PGA Tour cards for 2014 will come through the four-event Tour Finals next September, as the goes from a way to the way to access the PGA Tour.

For players who are already on Tour, the season didn't really end with last month's Tour Championship, which decided the FedEx Cup champion. The guys at the bottom of the money list will be sweating it out at the last chance to get inside the top 125 in earnings, the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (Disney), Nov. 8-11. The guys at the top of the pecking order, including Tiger Woods and 35 other players from the PGA Tour, are at this week's 48-player, no-cut CIMB Classic at The Mines in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The winner will get $1.3 million, but no World Ranking points.

"I'm excited about turning some of my weaknesses into strengths," Woods said at his press conference at The Mines. "I haven't driven very well in a very long time, and this year is probably the best I've driven in my entire career. But my iron game wasn't as sharp, and neither was my short game. Certainly I need to get my iron game back to where it used to be."

The LPGA has four tournaments remaining, including this week's second-annual, 78-player Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, won by Yani Tseng last year. Stacy Lewis, who leads the Player of the Year race, is not in the field. Next week's Mizuno Classic will end the tour's four-week Asian Swing.

The Champions Tour is much closer to the end, with this week's AT&T Championship in San Antonio marking the last full-field event of the year. It's the last chance for players to get into the top 30 on the money list and qualify for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The biggest stars of the 50-and-over circuit will play this week, including Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman, and Jay Don Blake. Mark McNulty is 30th on the money list with $510,619, less than $33,000 ahead of No. 31 Tom Kite.

Photos: McIlroy's life in pictures

The European Tour has a long way to go yet before the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, Nov. 22-25. The circuit's frantic finish begins with this week's BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai, where fans will be able to see 11 of the 12 players from Europe's winning Ryder Cup team, led by Race to Dubai leader Rory McIlroy. He's being chased by Justin Rose, who is coming off a $1.5 million payday for beating Lee Westwood in the finals of the recent Turkish Airlines World Golf Final.

McIlroy, who won the FedEx Cup's BMW Championship at Crooked Stick last month, is one of four players who could make it a BMW double in Shanghai, a group that also includes Luke Donald, who won the European Tour's premier event, the BMW PGA Championship, in May; Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (BMW Italian Open); and Brit Danny Willett (BMW International Open).

Said Rose, "There's a lot to play for the rest of the year."

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