Woods returns to US golf tour playoffs

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/t/tigerwoods_ap.jpg' class='caption'> Tiger Woods finished his pro-am on Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Updated: September 01, 2007 15:51 IST
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Norton, Massachusetts:

The crowd following Tiger Woods around the TPC Boston grew steadily throughout the morning sunshine until it lined the length of the 18th fairway as he finished his pro-am on Thursday at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

It was about the same size of the gallery following the leaders in the final round last week at The Barclays.

Maybe that's why some people believe the US golf tour's "playoffs" don't start until Woods shows up.

"Let's be honest about it," Rich Beem said. "There's only one person that really matters in this playoff system, and that's Tiger Woods. If Tiger is not playing, you're not going to have a whole lot of validity. If he's not playing, then how serious can we be about this?"

Woods skipped the first round of the PGA Tour Playoffs last week at Westchester Country Club, saying his body and mind needed a brief vacation after consecutive victories in stifling heat, the second title coming at the US PGA Championship.

He looked plenty refreshed on the refurbished TPC of Boston during the pro-am round, playing without a bogey and without much effort on his way to a 63. That's the same score he had the last time he was on this course, when he turned a three-shot deficit into a two-shot victory over Vijay Singh in the final round last year.

Woods went 10 days without picking up a club, but doesn't appear to have lost momentum anywhere but the playoff standings.

By skipping The Barclays, which Steve Stricker won with a birdie-birdie-birdie finish, Woods fell from No 1 to No 4, nearly 5,000 points behind Stricker with three tournaments remaining.

He didn't seem overly concerned.

"I know I've slipped in the standings, but there's plenty of points out there, and I'm just going to go out there and get some Ws," Woods said. "It makes things pretty exciting coming down to the last few weeks."

Woods has his own ideas how he would change the system, such as starting with fewer players. But even though he skipped the first playoff event - and some proclaimed this new model a failure with his absence alone - he seems to have embraced the concept.

He said he would play the next three events, even if he were to clinch the FedEx Cup before arriving at the Tour Championship in Atlanta on September 13. It is mathematically possible for Woods to be the runner-up the next three weeks and win the FedEx Cup.

Which means more?

"I'd rather take the Ws instead of three 2s," Woods said. "Just me."

He said going winless over the next three weeks but still capturing the FedEx Cup would be similar to winning the Arnold Palmer or Byron Nelson awards, given each year for the player who earned the most money or had the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour.

"It's a year-long award," Woods said. "But would you much rather have Ws throughout the year than win that award at the end of the year? Ask any guy out here, they'd much rather win tournaments."

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