Woods' absence heats up FedEx

Associated Press


ATLANTA --- The Tour Championship lost its biggest draw when Tiger Woods announced his plans for season-ending surgery Wednesday, but the star's exit opens the way for a more competitive end to the race for golf's points title.

The loss of Woods robs the PGA Tour of its FedEx Cup points leader and defending champion. The executive director of the Sept. 25-28 Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake said he hopes more drama at the season finale in Atlanta will make up for the loss.

"There's a good chance there will be six to 12 players with a chance to win the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship," said Todd Rhinehart, executive director of the event. "Last year only two controlled their own fate, Tiger and Steve Stricker, and only four guys had a mathematical chance."

Woods won the inaugural 2007 Tour Championship to cap his runaway points title, and he leads the current points race.

Rhinehart said it was most important that Woods protect his future in the sport.

"First and foremost his health and his longevity of his career is the most important thing," Rhinehart said of Woods. "Probably by having surgery now and giving himself the next eight to nine months to fully recover and get back on track, all golf fans can continue to enjoy watching one of the best players of all time. That is the most important thing."

Woods leads the 2008 standings with 22,695 points. Phil Mickelson is second with 15,940, followed by Justin Leonard, 11,902; Ryuji Imada, 10,854 and Geoff Ogilvy, 10,660.

Woods' dramatic victory in the U.S. Open on Monday left him with a huge lead in the points race. Now, with Woods sidelined, there is a tight race.

"We want it to come down to a putt on the 17th or 18th hole on Sunday," Rhinehart said.

Other ramifications of Woods' decision:

- Woods mathematically clinched a spot among the top eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Now, the ninth player in the standings after the PGA Championship earns a place on the team.

- His absence from the British Open allows one more spot among qualifiers.

- He will be the first PGA champion not to defend his title since 1994, when Paul Azinger was recovering from cancer. The defending champion is the host for a dinner for past champions.


"We sent him flowers for winning the U.S. Open. Now I wish I had put in a note of condolences. But this is not about Tiger and the Ryder Cup. It's about Tiger getting better and his march to history."

-- Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger

"I'm sure he's bummed about this, but I also think it's a good decision. He has so many years ahead of him and so many records to break that this is obviously the right decision for him. He will get a chance to recover and come back and be strong again. The pain that it looked like he had was, you know, who wants to live with that?"

-- Annika Sorenstam

"It's pretty sad to know he's not going to play the rest of the season. But he needs to fix his knee. The sad thing is it's the wrong knee. It's the left knee that takes all the torque. He needs to fix that, and I think he's doing the right thing."

-- Vijay Singh

"Gives us a chance to win now, I guess. It is a blow to all the fans who follow him, the sponsors. The money wouldn't be where it is if it wasn't for him. A lot of people don't realize, if it wasn't for Tiger, we wouldn't be playing for what we are now."

-- John Daly

"To hear he is not going to play for the rest of the year is a massive blow to golf. For guys teeing up in the Open and the U.S. PGA, guys might think they have a chance now, but personally I think it is very, very sad."

-- European Tour player

Ross Fisher

"For an athlete as talented and competitive as Tiger Woods, taking the rest of the season off must have been an incredibly difficult, yet necessary decision. ... The fact that he needs additional surgery only makes his performance and victory at last week's U.S. Open all the more impressive."

-- PGA Tour commissioner

Tim Finchem

"Tiger is an enormous attraction, there's no denying that. But the Open Championship has had many exciting finishes which Tiger has not been part of, and I'm sure there will be more. It's very sad. We're very sorry that he's succumbed to the injury and he won't be competing in the Open. We hope he has the speediest recovery."

-- Royal & Ancient chief executive Peter Dawson

"There will be debate whether he rushed back for the U.S. Open. But I don't think there will be any debate that he rushes back from his next surgery. He won't need to. Augusta is in April."

-- Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent

"It'll give a lot of other guys chances, I guess. But it's probably the best thing for him so he doesn't hurt his knee any further."

-- Chase Parker

"I'll guarantee you not as many fans are going to come to the tournaments. Whatever it takes for him to heal. You don't want to force it. I'm glad he won."

-- Lee Knox

"It's definitely going to take away from the TV broadcasts. But it's best for him. He wants to continue to play well, but he can't do that with his knee hurting."

-- Clark Palmer

"I guess it's a good decision, because he doesn't want to hurt his career. He'll be back, though, stronger than ever."

-- Dykes Harbin



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