The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Woods feels he’s the man to beat
- Four-way race for US PGA Player of the Year honour set to climax at $6 million meet

Houston: Tiger Woods sees himself as the man to beat for US PGA Player of the Year honours, but he probably must win here at the Tour Championship to secure the most votes from his peers for a fifth year in a row.

Top-ranked Woods has won a season-best five titles and leads the Vardon Trophy race for low-scoring average, but he did not win a 2003 major and trails Fiji’s Vijai Singh in a bid for his fifth consecutive season money crown. “I think I ought to have an advantage,” Woods said. “I’ve got more wins than anybody else. I have half a shot lead on the Vardon (Trophy for low scoring average). Right now that’s the way I would vote.”

But Woods admits that four-time winners Singh and Davis Love and Masters champion Mike Weir can make a solid Player of the Year case for themselves with a victory in the season-ending showdown of the year’s 30 top money winners.

“If Mike Weir wins, he automatically gets Player of the Year,” Woods said. “If Vijai wins, he probably should get Player of the Year. And Davis, if he wins, that puts him at five wins with the Players Championship in there.

“A lot of things can happen come Sunday. A lot of different things are up for grabs. It makes for a nice challenging week.”

Woods will play alongside defending champion Singh here on Thursday in the opening round of the six million-dollar event at Champions Golf Club, a man-to-man duel with the season money crown at stake.

Singh leads the money race with $ 7,345,907 to $ 6,577,413 for Woods, who can only claim the money title by winning the $1.08 million top prize while Singh finishes fourth or lower.

“I don’t think it gets the juices more flowing,” Woods said. “That’s the trap you can fall into, trying to play against a person in a group. But we’re all experienced enough not to do that.”

Woods admits the money title means less to him than to Singh, who will start his 27th event of the year compared to only 18 for Woods.

“If it was a big priority I would have played 25, 30 events each and every year, but it’s not,” Woods said. “For me it’s the biggest events, the majors. That’s what I focus my whole year around. I’m very happy winning five or six events every year out of 18 or 20 events. That’s not a bad percentage.”

Helping Woods’ case in the Player of the Year quest is another milestone. Woods will break Byron Nelson’s 1940s record for consecutive cuts made by being in the money here for his 114th event in a row.

“It means quite a bit because I have had to play consistent golf at a high level for a long period of time,” Woods said. “Certainly there are times when I probably should have missed and I got lucky to have made the cut.

Woods sees more young black talent being attracted to golf because of the success he and Singh enjoy. “Unfortunately we’re the only two on (the US) tour. We’re 1-2 in the world but we’re the only two,” Woods said. “You would think there would be more players of color on tour by now.

“With Vijai playing well and the success I’ve had, a lot more juniors who are minorities are playing golf. With the weeding out process, it’s going to be hard for anybody to get out here. You have to have a bigger base to work from.”

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