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Notebook: Woods needs some Goofy golf to win the Vardon Trophy
By Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tiger Woods has until 5 p.m. Friday to decide whether he wants to win the Vardon Trophy.

That's the deadline to enter the Funai Classic at Disney, and Woods might consider playing for no other reason than he needs to reach 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average. Woods has 55 rounds on the PGA Tour, so playing only in the season-ending Tour Championship would leave him one round short.

It was quite clear two weeks ago in London that Woods had not made up his mind or wasn't about to tell anyone. During a practice round at the American Express Championship, he was asked what he was thinking about Disney and offered the following insight:

"Big company. They make some good movies. A lot of theme parks."

Woods has won the Vardon Trophy six times, more than anyone since it began in 1937. Rounds played became an issue this year because he withdrew after two rounds from the Nissan Open with the flu, missed the cut for the first time in a major at the U.S. Open and missed nine weeks coping with the death of his father.

Even if Woods skips Disney, he still will be recognized as having the lowest scoring average.

The PGA Tour gives out the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average, which is the same thing as the Vardon except the tour only requires a minimum of 50 rounds.

Whatever he decides to do, Woods' pursuit -- or lack thereof -- has shed light on a couple of oddities involving the award. For example, the PGA Tour counts rounds played at the Accenture Match Play Championship and the International (with its modified Stableford system), even though neither format relates to posting a score.

"I didn't know that," Woods said, and when asked whether Accenture should count, he added, "No. It's match play."

Whatever the case, Woods already has locked up the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average at 68.11. If he skips Disney, the Vardon Trophy most likely would go to Jim Furyk (68.88).

One trend points toward Woods not playing Disney. He missed the cut last year, and he has never returned to a PGA Tour event the year after missing the cut. He did not go back to the Canadian Open in 1998, or to the Byron Nelson Championship this year.

No pressure

The Colonial helped put Dean Wilson on the map in more ways than one.

He was best remembered for playing with Annika Sorenstam in 2003, but a more personal landmark occurred this year when he tied for 12th, earning enough money to secure his PGA Tour card. Wilson had never been in such good shape so early in the season.

Even more impressive is what he did from there.

"It freed me up where I could be more aggressive and try to win," Wilson said. "And lo and behold, that's what happened."

Hawaii's best player beat Tom Lehman in a playoff at the International, and he was runner-up at the Texas Open. Going into Las Vegas, where he lives, Wilson is 19th on the money list and not ready to stop.

He already is a lock for his first Masters (top 40) and first Tour Championship (top 30). His next target is to finish in the top 20, which would make him eligible for the British Open and U.S. Open.

"There's always something," Wilson said.

Wilson has played Augusta National once before. Mike Weir, one of his best friends and former teammate at BYU, brought Wilson as a guest in 2004 after the Canadian won the Masters.

Tested rookie

For all the talk about the PGA Tour rookies this year, from J.B. Holmes to Bubba Watson to Camilo Villegas, the favorite to win rookie of the year is a familiar face -- Trevor Immelman, who played on the Presidents Cup team last year.

Immelman is at No. 7 on the money list with nearly $3.5 million, already a PGA Tour record for rookies, and the 26-year-old South African has the most significant victory of his peers by holding off Tiger Woods to capture the Western Open.

Holmes (FBR Open in Phoenix) and Eric Axley (Texas Open) were the only other rookies to win this year with three full-field events left.

The last rookie to finish in the top 10 on the money list was Jerry Pate, who was 10th in 1976 after winning the U.S. Open.

Immelman is barely eligible for the award.

The PGA Tour defines a rookie season as the year a player competes in his 10th tournament as a tour member, or earns official money the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list, whichever comes first. Immelman did not join the PGA Tour until the week after the '05 PGA Championship, and his official prize money last year ($614,867) was $11,869 short of Nick Price at No. 125 on the money list.

Duval gets a break

Sergio Garcia is done playing the PGA Tour the rest of the year, so David Duval is assured of staying inside the top 25 on the career money list. That means Duval will be able to take one-time exemptions the next two years (top 25 and top 50) to keep his card if he doesn't finish in the top 125 on the money list. He's 171st with $318,276 -- $311,290 out of the top 125 who are fully exempt for next season.


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