Woods risks losing first place by skipping Barclays

8/17/2007 - Golf

You could see this coming for weeks, if not months. It was never the sure thing that Tiger Woods is with a 54-hole lead in a major championship. But the idea of the world's No. 1 golfer skipping one of the FedEx Cup playoff events was a strong possibility.

Woods made it official on Friday, saying he would pass on next week's The Barclays, the first of four season-ending playoff events that make up the PGA Tour's "new era'' in golf.

So the much-hyped FedEx Cup playoffs will start without the game's biggest attraction.

It is disappointing, yet understandable.

No doubt, Woods will take some grief simply because he was vocal in calling for alterations to the PGA Tour season that lingered on far too long. The tour made sweeping changes that include a season-long points race and a condensed schedule that concludes in mid-September with the last of the four playoff events, the FedEx Cup. Wood applauded the move.

And now he's not supporting it -- for at least one week -- and his PGA Tour schedule will end next month with his playing in just 16 tournaments. That will give plenty of fodder to those who believe Woods is not helping the tour with its new concept.

There were warning signs when Woods repeatedly said he "intended" to play all four playoff tournaments. That always left him an out, and he is taking it, likely for several reasons.

He's coming off two taxing victories at the Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship, running his victory total this year to five -- three more than anyone else. He's already accomplished the biggest goal of any year for him, winning a major championship. He's not keen on playing four straight weeks or six out of seven or even eight out of 10 when you throw in the Presidents Cup after the Tour Championship -- especially with a newborn at home. He's never much cared for Westchester Country Club, where he played three times in the Buick Classic and never finished in the top 10.

And, let's face it, Woods doesn't need the $10 million annuity that goes to the winner of the FedEx Cup.

Woods said Friday on his Web site that he needed a "short break" because "major championships are grueling experiences and usually necessitate recovery time."

At least this should add more intrigue to the remaining three playoff events: the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. Why? Because Woods cannot run away with the title now.

Even though he has a huge lead in the points standings, everyone is reseeded before next week's event. Woods will start with 100,000 points, with Vijay Singh getting 99,000 points and subsequent 500-point and 250-point differences all the way down to the 144th player in the field.

With 50,000 points at stake and 9,000 going to the winner, it is very likely that Woods will be passed at The Barclays. In fact, it is possible that he could drop as far as fourth place. That will mean he'll have some catching up to do. Maybe it makes the competition more compelling.

It will no doubt bring more attention to the fact that some changes need to be made to a FedEx Cup system that the PGA Tour already knows will require some tweaking.

Maybe the tour should require players to compete in all four events to win the FedEx Cup. Maybe four playoff events is one too many, especially when you consider that the top players rarely -- if ever -- compete in more than two or three tournaments in a row.

Maybe the tour looks at all the "must-play" events on its schedule -- including the three World Golf events -- and concludes that there are just too many of them, especially at the end of the season, when a WGC (Bridgestone) and a major (the PGA) are so close to the playoffs.

And maybe when Woods returns at the Deutsche Bank Championship after his week off, he can offer up some ideas of his own that will help assure his presence in the future.

Bob Harig is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.