Woods proving that winning will take care of everything
ATLANTA -- It was a popular question posed to players prior to this week's Tour Championship: "The tourney or the Cup?"As far as ultimatums go, it's not exactly, "Your money or your life?" but it was a valid query, asking which is more important, the end-of-season tournament or the PGA Tour's inaugural FedEx Cup "playoffs." Mark Calcavecchia chose the latter. "The bigger story," he said, "is the guy who wins the FedEx Cup." So, too, did Steve Stricker, who argued, "The winner of the FedEx Cup is probably going to bear a little bit more importance." Tiger Woods? Uh-uh. Dude wasn't biting, no matter how juicy the bait.
"You play to win," said Woods, who owns five dozen career PGA Tour titles, when asked about the Cup. "You win and see what happens. That's why you tee it up. At the beginning of the year you don't tee it up for the Arnold Palmer Award, you don't tee it up for the [Jack] Nicklaus Award, you tee it up to get the most Ws you possibly can and see where the awards fall from there. The whole idea of our sport is to get wins. Wins always take care of everything."He would know. Halfway en route to No. 61 with a three-stroke 36-hole lead at East Lake Golf Club, the Fed Ex points leader again was questioned about the postseason race following his second-round 63 on Friday. And again he failed to submit the company line. "You just want to win the tournament," he said. "Winning always takes care of everything. The whole idea of this week is to go out there and get it done. At the halfway point, I'm in good shape for that." After carding five birdies and an eagle in a span of six holes, resulting in a front-nine 28, Woods' flirtation with the magical score of 59 ended on the back, but he kept so much else well alive. Woods is seeking his seventh victory of the season, which also would make him the first-ever FedEx Cup champion and place him within one of Arnold Palmer for fourth place on the all-time PGA Tour victory list. So, uh, yeah, Tiger's in "good shape for that." Of course, that wasn't his only underestimation of the day. Let's run a few of his post-round quotes through the Tiger Woods Interpretation Machine for clarification of what he really meant: "I had a nice little roll there from 4 through 9 " ("I made more red numbers on those six holes than some guys will make all week ") "Some lucky things happened for that stretch, which was nice " (I meant to hit that bunker shot on 5 to within a foot, but it went in. Oops ") "I also hit a few good shots here and there " ("Yawn. Big news flash: I'm good at golf ") "Overall the round was a good, solid round." ("Yes, I just won the tournament. But I'll still show up for the final two rounds.") In Saturday's third round, Woods will be paired with Woody Austin, which should work quite nicely considering Austin's former life as a bank teller and Woods' future life as a guy with $10 million more in his bank account. Really, what seemed an inevitability before the season is now precariously perched upon the precipice of reality. Woods is going to be the FedEx Cup champion. He's doing so in what has become typical Woods fashion. At last month's PGA Championship, he pulled away from the field with a 63 on Friday, then cruised through the weekend toward his 13th major championship title. Through two rounds this week -- an opening 64 that was completed on Friday morning and the sterling 63 -- Woods already has made birdie or better on every single front-nine hole. He's sank 1/20th of a mile (270 feet) worth of putts. His two-day personal best ball score would be 56. If you don't think Woods is going to win this weekend, well, we appreciate you reading this, Mrs. Austin. "This was a pretty good day," Woods said after making 10 birdies and an eagle in a combined 25 holes. "I really played well. I didn't particularly drive it as well as I would like, but I was able to fix it and then I hit some good shots." For Tiger Woods, the question, "The tourney or the Cup?" doesn't matter. In all likelihood, he will own both on Sunday evening. And he'll prove prescient in his comments. "Winning takes care of everything," he keeps saying. It sure does. Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com