Tiger tying his own hands in money race

Quick ... how many PGA Tour money titles did Jack Nicklaus win?

It is not a question easily answered, which probably says something about the accomplishment's overall importance. The Golden Bear led the money list eight times in his career, but who remembers that?

The 18 major championships are thought of the most, perhaps the 73 PGA Tour titles, too. The money titles are just another stat among so many impressive feats for Nicklaus.

Which brings us to Tiger Woods, and what seems to be his indifference toward winning the 2003 money title.

Vijay Singh passed him Sunday by winning the Funai Classic at Walt Disney World, and now has a $250,000 lead that he will likely pad at this week's Chrysler Championship. If he wins, Singh will clinch the title while Woods is sitting out. At least in terms of the money race, the Tour Championship will not matter.

"If he has it wrapped up, then so be it,'' Woods said. "I think anyone would rather have Player of the Year than the money title.''

In Singh's case, maybe not. He believes he can't win the PGA Tour Player of the Year award without capturing the money title first. And with four victories, he is just one behind Woods and tied with Davis Love III for second-most on the PGA Tour. The Player of the Year race is still in doubt, too.

"I'm in the best position to win the money title,'' Singh said. "I'm playing well. I've got two tournaments to go and I'm playing one extra tournament (that Woods isn't playing). If I'm playing (the Chrysler Championship) and he wins the week after, he ain't going to beat me. But that's my goal. I'm going to go out there and try to do the best I can and have a good, strong finish.''

Woods said he is taking this week off -- even though its a short ride from his Orlando home -- because he doesn't want to play three weeks in a row and wants to be prepared for the Tour Championship. And that is certainly his right.

But it does seem peculiar that Woods would not put more stock in the money title. Sure, Singh will have played nine more times. But the honor doesn't go to the person who averages the most money. It goes to the player who wins the most, regardless of number of starts. In retrospect, it might have meant simply adding one more tournament for Woods.

Why not go all-out to win the money title? Perhaps it has something to do with the Nicklaus analogy. After all, Woods is in pursuit of a different kind of history, winning majors, winning tournaments. Will anyone remember how many money titles he won?

Maybe. Maybe not. If he somehow rallies to win the money title, it will be Woods' fifth in a row. No player in PGA Tour history has done that, and in this day of deep, talented fields, that would be quite impressive. Heck, having won four in a row is impressive. Perhaps that is enough for Woods. Nobody did that on the PGA Tour since Tom Watson from 1977-80. Nicklaus never did it, nor did Arnold Palmer.

In a year, however, where Woods did not win a major championship, where he's been pushed for the Player of the Year award unlike in any of the previous four seasons, you'd think he might want to have this one.

That, along with five victories -- including two WGC titles -- would have all but assured another Player of the Year honor. And it would have put to rest all that silly talk about this being an "off" year.

"It's been a very solid year,'' Woods said. "My scoring average is about the same as it has been just about every year. From that side, it has been very positive. It's obviously disappointing that I didn't win any of the major championships. I was contending going into the weekend -- in three of the four -- and obviously didn't perform on the weekend.

"But overall, the year has been very good, considering that when Ernie (Els) was making his run at the beginning of the year, I couldn't hit more than an 8-iron (due to surgery). I didn't think I could ever make it back for the Florida swing, and I came back and I won two on the West Coast. So that was a great start to the year, and I think I played well pretty much the entire year.''

No argument here. It's just strange to think that Woods might enter the final tournament of the year without a shot at the money title. It makes you wonder if, deep down, he wishes he were playing this week.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com