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Tiger hosts season ending Target Challenge

Tiger Woods is the host of the Target World Challenge, giving him a schedule that hasn't been this orchestrated since the Ryder Cup.

The only difference is, he gets paid at the end of the week.

Woods had a golf clinic Monday for about 50 guests, followed by a full slate of meetings with IMG and the Tiger Woods Foundation most of Tuesday. He had dinner with his foundation staff Tuesday night, with the pro-am dinner Wednesday night.

Oh, one other thing: He's the defending champion.

Woods wants to be a gracious host this week to 15 world-class players at Sherwood Country Club, but he'll only go so far. When the $3.8 million event starts Thursday, it's back to his day job.

The Target World Challenge is the final silly-season event of the year, but it shouldn't take long to guess who takes it more seriously.

"Probably me," Woods said. "Whatever I win, I donate to my foundation."

A year ago, he donated the $1 million first-place check, courtesy of a final-round comeback. He made up four strokes against Vijay Singh on the back nine, closed with a 64 and won by three.

It might seem as though Woods doesn't care about the outcome, but consider his last two outings.

At the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Hawaii, he shot rounds of 66 and 61 to win by 14 strokes, an astounding margin considering it was only 36 holes and he was competing against PGA champion Rich Beem, Justin Leonard and Davis Love III.

"He's focused on winning, no matter what the tournament is," Beem said. "That's just his demeanor. That's probably something I can learn from."

Last weekend at the Skins Game, with the tournament already decided, Woods became irate when someone clicked a camera as he tried to blast out of a bunker. He snarled. He cursed. And his caddie tossed the man's camera in the lake.

"That gentleman who took the picture on my downswing didn't have a media credential. He was one of the people inside the ropes," Woods said. "I don't know if it was a sponsor or a gallery member, but he was there. And he mis-timed it."

Some silly season, huh?

The 16-man field playing for a $1 million prize - last place is $130,000 - features eight of the top 10 players in the world rankings. Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia are the only ones who declined their invitations.

Phil Mickelson, last seen giving Woods a hug on the 18th green at the Skins Game, is playing for the first time since the tournament left Arizona after its debut in 1999.

"You're competing not only for a lot of money, but you're also playing against some of the best players in the world," Woods said.

Still, practice time is rare, except for the usual suspects. Padraig Harrington spent a couple of hours on the range despite his recent arrival from South Africa. Singh had another putting gadget on the practice green at Sherwood.

Mickelson and David Toms are in the middle of a busy stretch. They'll go to Mexico next week to represent the United States in the World Cup.

Others, like Beem, take this occasion to tinker with new equipment.

"Everyone is inspired for different reasons," Woods said.

For Woods, the Target World Challenge is his final tournament of another season that ranked far ahead of anyone else's.

He became the first player since Jack Nicklaus in 1972 to win the first two legs of the Grand Slam, taking the Masters and U.S. Open by three strokes each. He also had the worst round of his professional career, an 81 at the British Open, that derailed his major run.

He had a couple of new experiences at the PGA Championship. He had never been the runner-up in a major, finishing one stroke behind Beem, and Woods had never finished with four straight birdies to make it so thrilling.

Throughout the latter part of the season, Woods involuntarily became a key voice in the controversy over Augusta National's all-male membership.

"Evidently, people think just because I've made a few more putts, I've become more intelligent," Woods said. "As everyone who knows me pretty well can attest, I don't think that's the case."

Woods hasn't made all that many putts this year. He sneaked out of a meeting to rap a few putts on the practice green. Two in a row caught the left lip and spun away.

Woods said his best friend, Jerry Chang, told him he should put a dollar in a jar for every putt that has lipped out this year.

"Do you know how much money I would have?" he asked.

Whatever the amount, he should have no trouble making it back this week.

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