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Tiger Woods prefers cash to Ryder Cup

Tiger Woods, one of the richest sportsmen in the world, would rather add a million dollars to his bulging bank account than win the Ryder Cup.
This astonishing assertion was made yesterday, minutes after he had taken the lead in the American Express World Championship event here near Kilkenny. He set a record for the renovated Mount Juliet course, a seven-under-par 65, to lead by one shot from his fellow Americans David Toms and Steve Lowery and by two shots from a group of five.

Woods has not known what it is to want for money since the day he turned professional and Nike paid him $40m (£26m) to use his name. Three years later that contract was renewed and doubled, and he can also demand appearance money of up to $2m a tournament.

He already has more money than he could possibly spend and yet yesterday he claimed repeatedly that he would prefer the first-place prize money of $1m here to the United States finishing first next week. This from a citizen of a nation that prides itself on its patriotism.

Woods was asked directly: "What would be more important for you, to win this week or the Ryder Cup next week?"

"Here this week," he replied. "I can think of a million reasons why."

"Is it then no contest for you, the question of which is more important?" he was asked.

"This is a big event," he replied. "This is the best players in the world. You're playing strokeplay on a great course; that's pretty important. I'm not saying the Ryder Cup is not important; it's a completely different animal."

Later he was asked: "Would it surprise you if most of the Europeans said they would rather win the Ryder Cup than here?"

Woods said: "Yes, that would be surprising. This is a big week and certainly one I would want to win."

The world No1 had his reasons for his views. He cited the fact that he could play badly and yet the team could win, and also that he could play well and the team could lose. "I don't enjoy the lead-up to the Ryder Cup because we're taken out of our normal routine. We're not able to practise and I am used to working out a lot and we're not able to do that.

"We have to go to functions, getting home late at night. If I'm at a big event I'm not spending all night hanging out, I'm trying to get my rest."

But the simple fact appears to be that Woods does not enjoy the camaraderie of team golf. Throughout the Walker Cup match at Royal Porthcawl in 1995 he appeared disgruntled, and at Valderrama in 1997, when the Americans failed to regain the Ryder Cup, almost nothing was seen of him.

Even when his team won at Brookline in Boston in 1999, and celebrated long into the night, Woods had to be dragged from his bed to join in. He had retired early, the only team member to do so, and things had reached the stage where the late Payne Stewart was dancing on top of a piano when Woods's absence was remarked upon. He was bundled out of bed and made to join in, an unwilling participant.

Woods's attitude could go a long way to explaining his poor record in the Ryder Cup. To have played 10, won only three, halved one and lost six is not commensurate with his undoubted talent.

He demonstrated some of it yesterday with no bogeys and seven birdies, the last of which came at the 481-yard 18th, which he reached with a two-iron off the tee, a six-iron to the top tier of the green and a 20-foot putt which was never anywhere else but in the hole.

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