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Player of the Year award to play for in Texas

Tiger Woods goes into this week's season-ending Tour Championship under pressure to clinch his sixth player of the year award since 1997.

The world number one leads the PGA Tour's stroke averages with an impressive 68.19, but trails Fiji's Vijay Singh by $768,494 in the money list.

Although Woods has won five titles on the 2003 tour compared to Singh's four, U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir and 1997 U.S. PGA winner Davis Love III are also in the running for the prized Jack Nicklaus Trophy, which is voted upon by the players.

"Come Sunday, you just don't know," Woods told a news conference at the Champions Golf Club. "Because if Mike Weir wins, he automatically gets player of the year. If Vijay wins, he probably should get player of the year.

"And Davis, if he wins, that puts him at five wins (for the season), with the Players Championship in there."

The 27-year-old Woods, however, believes he has a slight edge in the four-man race for player of the year honours by virtue of his position atop the stroke averages.

"As of right now, I think I ought to have an advantage, because I've got more wins than anybody else," he said. "I have half a shot lead on the Vardon (Trophy for stroke averages).

"Right now, that's the way I would vote."

Woods was voted player of the year for the first time in 1997, following his record-breaking victory by 12 strokes in that season's U.S. Masters.

His good friend Mark O'Meara won the Jack Nicklaus Trophy the following year but, since then, Woods has retained a monopoly of the annual award which is based on the balloting of the PGA Tour members.

While Woods is determined to win the U.S. Tour's grand finale this week in his bid to seal player of the year honours, he has little interest in the money title.

"If it was a big priority, I would have played 25 to 30 events each and every year, but it's not," Woods said, who will have made 17 PGA Tour starts this season come Thursday's opening round at the Champions Club.

"For me, it's all about the biggest events that we play, which are the majors. That's what I focus my whole year around, trying to win those.

"I'm very happy winning five or six events every year out of 18 or 20 events. That's not a bad percentage."

For twice major winner Singh, however, money list honours are a huge incentive.

This title has always eluded the Fijian, who came closest in 1998 when he finished second behind David Duval, and he has extended his late-season schedule to make sure of ending 2003 in pole position.

If Singh finishes no worse than joint-third this week, the earnings title will belong to him no matter what Woods does.

The Fijian has so far produced 17 top-10 finishes this season, the most since Woods achieved the same number in 2000.

"It will be a good tournament," said the 40-year-old Singh.

"I'm playing better than I have before, and it's easier to go out there and hit the ball. It feels good, and I am enjoying playing the game of golf."

Wherever Woods does finish in Houston, he will have carved out yet another slice of golfing history.

The American, who equalled Byron Nelson's 54-year-old PGA Tour record of making 113 consecutive cuts at last month's Funai Classic, will go past Nelson this week because the elite field Tour Championship has no cut.

Woods will then extend his record further at next year's season-opening Mercedes Championship in Hawaii, which is also a non-cut event.

"It (the cut record) means quite a bit, because I've had to play consistent golf at a high level for a long period of time," said the world number one.

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