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Tiger Woods turns attention to awards

Tiger Woods, destined to finish the season without a major title for the first time since 1998, will now focus all his attention on preventing another piece of valuable silverware from being lifted from his trophy case.

For four years, the Player of the Year award has been a permanent fixture in Woods's Florida home but, like the U.S. Masters, U.S. Open, U.S. PGA Championship and British Open titles, the Jack Nicklaus Trophy could be on the move at the end of the year.

After unheralded Shaun Micheel's brilliant victory at the PGA Championship at the weekend, the race for Player of the Year honours has been left wide open with at least six players in the chase for the coveted award decided by the golfers.

"Ernie (Els) has two wins but, if he wins two World Golf Championships and Tour Championship, how can you not give it to him?" asked Woods, who also won the top player prize in 1997.

"So it all depends on the events coming up."

With four wins in 14 starts this season but without a major victory, Woods remains a threat to retain the title.

Unlike past years, however, the 27-year-old American is far from a shoe-in and in fact, may be ranked an outsider behind Masters champion Mike Weir and U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk.

Davis Love III, also a four-times winner this season, Kenny Perry, the hottest player on the Tour with three wins in his last eight starts and Els, the South African world number two with two PGA Tour victories, are also rated serious contenders for the year-end prize.

"I think a good question was, can you win player of the year without winning a major? I think you would have to win quite a few events," said Els, who opened his campaign with wins at the Mercedes Championships and Hawaii Open. "A major helps so much.

"Tiger has a normal season going again for him. He's won four times. This year there are four, five six, seven players having great years and Tiger is included in that group."

While Woods's season would qualify as an unmitigated success for most players on the Tour, it has fallen short of expectations primarily due to the world number one's woefully erratic play at the majors.

Digesting a 39th-place finish at the PGA championship, his worst ever result at a major as a professional, Woods has spent much of his campaign beating back talk of a "Tiger Slump" having now seen his winless streak at majors extended to six.

Not since Greg Norman, in 1995, has a player claimed year-end honours without capturing at least one major.

"It's hard to compete against guys who win the majors," said Perry. "Davis has played well, Tiger has won four times, Jim (Furyk) won the U.S. Open.

"It's quite an honour to even be considered in that group."

No doubt Woods will be looking to rebound quickly and snuff out further talk of a slump as he heads into this weekend's Tour stop, the WGC-NEC Invitational, an event he has won three times in the last four years and is the defending champion.

"There are several guys who could do some things," said Love. "Obviously if Jim Furyk ran off with four more wins, it would be hard to argue against him, or if Mike Weir ran off with three more before the end of the year, it would be a tough call.

"It's still wide open."

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