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Vardon Trophy depends on Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods has until 5 p.m. Friday to decide whether he wants to win the Vardon Trophy.

That's the deadline to enter the Funai Classic at Disney, and Woods might consider playing for no other reason than he needs to reach 60 rounds to be eligible for the Vardon Trophy, awarded to the player with the lowest scoring average. Woods has 55 rounds on the PGA Tour, so playing only in the season-ending Tour Championship would leave him one round short.

It was quite clear two weeks ago in London that Woods either had not made up his mind or wasn't about to tell anyone. During a practice round at the American Express Championship, he was asked what he was thinking about Disney and offered the following insight:

"Big company. They make some good movies. A lot of theme parks."

Woods has won the Vardon Trophy six times already, more than anyone since it began in 1937. Rounds played became an issue this year because he withdrew after two rounds from the Nissan Open with the flu, missed the cut for the first time in a major at the U.S. Open, and missed nine weeks coping with the death of his father.

Even if Woods skips Disney, he still will be recognized as having the lowest scoring average.

The PGA Tour gives out the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average, which is the same thing as the Vardon except the tour only requires a minimum of 50 rounds.

Whatever he decides to do, Woods' pursuit -- or lack thereof -- has shed light on a couple of oddities involving the award. For example, the PGA Tour counts rounds played at the Accenture Match Play Championship and the International (with its modified Stableford system), even though neither format relates to posting a score.

"I didn't know that," Woods said, and when asked whether Accenture should count, he added, "No. It's match play."

And no one is sure how the PGA of America, which administers the Vardon Trophy, came up with a 60-round minimum in 1988. When the PGA Tour began keeping statistics in 1980, it settled on 50 rounds as a minimum to be eligible for its award for lowest scoring average.

Why 50?

"The 50-round rule is loosely tied to participation in official money events," said Andy Pazder, vice president of competition for the PGA Tour. "So rounds at the Accenture -- much like the International, where we don't keep scoring stats -- those count toward meeting a participation level."

Jack Nicklaus played only 13 times in 1980 and missed one cut, giving him exactly 50 rounds. Maybe that's how the PGA Tour devised its minimum, for Nicklaus rarely played more than 15 times in those days.

Whatever the case, Woods already has locked up the Byron Nelson Award for lowest scoring average at 68.11. If he skips Disney, the Vardon Trophy most likely would go to Jim Furyk (68.88), who had a comfortable lead over Adam Scott going into Las Vegas.

One trend points toward Woods not playing Disney. He missed the cut last year, and he has never returned to a PGA Tour event the year after missing the cut. He did not go back to the Canadian Open in 1998, or to the Byron Nelson Championship this year.

October 11, 2006




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