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Top players playing together more often

They rarely see each other off the golf course, but Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson spent more time inside the ropes this season on the PGA Tour than they have in five years.

Thanks in part to the revamped schedule for the FedEx Cup, the No. 1 and No. 2 player in the world competed at the same tournament 15 times this year, compared with 10 times in 2006. The only event Woods played that did not include Mickelson was the BMW Championship in Chicago, which Lefty skipped after winning the previous playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Mickelson, meanwhile, played six events that Woods did not enter.

It is difficult to get a true measure of whether the FedEx Cup led to greater participation of the top players because it's not clear which is the best barometer.

To use the top 30 in the world going into 2007 would include Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson, who were not PGA Tour members a year ago. The top 30 on the money list includes a couple of players who missed chunks of time because of injury, such as Brett Quigley or Arron Oberholser.

While it's tough to ignore the concept of two tours -- events Woods plays and those he doesn't -- some tournaments did fine without him. The Nissan Open at Riviera had eight of the top 10 in the world, while The Barclays had nine of the top 10.

Nineteen of the 37 events that earned at least full FedEx Cup points (including the playoffs) had at least five of the top 10 players in the world ranking that week. Tournaments with all the top 10 players were the four majors, The Players Championship, Wachovia Championship, two World Golf Championships (Jim Furyk withdrew from Firestone) and the Tour Championship.

On the other end of the spectrum were tournaments that had none of the top 10 -- the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, the John Deere Classic and the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro.

Five tournaments only had one player in the top 10 -- the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, PODS Championship at Innisbrook, AT&T Classic outside Atlanta, Colonial and the Buick Open.


November 7, 2007

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