2005: Newsmakers - Woods: No worries with early PGA exit

Akron, Ohio

Believe it or not, the man who treasures majors seemingly more than money, food and sleep left the PGA Championship early, even though he still had a remote chance to get into a playoff and win his 11th major title.

That’s right, Tiger Woods, who was leading in the clubhouse at 2-under 278, flew home to Orlando, Fla., on Sunday night of the PGA after weather halted final-round play, he said upon arriving at the WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone. Only three of the 12 players finishing up Monday morning were ahead of him: Phil Mickelson at 4 under and Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn at 3 under. Vijay Singh and Davis Love III were tied with him, and Retief Goosen was a shot back.

As it happened, the three players ahead stayed there. But had all three backed up to a 2-under total on their last three or four holes, Woods would have missed the playoff.

“I was working on my game, trying to get ready for this week (the NEC), making sure everything is sound and solid,” Woods said when asked why he traveled to Orlando.

There was considerable risk in leaving, especially since Woods’ primary golf goal is Jack Nicklaus’ 18 major titles.

“Yeah, it was (risky), but also it really wasn’t, either,” Woods said. “These are the best players in the world. Look at who’s on that board. It wasn’t like guys who have never been there before. If you have guys who had never been there before, then it might have been a different story, but each of those guys had won major championships (except Bjorn).”

The sight of Woods on the Baltusrol range Monday might have been something the three men ahead of him would have thought about.

“I find (Woods’ leaving) unusual,” said Stewart Cink. “I thought he’d be hitting balls Monday morning at the course because it’s a tough course to finish on and it’s a major championship. ...I’m surprised he went home and didn’t come back.

“If anything, just him being there at the clubhouse and being seen might have affected the way they played Monday. If Tiger had been there, he (in effect) would have been there with a bullhorn letting everybody know ‘I’m 2 under par, I’m in the clubhouse and I’m finished and I’m waiting for you.’ ”

Mickelson, who won at 4-under 276, came to Woods’ defense.

“I mean it was a nonfactor – let it go,” Mickelson said of Tiger’s no-show. “I hear him (Woods) getting a lot of flak for it, but my goodness, it was a nonfactor. It’s over with, let it go.”

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