New Jersey, August 27 – Tiger Woods sets the pace as the US PGA Tour playoffs begin with a tweaked format at The Barclays, the first of three 7.5 million-dollar events leading to the Tour Championship.Woods, coming off a week’s rest following his last-hole loss to South Korean Yang Yong-Eun at the PGA Championship, has not played the New York event in six years but will now and at Boston and Chicago as well.
"You want to be in the playoffs and ultimately this is our opportunity to get in the Tour Championship," Woods said. "So it starts here."
That has not been enough to lure Woods into playing in past years. Part of the reason he is entered this time is the third points format in as many years, one that puts greater emphasis on later events in the playoff system.
"It is different," Woods said. "You want to put more weight at the end of the season, which they are trying to do, trying to make it a little more interesting.
"They have changed the system twice. Now it’s the third time. Hopefully this will work. We’ll see what happens."
A field of 125 this week will be trimmed to 100 for next week in Boston and cut again until only 30 players on points for the Tour Championship, where points are reset and any man in the field has a chance at the crown, with the odds favoring the player atop the points pile.
While everyone is still trying to win a title, there is a bigger picture regarding the points so players can qualify for subsequent weeks and the big prize at the finish.
The chase to get to this point has been about play through the first eight months, the push to decide the season-ending champion now comes down to who comes through under pressure.
"This is what we’re playing for. This is our opportunity to play well," said Woods. "Play well at the right time, you should be all right."
Another reason Woods is along for the ride this time is the fact that these showcase events are simply less special without him driving interest, television ratings and attendance.
"We have to support the tour, especially in this economy right now," Woods said. "Barclays has been just a great sponsor over the years, and hopefully, they will continue and we can continue building the partnership."
Woods was hesitant to play too many events too fast once he made his return from reconstructive left knee surgery in February so he could be in condition to play six tournaments in seven weeks ahead of an off week before the Tour Championship.
US veteran Steve Stricker won the 2007 Barclays while Fiji’s Vijay Singh won last year’s Barclays and the 2008 US PGA playoff title, both with Woods sidelined by injury.
The par-71 Liberty National course, 7,419 yards, offerings impressive views of the New York skyline and Statue of Liberty.