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Woods pulls his weight as US tour playoffs begin

 Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the fourth hole Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, in Jersey City, N.J., during a practice round for The Barclays golf ...
 Tiger Woods chips to the third green, with the Statue of Liberty seen in the background, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament on ...
 Y.E. Yang of South Korea signs autographs for fans on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament in Jersey Ci...
 Tiger Woods putts on the second green, with the Statue of Liberty seen in the background, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament on...

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Phil Mickelson watches his tee shot on the fourth hole Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, in Jersey City, N.J., during a practice round for The Barclays golf ...

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Tiger Woods chips to the third green, with the Statue of Liberty seen in the background, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament on ...

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Y.E. Yang of South Korea signs autographs for fans on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament in Jersey Ci...

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Tiger Woods putts on the second green, with the Statue of Liberty seen in the background, during a practice round for The Barclays golf tournament on...

No matter what players think of the golf course, Liberty National gets universal praise for its intimate view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty, so close to the shore she looks as if she could tend a flag on the green.
Equally impressive is the view of Tiger Woods suited up for the opening of the U.S. PGA Tour playoffs.
Woods has not played The Barclays in six years, and this will be the first time he competes in all four of the playoff events for the FedEx Cup. At a time when tour commissioner Tim Finchem is asking players to do more for sponsors in a tough economy, the world's No. 1 player is pulling his weight.
"Tiger Woods playing is really good," Geoff Ogilvy said. "He's been very good for golf lately, not just because of the TV ratings, but he's playing a lot more. Our tour is always better when he's here. Golf is getting spoiled."
Golf went eight months without Woods as he recovered from knee surgery. Now it can't get rid of him.
The Barclays, which gets under way on Thursday, is part of a nine-week span in which Woods will be playing seven times. He hasn't played that much in such a short period since the end of the 2006 season, when he missed nine weeks because of his father's death.
Asked why he was playing this year, Woods replied, "I qualified."
That he did, winning five times in 13 starts to be the top seed among 125 players who qualified for this $63 million bonanza at the end of the year _ a $7 million purse at each of the four events, with $35 million in bonus money for the FedEx Cup.
The points system has been tweaked to put more emphasis on the eight months that comprise the regular season, with quintuple the value of points during the playoff events, then a reset of the points that allows for a shootout at the Tour Championship for the $10 million prize.
Woods could have skipped The Barclays and won the FedEx Cup, as he did in 2007. He learned on Wednesday that it was possible for him to win the next three tournaments, finish second at the Tour Championship and not capture the FedEx Cup. Or that someone could win the big prize without having won a single tournament this year.
"It is different, there's no doubt," he said. "But then again, this is what we're playing for. This is our opportunity to play well. You play well at the right time, you should be all right."
Whether the system works to everyone's satisfaction this year, the playoffs is off to a solid start, mainly because Woods is playing.
"It's great that everyone is here," Steve Stricker said. "It gets this off on the right foot."
For Woods, it is a continuation of quiet support.
In March, he hosted 16 chief executives of companies that sponsor the tour for lunch and golf at Isleworth, some of them trying to decide whether to renew contracts. After the second round at Firestone this month, Woods hopped into a cart and headed for a meeting with sponsors.
"Corporate duty," he said with a smile.
He played the Buick Open, even though his endorsement contract with the automaker ended late last year. That meant playing for three straight weeks, the final tournament being a major, and Woods said on Wednesday that being in contention for three straight weeks _ two victories and blowing a two-shot lead at the U.S. PGA Championship to Y.E. Yang _ took its toll.
And now The Barclays.
"I think we have to support the tour, especially in this economy right now," Woods said. "That's one of the reasons why I played Flint, to show my support and my 'thank you' to Buick, and a lot of guys did the same thing. ... And certainly, Barclays has been just a great sponsor over the year, and hopefully, they will continue and we can continue building the partnership."
Woods conceded that he felt a greater responsibility as the sport's top player. He said he couldn't play more earlier in the year because he didn't want to push himself physically while returning from reconstructive knee surgery.
As for his responsibility to tee it up when the playoffs begin?
"You want to be here. You want to be in the playoffs," he said. "And ultimately, this is our opportunity to get in the Tour Championship. So it starts here."