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Event banked on Tiger, but he pulls plug

FARMINGTON, Pa. -- The traffic on the two-lane roads leading
to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort figures to be much lighter now,
the galleries smaller. There's no more hype about No. 1 vs. No. 2,
or the 84 Lumber Classic becoming the PGA's fall classic.

What Tiger Woods brings to a tournament he can take away, and
Woods' pullout Tuesday eliminated much of the buzz surrounding what
was promising to be one of the PGA Tour's best post-major
tournaments.

Now, No. 1-ranked Vijay Singh can reprise his Canadian Open dual
against Mike Weir, but there's no danger of No. 2 Woods unseating
him to reclaim the world ranking he held for about five years,
Instead of 21 of the top 30 money winners -- an excellent fall field
-- there are only 19.

Rather than five Ryder Cup golfers, there are three (Chris
DiMarco, Stewart Cink, David Toms). Kenny Perry, No. 26 on the
money list, also pulled out after deciding not to play in next
week's World Golf Championship event in Ireland.

The field is significantly upgraded from a year ago, when only
one of the top 21 money winners showed up at the resort where the
tournament is held. But defending champion J.L. Lewis said any
tournament with Woods playing has a more important feel to it, and
he wishes Woods was around.

"Ernie Els, too, anybody who's in the top 20 or 30 in world,"
Lewis said Tuesday. "It's always good to have Tiger in the
field."

Tournament officials, most notably 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy,
were disappointed by the news, especially after they spent
considerable money promoting Woods' appearance. Newspaper ads that
ran Tuesday in area newspapers still boasted of his presence.

Woods cited fatigue following the United States' unexpectedly
poor showing in its 18{-9{ loss to Europe last weekend in the Ryder
Cup in suburban Detroit. Woods won only two of five matches, and
his twin losses Friday with Dream Team partner Phil Mickelson was
the precursor of the Europeans' rout.

"I told everybody I thought the U.S. was going to kill them, so
that shows you what I know about it," Lewis said. "The Europeans,
I don't think anybody in Europe expected them to win, maybe a few
on the inside. How could you? But they didn't have pressure on
them, and I think pressure played a big role in it."

Aaron Baddeley was one of the few PGA Tour regulars who
predicted a European victory, but even he was surprised at how
easily the win came.

"I thought, as a team, they were all playing better," he said.
"The ball was definitely on the Europeans' side."

Numerous theories were floated for the Americans' collapse,
including their uptight, all-business approach that contrasted with
the Europeans' relaxed looseness. Lewis has a simpler theory.

"The Europeans grow up playing alternate-shot golf and
foursomes golf in their junior golf programs and Americans don't,"
he said. "I think it's that simple. A lot of those guys have been
playing alternate-shot since they were kids. It's different, over
here it's much more of an individual game.

"Obviously, they did a good job of preparing, I'm sure we did
everything we could ... but our guys didn't play that well and
their guys did."

Meanwhile, Singh can secure the PGA Tour money record with at
least a second-place finish. He is $488,755 away from the record
Woods set in 2000 and is guaranteed about $116,000 from the no-cut
American Express Championship and the Tour Championship.

Singh will be paired with Weir for Thursday's opening round, a
rematch of their Canadian Open playoff won by Singh two weeks ago.