Tired Tiger skipping Tour Championship to 'recharge'

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Tiger Woods is skipping the Tour Championship next week for the first time in his career, saying he is mentally and physically tired from a hectic stretch through the Ryder Cup.

"I'm confident that this extended break will help me to recharge my batteries for the 2007 season," Woods said on his Web site.

Woods' decision is a huge blow to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake, the PGA Tour's version of an All-Star game for the top 30 players on its money list.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson previously has said he is done playing for the year, and with Stephen Ames out with a back injury, the 27-man field will be the smallest since the Tour Championship began in 1987.

It also raised questions about whether players will buy into the tour's new FedExCup competition that begins next year. Under a revamped schedule that features a points race throughout the season, players will be expected to compete in three straight events leading to the Tour Championship if they want to capture the $10 million prize.

Woods, one of the strongest voices behind the change to a shorter season, made it clear that he is eager to take part in the FedExCup.

"I want to stress to everyone that missing the Tour Championship for the first time in my pro career is in no way a reflection of my feelings toward the event," Woods said. "I am extremely excited to compete in next year's FedExCup and inaugural PGA Tour playoffs, including the Tour Championship."

Woods ended his PGA Tour earlier than ever, on Oct. 1 outside London, when he won the American Express Championship by eight shots for his sixth consecutive PGA Tour victory, and eighth of the year.

It was an extraordinary season, filled with extreme highs and lows.

Despite winning two majors and a career-high five straight tournaments, ending with a loss in the World Match Play Championship on the European tour, Woods referred to the season as a loss in London because of the May 3 death of his father.

Some in the Woods camp said that was one reason he is calling it quits on the PGA Tour so soon, having been taxed by burying his father, Earl Woods, capturing an emotional British Open that exposed his turmoil, then winning six straight PGA Tour events.

It was not clear when Woods' next chance to extend his PGA Tour winning streak would come. The season begins at Kapalua the first week in January for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship.

But while he is done with the PGA Tour this year, Woods is not finished playing.

He has a contract to play the HSBC Champions event in China the week after the Tour Championship, and he is defending champion at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan the following week. On his way back home, he is playing the two-day Grand Slam of Golf. His final event is Dec. 14-17 at the Target World Challenge, an unofficial event that raises money for his learning center.

"It just shows that good, bad or indifferent, everyone is out here for himself," Scott Verplank said. "You make your schedule to what suits you best, what allows you to play your best. I don't have a problem with that."

The tour said in a statement it was disappointed that Woods will not be at East Lake "and recognize that our fans and sponsors will be disappointed as well."

"While we will miss Tiger in Atlanta this year, we understand from Tiger that he is excited about competing in next year's FedExCup," said Ed Moorhouse, co-chief operating officer of the tour.

Woods played only 15 times, a career low. He is assured of winning the money title with $9.94 million, and he already forfeited a chance to win the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average because he has not played the required 60 rounds. He missed nine weeks after the Masters to cope with his father's death.

"I don't think I would ever criticize anything Tiger has done," Ryder Cup teammate J.J. Henry said. "This has been a tough year."

Woods has played every Tour Championship since 1996, when he qualified as a rookie despite playing only seven tournaments, two of those victories. He won in 1999 at Champions Golf Club in Houston, and he was runner-up at East Lake the last two years.

His decision caught several players by surprise.

"Tiger's not playing?" Ernie Els said Friday after a 5-under 66 in the Chrysler Championship, leaving him one shot out of the lead.

He wondered aloud whether Woods was trying to protect his winning streak -- six straight on the PGA Tour -- but did not begrudge Woods or Mickelson for skipping the Tour Championship.

Mickelson has missed the season-ending event the past two years.

"Thank God we're independent contractors," Els said. "They've both done so much for the tour, especially Tiger. His image has been beneficial for the tour, and its why we're playing for as much money as we are. I'm sure the sponsors and the tournament is disappointed, but he's done enough. He's had a great year. And if you're not 100 percent ready to play, you shouldn't have to play."

Woods attributed his fatigue to a summer of playing, and usually winning.

Starting with the Buick Open the first week in August, he played seven out of nine weeks and took a two-day trip to Ireland for a practice session with the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup. His only weeks off were before the PGA Championship, and before he went to the British Isle for three weeks to compete in the World Match Play Championship, the Ryder Cup and a World Golf Championship.