Last chance at some cash

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

The big guns are all lined up for one last PGA Tour cash-grab but it's tough even for the best golfers in the world to keep their eyes on the prize.

Once this Tour Championship is in the books on Sunday night, school is out. Nothing official is on the books until the class reconvenes in January in Hawaii.

"After this event, other than two days at the Grand Slam, I won't play again until January," said Phil Mickelson, who already has been vacationing since the Ryder Cup.

The Tour Championship here at Atlanta's East Lake Country Club brings together the top 30 PGA Tour money winners. Normally it also influences the player-of-the-year voting but that's a foregone conclusion this season because Vijay Singh reigns supreme. He has accumulated a record $10,725,166 US in winnings this year, almost double that of Mickelson, who is the runner-up.

"I'm glad this is the last tournament," said Singh, whose appetite for hard work is legend.

Fresh from his honeymoon, don't count out Tiger Woods, who is coming in somewhat under the radar, at least as much as Woods ever comes to a tournament unnoticed.

He and Singh have had their moments of acrimony, but Woods is generous with his praise for Singh.

"He has played some unbelievable golf this year," Woods said. "He has had one of the great years. Being in contention each and every week just wears you out, it really does. For him to play as much as he does and as well as he does, it's impressive."

It's perceived that Woods has had a poor season because he has dropped from No. 1 in the world to No. 3, but he has won more than $4.7 million, including 11 top-10 finishes.

During that period, he has been retooling his golf swing and believes it's almost time to start winning again. He has been off since early October but is enthused this week.

"I miss competing," he said. "I thoroughly enjoy getting out and mixing it up with these guys. That's what I love. It's going to be a fun week because I haven't done it for four weeks."

Canadians Mike Weir and Stephen Ames are both in the starting field, looking to win the $1.08-million first prize of a total purse of $6 million. Weir will play today with U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen at noon. Ames is paired 20 minutes later with British Open champ Todd Hamilton.

Singh and Mickelson are in the final pairing of the day at 12:55, just behind Woods and Ernie Els. The field has 31 players. Padraig Harrington is not a PGA Tour member but has earned enough money to finish inside the top 30.


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