Woods remains fully focused on major mission

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods, one of only two of the leading Americans to travel to Spain for the World Championship beginning here tomorrow, is not usually motivated by money. But if the world No 1 can successfully defend the title, the $1m winner's cheque (£690,000) will take his earnings for the year through the $10m barrier.

Tiger Woods, one of only two of the leading Americans to travel to Spain for the World Championship beginning here tomorrow, is not usually motivated by money. But if the world No 1 can successfully defend the title, the $1m winner's cheque (£690,000) will take his earnings for the year through the $10m barrier.

It would be an unprecedented achievement and one Woods has thought about. "It was one of my goals at the beginning of the year," he said.

Woods, whose career earnings already exceed $20m, does not talk about what he does with his money. Titles are usually his preferred currency. He has collected nine this season, including three of the four that matter most. After winning the US Open, the Open and USPGA, his next major goal is to add the US Masters next April. No one has ever held all four major titles at the same time. The 24-year-old is in no doubt that would count as a Grand Slam, despite not winning all in the same calendar year. "If I'm holding all four, I think that's it," Woods said. "Whether it is in one year or not, all four is all four."

Of a season when he became only the second player to win three majors, Woods said: "I think there is an overwhelming sense of pride and joy at the fact that all the things I've worked on over the past few years came together in the biggest events. You want to have your game peak four times a year and I was able to do that for three and a half events."

Woods has only Justin Leonard for company here out of the ten Americans who are in the top 20 in the world rankings. The AmEx was designed as a season-ending championship for those in the top 50 in the world and the leading players from the money lists on all the Tours.

Woods is too canny an operator to criticise the absentees, like Phil Mickelson, who won the US Tour Championship last Sunday and is assured of second place behind Woods on their money list. "A lot of guys want to take some time off and get ready for the holiday season," he said. But Woods added: "I've always figured, in order to be the world's best, you have to play around the world and win in various conditions. It is all part of the educational process of playing the game of golf."

Woods is also gaining valuable experience to put to good use later in his career as a course designer. So far he has turned down many offers so he can concentrate on the playing side. Another future role he has been touted for is president of his country. Woods voted by proxy before leaving the States and revealed he had been a president already. "Of my class," he explained. "I tried to get us longer lunches and less homework but the teachers overruled." He added: "There is a little too much to do as president. It would be kind of hard to get away and play a nice, quiet round of golf." Yet, in 2000, Bill Clinton has probably managed it more often than Tiger Woods.

* It is not only Valderrama which has failed to attract leading players. The drop-out rate from the World Cup in Argentina next month is even worse, with Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Jesper Parnevik, Nick Price, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh and Michael Campbell from the top 20 missing.

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