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It's not about the money -- well, not entirely
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson is second on the PGA Tour money list with just over $2.2 million. Tiger Woods made more than that last week alone.
All he had to do was fly to Germany and collect his $2 million appearance fee. Woods earned the other $410,000 from his 38th career victory, holding off a gutsy challenge from Colin Montgomerie to win the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in a playoff.
It was the 16th time that Woods received a large chunk of money before he could even stick a tee in the ground.
His rate shot up to the $2 million neighborhood after his historic 2000 season, when he completed the career Grand Slam and finished the year with three straight majors.
Since then, he has played in Germany twice, Dubai last year and the New Zealand Open in January. Throw in an estimated $9 million from previous overseas tournaments in Thailand, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Malaysia.
It's a safe bet that Woods' appearance money alone -- roughly $17 million -- would place him fourth on the PGA Tour career money list.
Whenever anyone says it's not about the money, that usually means one thing.
It's about the money.
Woods, however, might be an exception.
"He doesn't need another $2 million," said two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, who has done his share of globetrotting. "Let's face it. Anybody who can get a decent fee really doesn't need the money."
Appearance money is not allowed on the PGA Tour, but international events offer it as incentive to get top players.
When those tournaments get Woods, they usually get a premium effort.
He has won nine of the 23 tournaments he has played outside the United States (including five British Opens and two World Golf Championships). He has 17 finishes in the top five, and has finished out of the top 10 just three times.
In the 16 overseas tournaments where appearance money was involved, Woods has won seven times and has finished out of the top 10 only once, a tie for 15th at the Casio World Open in Japan at the end of the 1998 season.
"People who travel have a clear understanding how tough it is to travel and do business," Mark O'Meara said. "It's even tougher to fly in and tee it up somewhere and be the favorite. There's a lot more pressure. They're expecting him to perform."
Montgomerie, who has never won a tournament with Woods in the field, paid tribute to him on the eve of the final round in Germany.
"A few people come over to our tour, take the money and run," Montgomerie said. "Tiger is not one of them. All credit to him for coming here as the best player in the world and performing like that."
Not every American can say that.
John Daly was particularly notorious for banking money and tanking rounds.
At the Johnnie Walker World Championship in 1991, Daly signed an incorrect scorecard after an 87 (or something close to that).
In early 1997, Daly posted a 83 in the third round of the Heineken Classic in Australia. Tournament organizers who paid his appearance fee were hardly delighted when he played the final round in 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Woods rarely disappoints.
His scoring average in tournaments where he is paid to play is 68.6. The galleries are larger than ever, with more than 20,000 in Germany on Monday.
Gary Player, Greg Norman, Nick Price and Ernie Els have spent their entire careers playing golf around the world. Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer were the most prominent American globetrotters, followed by Strange, Mark O'Meara and Craig Stadler.
Americans don't need to play overseas now because the richest purses and the stiffest competition are found at home.
So why should Woods even bother to keep an international schedule?
"I think he has always felt that to be considered one of the best players ever, you have to win on all the continents," swing coach Butch Harmon said. "You have to win on all types of golf courses, in all kinds of weather. And he's motivated by great fields."
If it were only about the money, Woods could pocket $2 million or more just by picking up the phone. He seems to have a purpose as to where he plays -- strong fields in Germany and Dubai; a favor to his Kiwi caddie by playing in New Zealand; honor his mother's heritage by playing in Thailand.
"He can do so much for the sport by traveling abroad," Strange said. "That would be tough for him to say something like that, but I truly believe that's the reason. I think he has an obligation to promote the game."
If that's the case, why not play for free?
For all the noble purposes in this royal and ancient game, it's still a business.
"I told Tiger four or five years ago that golf is a global game, and your image is global," O'Meara said. "When he goes over there, it makes the tournament more special. And if that commands a certain fee, so be it."