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Golf Tidbits: Superstars heading to Europe?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The European Tour kicked off its 2009 season this week, and thus began the inaugural Race to Dubai.

The PGA Tour has the FedEx Cup, and now the European Tour has responded with the Race to Dubai. The Race uses the same formula as the FedEx Cup, with players being ranked according to their earnings for all 2009 European Tour events.

The Race will culminate with the $10 million Dubai World Championship, which includes the top 60 players in the Race. Along with the $10 million purse for that season-ending event, the top 15 players will split a bonus pool of another $10 million.

With that amount of money on the line, one wonders how many players will consider playing full-time on both the PGA and European Tours.

Top players on the European Tour such as Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood already compete regularly on the PGA Tour, and other Tour regulars figure to start crossing the pond as well. Anthony Kim, who played in 22 PGA Tour events in 2008, has already committed to playing full-time on both tours for the '09 season.

Players like Kim will be aided in playing full schedules on both tours by the four major championships and three World Golf Championship events. Those seven tournaments count towards both tours, and would get players nearly halfway to the 15 events needed to be a full-time PGA Tour or European Tour player.

In 2008, Kim played five European Tour events including one regular tour event, one World Golf Championship event and three majors. He is eligible for all four majors next year as well as the three World Golf Championship events, and will therefore need to squeeze in seven regular season events to reach the 15 tournament minimum after this week.

Kim and Phil Mickelson, who has decided against joining the European Tour this season but may in the future, are in China this week to kick off the tour's 2009 campaign with the HSBC Champions.

Though he has not set his schedule yet, there are four more European Tour events this year that Kim could play in.

Other PGA Tour regulars that could play both tours on a regular basis include Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Tim Clark. All three have won on the European Tour in the past.

I don't think as many PGA Tour players will go to Europe compared to the amount of European players that come to the U.S., with money ranking as the primary factor. Robert Karlsson just wrapped up the 2008 Order of Merit title on the European Tour with $3,473,000. A pretty impressive total, but if he played on the PGA Tour that number would put him only 11th on the money list.

TIGER POSTS MOST WINS AGAIN

Though he played in just six events this season, Tiger Woods will end the '08 with the most wins on the PGA Tour.

Woods won four times in those six starts. The four wins marks the fewest in a single season for Tiger since the 2004 season, the year he was going through swing changes.

The four wins marks the fewest wins by a wins leader since 1998, when David Duval won four times.

Woods has won fewer than four titles in a season three times. Once was the aforementioned '04 campaign, and the others were in 1998 and 1996. In '96, he turned professional halfway through the season.

Despite only playing in six events, Woods increased his winning percentage with his four '08 titles. Throughout his career, Woods has won just under 29% of his starts.

The winning percentage of the next four active wins leaders -- Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III and Ernie Els -- does not combine to equal Woods' winning percentage.

Mickelson and Singh both own 34 PGA Tour wins. Mickelson wins 8.85% of his starts, Singh is at 8.43%, Els owns 16 PGA Tour wins and has won 6.13% of his starts, while Love has won 19 times or 4.2% of his starts.

MINI-TIDBITS

- The European Tour will have two Player of the Year awards starting with the 2009 season. One award will come from golf writers, broadcasters and European Tour officials as it has since 1985. The other award will be selected by a players vote.

- Retief Goosen snapped a 50-event winless streak last week when he won on the Asian Tour. However, his last PGA Tour win was at the 2005 International. His last victory on the European Tour was the at 2007 Qatar Masters, which took place on the final weekend of January.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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