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Tiger Speaks Out Against PGA Tour

TRUMBULL, Conn. (AP) — Tiger Woods lashed out at the PGA Tour for taking advantage of him, saying in a magazine interview that his frustration is serious enough that it ``could escalate into a bigger situation.''

In an interview for the Nov. 10 issue of Golf World magazine, Woods said commissioner Tim Finchem speaks to him only when he wants the No. 1 player in the world to play in a certain tournament.

Woods also said he didn't like how the tour was using his image for its own marketing and promotional purposes.

``I believe what I believe in,'' Woods said. ``I understand the whole picture. What amazes me is how much the public doesn't understand.''

When asked the seriousness of his conflict with the tour, Woods said, ``Serious enough that if we don't make everyone aware of it now, it could escalate into a bigger situation.''

Tour spokesman Bob Combs said Finchem does not discuss player relationships with the media, but added that the commissioner and Woods have a ``solid relationship.''

``I'm confused by these implications,'' Combs said. ``At every tournament, Tim has been very public and very clear about the excitement Tiger has injected into professional golf.

``Obviously, the Tour takes the concerns of any of its members seriously. I'm sure the commissioner and Tiger will have an opportunity to discuss Tiger's concerns.''

Asked to characterize his relationship with Finchem, Woods said a dialogue barely exists.

``The only time he talks to me is when he wants me to do something for him,'' Woods said. ``To play in this tournament or that tournament. It's not like he comes up to me and asks me how I'm doing.''

The magazine said Woods' relationship began to sour last year when the tour refused to let his father follow the ``Showdown at Sherwood'' against David Duval in a golf cart.

Since then, he has become perhaps the biggest celebrity in sports. Woods has won nine tournaments this year, including three majors that made him, at 24, the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam.

Along with more than $20 million in tour earnings in just over four years, he renewed his contract with Nike that will pay him $100 million over five years, believed to be the richest endorsement by an athlete.

Golf World reported last month that Woods will make about $54 million a year in endorsements, and he is protective of his sponsors.

One issue that Woods' camp says is becoming a problem involves the use of his image for advertising purposes, particularly when companies have no relationship with Woods.

Woods last week won the ``Fall Finish'' bonus program sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which would like to promote its involvement and Woods' success. But Woods has a contract with American Express, a competitor in the money-management field.

``Those are the types of things that drive us absolutely crazy,'' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG. ``Something like that is an implied endorsement. That's an infringement on Tiger's rights. It's stuff we won't stand for.''

Tour regulations, however, allow for the use of player images in such advertisements. As a tour member, Woods has agreed to those conditions.

Another issue Woods raised was media rights.

When Woods staged his made-for-TV exhibition last year against Duval, the network was required to pay a $400,000 fee. A year later against Sergio Garcia, the fee increased to more than $1.5 million.

``When they saw how successful we were, they quadrupled the rights fees,'' Woods said.

The PGA Tour is about to enter negotiations with the networks next spring on a new TV deal. Woods is largely responsible for record purses on the tour because of the significant increases in ratings when he plays, and particularly when he's in contention.

Should Woods be entitled to a cut of the new TV contract?

``In a perfect world, I would be,'' he said. ``Arnold (Palmer) would be. All the great ones would be. Arnold is the one who got it all started.''

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