Tiger Woods: World number one rejects schedule criticism

Tiger Woods

World number one Tiger Woods has defended himself against criticism of his schedule, insisting he is free to choose where and when he plays.

He missed the World Golf Championships event in Shanghai last week after accepting a £1.25m fee to play an exhibition match against Rory McIlroy.

Asked about the decision, Woods said he was an "independent contractor".

Woods will play his first competitive golf in over a month in the Turkish Airlines Open, starting on Thursday.

Woods's decision to miss the Shanghai event for the second year in a row was criticised by Giles Morgan, the global head of sponsorship at HSBC bank, the tournament sponsors.

Morgan accused Woods of a lack of "respect" for the tournament and derided his lucrative made-for-TV contest with McIlroy as "meaningless".

After highlighting his freelance status with the "independent contractor" comment, Woods cut off further questions on the matter by stating "that's it".

Woods did, however, go on to back Phil Mickelson's decision to cut his schedule for 2014, given the growing number of events on the calendar.

"I don't blame him at all," he said. "I don't know what he's going to cut down, we have 15 tournaments as a minimum for voting membership (on the US Tour).

"But I just think it's important to be fresh, it's important to be ready for the major championships, the World Golf Championships, the Players Championship.

"Everybody has different times when they like to take the off season so you've just got to figure out what's best for you."

The Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya is the third event of the European Tour's inaugural final series and offers more than £725,000 to the winner.

Justin Rose and Ian Poulter are among those trying to close the gap on leader Henrik Stenson in the Race to Dubai - a season-long competition spanning a minimum of 46 tournaments in 25 countries and all five continents on the 2013 European Tour international schedule.

The English pair, third and fourth in the standings, both have a chance to go top with a win in Turkey, with second-placed Graeme McDowell missing the event.

Sweden's Stenson plays alongside Rose and Woods in Thursday's opening round.