By Tony Jimenez
BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - Tiger Woods has backed fellow American Phil Mickelson's decision to cut his schedule in 2014, saying the sheer number of tournaments these days means the top players have to pick and choose where they go.
British Open champion Mickelson announced last week that he would be scaling down his appearances next year.
The five-times major winner did not indicate which events he would miss but his comments suggested the U.S. PGA Tour's money-spinning FedExCup playoff series might be on the chopping block.
"I don't blame him (for cutting down), I don't blame him at all," world number one Woods told Reuters in an interview ahead of his participation in this week's inaugural Turkish Airlines Open in the south western city of Antalya.
"I don't know what he's going to cut down, we have 15 tournaments as a minimum for voting membership (on the U.S. 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," added Woods.
The 14-times major winner said that even when the four majors are over for the season, players still have the FedExCup to support in August and September.
"With the FedExCup at the end of the year I can see where guys are taking breaks," said Woods. "Some of the top Europeans are playing right now in this stretch through the Race to Dubai (finale) and then going down to South Africa.
"You need to find blocks of your time for your off season. 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."
This week's event in Turkey and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai that follows bring an end to the 2012-13 European Tour campaign.
However, no sooner does the curtain go down on one year than it almost immediately rises again to herald the start of the 2013-14 season with the South African Open in Gauteng on November 21.
Woods cited U.S. Ryder Cup playing partner and world number seven Steve Stricker as the perfect example of a leading golfer who has derived tangible benefits from reducing his tournament appearances.
"Steve cut back his schedule this year and had his best year just because he felt he was more mentally fresh and I think that's pretty important," said the 37-year-old American.
"It's tougher nowadays especially with our playoff system and with the European Tour and their playoff system (the Final Series) and their minimum number of events have increased.
"A guy has to play a lot more events around the world and it is very hard to stay fresh," said Woods.
The world number one is pleased to be in Turkey for the penultimate tournament of his season before he bows out by hosting his own World Challenge event in California next month.
Woods said he was always interested to see new emerging golfing markets pop up around the world.
"I think the inclusion of golf in the 2016 Olympics (in Rio de Janeiro) has changed the dynamics of how we think about golf," he explained.
"There are other countries that are now getting more involved. China for example has been unbelievable in what they have done in the last 12 years.
"The number of kids that have come through their programs and you see a little kid like Guan (Tianlang) make it to the U.S. Masters at age 14 this year," said Woods.
"That's what is coming, that is the next wave of kids. Give them another 10, 20 years and you're going to see certain countries start to dominate the game of golf."
Woods begins his title challenge at the $7 million Turkish Open in the company of U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and European money-list leader Henrik Stenson in Thursday's opening round at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course.
The trio tee-off at 1105 local time (0905 GMT).
(Editing by Ken Ferris)