Tiger Woods and 17 other golfers tee it up Thursday in Thousand Oaks for the 15th edition of the tournament that benefits Woods’ charities.
This year’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club also marks the last time the four-round event will be played in Southern California before moving to Florida in 2014.
In addition to Woods, the field includes two-time winner and defending champion Graeme McDowell, former U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy and former Masters champion Bubba Watson.
They’re playing for a $3.5-million purse that includes $1 million to the winner.
“We’ve got just an amazing field assembled here this week,” Woods told a news conference after finishing a pro-am round Wednesday.
Woods is a five-time winner of the event — the most of any player — and the world’s top-ranked golfer comes into the tournament after enjoying a three-week rest from competitive play.
“I feel very comfortable,” Woods said. “I haven’t really done a whole lot golf-wise, but I’ve been training quite a bit.
“As you take time off it takes a little time to get back, [and get] the feel for hitting certain shots,” he said. “I was very pleased with the way I was able to play today.”
Woods, who turns 38 this month, won five PGA Tour events this year — “I think that’s a pretty good number,” he said — and was the player of the year for the 11th time, but he was unable to capture another of golf’s four major championships.
He remains four majors shy of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18. Woods’ last major victory was at the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I certainly wish I could have played a little better at the major championships,” Woods said. “I was there at the Masters and there at the British, certainly with a chance, I just didn’t get it done. The other two I just didn’t play well.”
Other players in this year’s field include 2009 World Challenge winner Jim Furyk, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar and Hunter Mahan.
The remaining players are Jason Day, PGA Tour rookie of the year Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, two-time World Challenge runner-up Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, former PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.
Sherwood Country Club is a 7,052-yard, par-72 course layout nestled against the Santa Monica Mountains, and various holes have steep changes in elevation.
McDowell, a Northern Ireland native and U.S. Open winner in 2010, last year won the World Challenge by three shots over Bradley with a four-round total of 17 under par.
“It’s been a golf course that’s been incredibly good to me,” McDowell said Wednesday. “It’s always in immaculate condition. It’s always been a fun way to end the year, end the season for me.”
Woods’ primary charity, the Tiger Woods Foundation, announced last month that the World Challenge would move next year to Isleworth Golf & Country Club in Windermere, Fla., where Woods used to live. Isleworth is owned by the Tavistock Group, which sponsors the Tavistock Cup, an annual 36-hole event of club teams made up of top PGA players.
Woods said it “wasn’t an easy decision” but that “it made sense for us to move” partly because “a lot of players are based there in Florida.”
But Woods said Sherwood has been “fantastic” over the years and he predicted it would be difficult to say goodbye to course officials and volunteers after this year’s final round.
“I see an emotional Sunday, for sure,” he said.