Chevron World Challenge goes on without Woodstext sizeSteve Stricker, the highest ranked player at the Chevron World Challenge, will look to fill the void left by an absent Tiger Woods.December 02, 2009
As expected, much of the pre-tournament talk at the Chevron World Challenge has centered on the tournament host, Tiger Woods, who has opted not to compete in the wake of the controversy attending his car accident last week.
But that focus does a disservice to the limited-field tournament that features three of the four major champions from 2009, as well as three of the top five players in the world and a total of 11 who are ranked 20th or better.
The game's No. 1 player was unable to compete a year ago, too, as he recovered from surgery to reconstruct the ACL in his left knee. Three-time major champ Padraig Harrington acknowledged Woods' absence left a big void.
"I think it's going to take away from the tournament the first couple of days," Harrington said. "Obviously now we're talking about Tiger not being here. I think as the tournament starts and progresses through the rounds, I think it'll be more about who's playing well and who's trying to win the tournament.
"I think the tournament itself will evolve very nicely once Thursday starts and the play starts and guys get out there and play. But Tiger Woods is the biggest star in the game; it's his event; he's going to be missed."
The field may only be 18 players, but the group accounts for 10 majors, including three by Harrington alone. Also competing are Cink, who triumphed at Turnberry, U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover and PGA Champion Y.E. Yang.
Steve Stricker, who finished third in the FedExCup this year, is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Lee Westwood has risen to No. 4 and Harrington is fifth while Paul Casey (No. 6) and Kenny Perry (No. 9) round out the top-10 players in the field.
Westwood, who won the Dubai World Championship two weeks ago -- and with that title clinched the European Tour's first Race to Dubai -- would have to be considered one of the favorites. It was his second Order of Merit title but his first since 2000.
Four months ago, though, Westwood had left Turnberry disconsolate after three-putting the 72nd hole to miss the Open Championship playoff with Stewart Cink and Tom Watson. But he finished the season with two wins -- losing with a 64 in Dubai -- and is brimming with confidence now.
"I think what I learned from Turnberry enabled me to win in Dubai and win the money list," Westwood said. "It was a big learning curve with Turnberry. I don't think I've ever been as disappointed having played well walking off a golf course as I was in Scotland in July. But rather than sort of take it as a negative, the fact that I didn't win the Open Championship, I tried to roll it into a positive.
"I know winning a major is probably the pinnacle of everybody's career, but there was still a lot of pressure on Dubai and trying to win the Money List because it's over here and it means so much to all the players. I managed to implement those things that I had learnt in Turnberry a couple weeks ago and got it right, and got it right in dramatic fashion winning by six in an event like that when you're under that kind of pressure. It obviously gives you a lot of confidence and means a lot. Hopefully I can take the positives from Dubai the next time I'm in a position to win a major championship."
Defending champion Vijay Singh recently had arthroscopic knee surgery and had to withdraw. He was replaced by Justin Leonard while Graeme McDowell, who teamed with Rory McIlroy to finish second at last week's OMEGA Mission Hills World Cup, was added when Woods withdrew.