HOST & DEFENDING CHAMPION TIGER WOODS SEEKS EIGHTH WIN IN 2007 AT TARGET WORLD CHALLENGE PRESENTED BY COUNTRYWIDE
December 13, 2007
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (Dec. 7, 2007) - It has been two and a half months since Tiger Woods last played a competitive round of golf, but don't expect the host of the Target World Challenge presented by Countrywide and the world's No. 1 golfer to be rusty when he tees it up at Sherwood Country Club Dec. 12-16. While Woods is always a gracious host, that generosity stops on the first tee. Woods will surely do everything he can to top the rest of the 16-player field, representing seven different countries, and win the event for the fourth time.
Woods will battle for the $1.35-million winner's check - more than any major and second only to THE PLAYERS Championship on this year's PGA TOUR - against yet another world class field that includes Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Vijay Singh, Rory Sabbatini, Zach Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Luke Donald,
Niclas Fasth, Paul Casey, Brett Wetterich, Lee Westwood, Mark Calcavecchia, Colin Montgomerie and Fred Couples. The total purse is $5.75 million, and no player leaves with less than $170,000. The tournament benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
Tournament week begins with a Pro-Am on Wednesday, Dec. 12. The 72-hole tournament begins Thursday, Dec. 13, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 16.
"I am excited to get back to the golf course and to defend my title at the Target World Challenge," Woods said. "This is always a great event that is well supported by my fellow competitors on the PGA TOUR and by the tremendous golf fans of Southern California. This is our ninth year, and I'm again thrilled at the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the kids that my Foundation supports."
Woods is coming off yet another remarkable year in which he won the inaugural PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup and won a Tour-best seven times. He captured his seventh career Vardon Trophy (lowest scoring average) and topped the money list with more than $10.8 million in earnings. He won his 13th major at the PGA Championship, hosted his first full-field PGA TOUR event, the AT&T National, and experienced the birth of his first child, daughter Sam Alexis. Then, he took the longest layoff of his career with a 2 1/2-month break from the end of the Presidents Cup in September until now.
A refreshed Woods will return to the golf course looking to recapture the magic that saw him shoot a final-round 6-under par 66 to finish at 16-under 272 and win his third Target World Challenge by a tournament-record four strokes. Woods, the event's all-time money leader with $5,597,500 in earnings, donated his $1.35 million winner's share to the Tiger Woods Foundation, and will do the same with his earnings from this year's tournament.
The 2007 field for the Target World Challenge includes the winners of three of the four major championships this year (Johnson won the Masters, Harrington the British Open and Woods the PGA Championship), and the 16 players in the field have combined for 152 career PGA TOUR titles and 20 major championship wins. The crop of regular European Tour members in the Target World Challenge field - Montgomerie, Westwood, Harrington, Fasth, Stenson, Casey and Donald - have combined for 90 European Tour titles.
This year's roster also features three past Target World Challenge champions - Woods (2001, 2004, 2006), Donald (2005) and Harrington (2002) - and five golfers who are new to the tournament - Stricker, Sabbatini, Johnson, Fasth and Wetterich.
Furyk, a 13-time PGA TOUR winner, enjoyed another season of sustained excellence, highlighted by his victory and successful title defense at the Canadian Open. He had five top-3 finishes and seven top-5 finishes in 2007, including a runner-up performance at the U.S. Open. Furyk has participated on the United States' last five Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams.
In 2006 Stricker was named PGA TOUR Comeback Player of the Year, and followed up that success with a career year in 2007. He won his first PGA TOUR title in six years at the TOUR's inaugural playoff event, The Barclays, and was a presence throughout the FedExCup playoffs. He finished third at the BMW Championship, tied for ninth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and placed second to Woods in the FedExCup standings.
Harrington, the 2006 European Tour Order of Merit winner and 2007 Order of Merit third-place finisher, will play in his seventh consecutive Target World Challenge in December. He is third on the event's all-time money list. He won his first major, and third PGA TOUR title, at the 2007 British Open and is one of two people to beat Woods in a playoff. He birdied the second playoff hole to beat Woods at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan last November.
Singh has made six previous appearances in the Target World Challenge, placing second in 2001 and third in 1999. He was a double-winner on the 2007 PGA TOUR, capturing the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and has run his PGA TOUR victory mark to 31 (tied for 15th on the all-time PGA TOUR win list).
Sabbatini was a force to be reckoned with on the 2007 PGA TOUR. He posted six top-3 finishes, including a win at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and a tie for second at the Masters. He placed fourth in the PGA TOUR's FedExCup standings and ranked sixth on the PGA TOUR money list.
Johnson was one of five double winners on the PGA TOUR this year. He used discipline, patience and precision to win his first major at the Masters, playing the par-5 holes in 11-under par and making three birdies in a four-hole stretch over Sunday's back nine. The Iowan continued his career year going on to win the AT&T Classic and tying for second at THE TOUR Championship. He ranked eighth on the 2007 PGA TOUR money list.
Stenson finished fourth in his Target World Challenge debut last year, holding a lead after the first round. He owns nine international victories and claimed his first PGA TOUR victory this year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, to go with his 2007 European Tour win at the Dubai Desert Classic. He excelled in Ryder Cup play for Europe last year and is one of the world's fast-rising stars.
Donald, a two-time PGA TOUR winner, will make his third consecutive Target World Challenge appearance. His 2005 title in the event came after shooting a final-round 8-under par 64 in rallying from a six-shot deficit. He had five top-10 finishes this year, including seconds at the Sony Open in Hawaii and the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
Fasth, a newcomer to the Target World Challenge, secured a personal best by placing fifth on the European Tour Order of Merit in 2007. He won his 10th European Tour title at June's BMW International Open.
Casey tied for fifth in his debut last year at the Target World Challenge. The 2006 European Tour Player of the Year and Order of Merit runner-up won the 2006 HSBC World Match Play Championship by the largest margin in the event's history, besting Shaun Micheel by a 10-and-8 score, as part of his career year. The Englishman went unbeaten in 2006 Ryder Cup play for Europe and has eight European Tour victories - his last at the 2007 Abu Dhabi Golf Championship - since turning pro in 2000.
Wetterich, who owns the two longest drives on the 2007 PGA TOUR at 437 and 435 yards, makes his Target World Challenge debut. He recorded four top-10s this year, including runner-up finishes at the Deutsche Bank Championship - which vaulted him 29 spots in the FedExCup standings and qualified him for THE TOUR Championship - and the World Golf Championships-CA Championship. His breakout 2006 included his first PGA TOUR title, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, a No. 10 standing on the money list and a berth on last year's U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Seasoned veteran Englishman Westwood won twice on his home continent this year - May's Valle Romano Open de Andalucia and September's Quinn Direct British Masters - to bring his European Tour victory count to 18, and placed 10th on the 2007 European Tour Order of Merit. Westwood won the Harry Vardon Trophy in 2000 with a European Tour single-season record-tying five wins. Westwood has been a royal pain in the side of the Yanks when it comes to Ryder Cup play. He went unbeaten in 10 matches (seven won, three halved) and collected 8.5 of a possible 10 points through Europe's 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cup victories against the U.S.
Calcavecchia, whose one past appearance in the Target World Challenge came in 2001, won his 13th PGA TOUR title in 2007 at the PODS Championship thanks to a third-round, course-record 9-under par 62 at Florida's Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club. He also tied for second at THE TOUR Championship and placed fourth at The Barclays among five top-5 finishes this year. He ranked 13th on the 2007 PGA TOUR money list.
Montgomerie brings the most complete resume of any European player into this year's Target World Challenge. An eight-time winner of the Harry Vardon Trophy (for leading the European Order of Merit), he surpassed Nick Faldo's European Tour win record by capturing his 31st career European Tour victory in July at the Smurfit Kappa European Open at The K Club in Ireland - the same course where Monty' helped lead Europe to the 2006 Ryder Cup triumph over the United States.
Couples, the 1992 Masters champion and 15-time PGA TOUR winner (fourth most in this year's field), has long been a fan favorite and an owner of one of golf's sweetest swings. He has appeared in six previous Target World Challenge tournaments this decade.
Fans can conveniently order tickets for this year's Target World Challenge through the tournament website, targetworldchallenge.com, or by phone at 1-800-594-TIXX. The best bargain for one's buck is a Weekly Gallery Badge (a $170 value), which can be purchased for $80. The Weekly Gallery Badge is a grounds-only credential for the entire tournament week (Wednesday-Sunday).
Daily Gallery Passes, which are grounds-only passes for individual days, can be purchased for any single day. They are $30 per day on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and $40 per day on Saturday and Sunday. Individual and group Executive Club Memberships, which include skybox seating and hospitality, are also available.
Daily Youth Tickets (ages 13-17) are $10 per day and can be purchased at the gate only. Children 12 and under are admitted free if accompanied by a paid adult (limit two children per paid adult). All tickets are subject to space availability. General admission parking is free, and complimentary pairings guides are available daily.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Sherwood Country Club course (7,064 yards, par-72), which opened 18 years ago, is again expected to provide a stern test for golf's top players. Rated as one of the best golf courses in the world, Sherwood Country club features 1,800 mature oak trees and lush landscaping including waterfalls, jasmine and rose bushes.
Tournament proceeds will benefit programs of the Tiger Woods Foundation, including the Tiger Woods Learning Center and a nationwide character development program. The Tiger Woods Learning Center is a 14-acre, youth-education facility that represents the vision of Woods and his goal to provide youth from diverse backgrounds an interactive enrichment program that will improve individual aptitude in reading, math, science and technology. As a result, youth will develop personal accountability, independence and resilience leading to greater knowledge of career options and an increase in college enrollment. For more information, please visit www.twlc.org.
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About Countrywide Financial Corporation
Founded in 1969, Countrywide Financial Corporation (NYSE: CFC) - America's #1 home loan lender - (as ranked for 2006 by Inside Mortgage Finance, Feb. 2, 2007, Copyright 2007), is a member of the S&P 500 and Fortune 500. Countrywide is a diversified financial services firm primarily focused on real estate finance and related activities. Through its family of companies, Countrywide provides mortgage banking, capital markets, global operations and insurance, in domestic and international markets. The company is headquartered in Calabasas, California. For more information about the company, visit Countrywide's Web site at www.countrywide.com.
Companies joining Target and Countrywide as supporting sponsors include Williams, an organization that primarily finds, produces, gathers, processes and transports natural gas, and Dole Food Company, the world's largest producer and marketer of high-quality fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh-cut flowers and a growing line of packaged foods.