The World Challenge that Tiger Woods has hosted every holiday season since 1999 means so much to him that he spent what was believed to be about US$4 million of his own money to help cover operating costs in a year it did not have a full title sponsor.
The future of the event is no longer in doubt. The World Challenge is back on the schedule this year.
“There wasn’t a doubt whether we could stage it. The question was whether we could get the necessary corporate support,” said Tiger Woods Foundation president Greg McLaughlin, who also runs his tournaments. “We’re happy that we have a lot of support for the event that we’ve been able to generate the last few months.”
The tournament is scheduled for Dec. 5 to Dec. 8 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, where it has been since 2001. Graeme McDowell is the defending champion.
McLaughlin said he was not ready to announce the corporate support. Since it began, the World Challenge has raised more than US$25 million for college-access programs through the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, California, and the Earl Woods Scholarship program.
One of the questions about the World Challenge was how it would fit in when the PGA Tour goes to a wraparound season in October. There will be six tournaments that count toward the FedEx Cup in the fall, with the last official event this year in Mexico on Nov. 17. The World Challenge would follow a two-week break, and then next year’s portion of the schedule begins three weeks later in Kapalua.
The World Challenge only offers world ranking points, not to mention a healthy holiday bonus. Even with a reduced purse without a title sponsor, McDowell made US$1 million and last place in the 18-man field paid US$120,000.
McLaughlin believes the appeal is the reduced field and low-key atmosphere. Along with the tournament host, the World Challenge typically attracts Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. And with the European Tour ending the same week as the PGA Tour, there is a chance of getting additional players before they take their long winter’s nap.
“This is our 15th year, and it’s very important to Tiger,” McLaughlin said. “For our foundation, it’s the first event we ever did. It would be hard to ever imagine not doing the event. I’ve had so many people — players, media — stop me throughout the year and say: ‘Are you doing the event again?’”
The World Challenge is one of three tournaments this year that benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation. The others are the AT&T National, which has one more year on its contract, and the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. The foundation has taken over operations of that event from IMG.