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 $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 Greg McLaughlin, the president of the Tiger Woods Foundation 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. 5-8 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., 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 $25 million for college-access programs through the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif., 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 in 2013 in Mexico on Nov. 17. The World Challenge would follow a two-week break, and then the 2014 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 $1 million and last place in the 18-man field paid $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’s 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.
MAJOR SPIETH: Jordan Spieth is in position where he no longer has to worry about his spot on the leaderboard costing him money. The 19-year-old from Texas already has gone over $1.1 million for the year, meaning he has locked up his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season. The only way he can become a full member before October is to win a tournament, which is the only way to get into the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Turns out money still matters if he wants to play in the PGA Championship.
The top 70 in “PGA Points” make it to the final major of the year. Points are based on PGA Tour earnings from the Bridgestone Invitational last year through the Canadian Open, which is played July 25-28. Spieth has exemptions into three of the next four tournaments through Canada.
The PGA of America makes no distinction on its points list who is a member. It’s strictly money. And with his sixth-place finish last week worth $234,000, Spieth moved up to No. 77 in the standings.
Even if he doesn’t crack the top 70, the PGA Championship uses the points list to fill out its 156-man field. Last year, seven additional players got into the field off the points list.
The PGA Championship could always offer him an invitation. For a teenager who started the year without any status on any tour, Spieth already has five top-10 finishes on tour and would be equivalent of No. 55 on the PGA Tour money list. That might be more worthy than an international player who sneaks in through top 100 in the world ranking.
FALDO SERIES: Nick Faldo’s junior golf program is coming to America.
The Greenbrier announced Tuesday that it will host the Faldo Series Grand Final in October. The Faldo Series hosts more than 7,000 young players (ages 12 to 21) at 40 tournaments in 31 countries throughout Europe, Asia and South America. Among players who have come through his program are Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng, both formerly No. 1 in the world on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour.
“The Faldo Series is an incredibly impressive effort,” Greenbrier owner Jim Justice said.
The Greenbrier also is creating the “Faldo Golf Center,” which will feature instruction based on the six-time major champion’s teaching theory called “A Swing for Life.”
Faldo also will start taking students next year at the Faldo Series Academy in Casa Grande, Ariz., his first residential academy for golf and education in America.
DRIVE FOR SHOW: Michael Bembenick received a lot of attention for the 103 he posted in the second round of a Web.com Tour event. Voted the top assistant pro in Indiana last year, he was awarded a spot through the PGA section and had been working too much in the shop in Indianapolis to properly prepare for a tournament.
That wasn’t the worst score in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
In the last PGA Tour Latin America event before October, organizers gave a spot to Maurice Allen for the Dominican Republic Open that ended June 1. Allen is a long drive specialist, whose swing speed has been recorded at 161 mph.
He opened with 100, and then returned the next day and shot 115.
Allen missed the cut by 67 shots. Over 36 holes, he made one birdie and six pars. His scorecard featured two 10s, an 11 and a 13.
DIVOTS: When he won the Travelers Championship for his first PGA Tour title, Ken Duke pledged $25,000 at the awards ceremony to support the tournament’s charities. He then went to the media center for interviews, signed flags and then finally got to his car where he wrote a check before leaving. ... Jason Day is the only player in the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings who has not won this year. ... The PGA of America has established a New York office which will be led by Kevin Ring, the chief marketing officer. The PGA was founded in 1916 in New York. ... With five top 10s this year, Graham DeLaet has gone from No. 177 to No. 66 in the world ranking, and is up to No. 14 in the Presidents Cup standings.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Stewart Cink finished alone in fifth at the AT&T National, his highest finish in stroke play on the PGA Tour since he won the British Open in 2009.
FINAL WORD: “I tried it once, but I couldn’t see the grip when I did it.” — Roger Maltbie on using a belly putter.
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