There's no other event quite like the Chevron World Challenge. It's basically a money-grab for the best players in the world, a $5 million purse divided amongst 18 players with even DFL getting $140,000. Not bad for four days work.
And it's got standing on the Official World Golf Rankings, too, which helps immensely in drawing the best of the best. Because of that, it had to put in some restrictions which very nearly forced it to lock out its host and most attractive draw, though.
Here's the deal: The Chevron takes the top 16 golfers in the world rankings who accept invites, plus two sponsor exemptions. But those exemptions have to be in the top 50 in the world rankings. Guess who was sliding, sliding, sliding toward that top-50 cliff right when the Chevron needed to make its invitations?
Yep, Tiger Woods. He made it, slowing to a stop at No. 49 on the date exemptions were announced, but oh, it was close. (Bill Haas got the other exemption.)
On Wednesday, Woods held his usual pre-tournament press conference, and it was the usual mix of "things are getting better" confidence and cliches, with a couple of peek-behind-the-curtain zingers thrown in. (Woods conceded that he's "swinging the club well enough that you don't need to walk out there with hockey helmets on.")
For those tracking Tiger's progress, good news: He claims he's mastered the wind again. "Normally anybody who makes swing changes ... you get exposed in the wind," he said. "I felt very comfortable in that wind [in Australia], which was great, because you know, full circle, last year at Dubai, I felt I should have won the golf tournament. A right‑to‑left wind cost me eight shots on certain holes, and I didn't have the ability to maneuver the ball left to right at the time ... Playing in Aus for two weeks, it was fantastic. I hit all shapes, all trajectories, and if you look at the rounds, I hit most of my shots pin high, and you know, that's an indication if the wind's blowing that hard, that I'm really controlling my trajectory."
Beyond that, not much. He will play in a new event in 2012, though he didn't disclose which one. He feels like he's making progress. And his expectations for this week? "It's the same. Just place the ball in correct spots and get the W." Easy enough, right?