HARTFORD, Conn. – Tiger Woods is plenty good in plenty areas on and off the course, and that certainly includes selecting players for the Hero World Challenge that he hosts each year.
Woods filled out an 18-man field this week with the two tournament invitees, former British Open champions Henrik Stenson and 2014 winner and 2017 Travelers Championship titlist Jordan Spieth. They amazingly will be the LOWEST ranked players competing Dec. 4-7 at Albany Country Club in the Bahamas.
Woods, the reigning Masters champion who won a PGA Tour record-tying 82nd victory in the ZOZO Championship in Japan two weeks ago, greeted the two latest entries on Twitter with “See you boys in the Bahamas.” Spieth has had a subpar 2019 so wasn’t among Woods’ four captain’s picks for the United States that will face the International side in the Presidents Cup the following week at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia. Woods chose himself, U.S. Open champion and close friend Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and Patrick Reed, who caused a stir after the U.S. was routed by Europe in the 2018 Ryder Cup when he criticized captain Jim Furyk for sitting him in two of the four team matches and breaking up his previously successful partnership with Spieth.
The Hero World Challenge field features eight of the Top 10 players in the world rankings, led by Dustin Johnson (3) and Justin Thomas (4) of the U.S., defending champion Jon Rahm (5) of Spain, Patrick Cantlay (7) of the U.S. and five-time champion Woods (7). Others in the field are Justin Rose of England (8), Xander Schauffele (9), Bryson DeChambeau (10), Webb Simpson (11), Woodland (14), Reed (15), Finau (16), 2017 champion Rickie Fowler (21), Matt Kucher, Kevin Kisner (35) and 2018 champion and three-time Travelers Championship winner Bubba Watson (38) of the U.S. Sweden’s Stenson, the tournament runner-up in 2015 and 2017, has slipped from 26th to 40th in the Official World Golf Rankings, while Spieth has slipped from 17th to 43rd.
All of the players on the U.S. Presidents Cup on Dec. 12-15 are in the Hero World Challenge. No. 1-ranked Brooks Koepka, the 2019 PGA of America Player of the Year, is a question mark since having stem-cell treatment after the Tour Championship in August after he injured his knee when he slipped on a wet piece of cement at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges on Oct. 18. Woods said Koepka told him he’s rehabbing the knee and the focus now was on the 12 players who will try to win the Presidents Cup for the eighth consecutive time. Fowler is seen as the likely replacement for Koepka if he can’t play.
The tournament benefits Woods’ TGR Foundation and the ONE Bahamas Fund, which was founded by Woods, NEXUS Luxury Collection and members of the Albany community affected by Hurricane Dorian. The group pledged $6 million towards the rebuilding of the Bahamas with a dollar-for-dollar match in hopes of raising $12 million. Singer and actor Justin Timberlake helped begin the efforts in September.
The event will be broadcast on Golf Channel for all four rounds and will air on NBC during the final round on Saturday, Dec. 7.
TIN CUP REVISITED
In the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Department, Eddie Pepperell was disqualified when he ran out of golf balls in the third round of the $7 million Turkish Airlines Open last Saturday.
The Englishman’s Tin Cup moment came when he had to leave the course after depositing the contents of his ball pocket into a pond besides the fourth green. Pepperell was 2 over par for the day and even for the tournament when he arrived at the par-5 fourth hole, his 13th of the day, at Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Antalya, Turkey. He went for the green with his second shot and ended up in the water, as did his fourth shot, sixth shot and eighth shots while playing with Martin Kaymer and George Coetzee.
“Eddie hit his shots to the green, then came over to tell us he had run out of balls,” Kaymer said. “When he walked off, I thought he lost four or five (balls). We are about 80 percent sure it was five, 20 percent four. He was quick, so it was hard to keep track.
“He did not ask if he could borrow one (ball) from me or George. It did not look like he wanted to play. He did not putt with his putter on third hole, he putted with a wedge, so there was a lot happening. I have never seen anything like that before. I only watched it on television in ‘Tin Cup.’ This is the first time I had seen it live.”
Kaymer alluded to actor Kevin Costner, who was Roy McEvoy, a driving range owner in West Texas, who hit 12 balls into the water on the par-5 18th hole before knocking number 13 into the cup on the final hole of the U.S. Open in the movie “Tin Cup.”
Pepperell wasn’t the first European Tour player to have to leave early as Anders Forsbrand of Sweden was disqualified from the second round of the 1994 French Open after losing nine balls in the pond in front of the 18th green at Le Golf National in Paris, which hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup. Often eccentric John Daly ran out of balls after hitting seven into the water in the 2011 Australian Open.
Woods nearly did it on the 18th hole in the second round of the 100th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California in 2000. Woods finished the round with one ball and then went on to win his first U.S. Open and one of his 15th major championships, three behind leader Jack Nicklaus. Woods’ 12-under 272 total was a tournament record, and his 15-stroke romp over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez was a record margin of victory for any major championship. Els is the International team captain in the Presidents Cup.