2012 World Challenge preview: Tiger Woods leads star studded field at Sherwood

Stuart Franklin

Tiger Woods' offseason event, the World Challenge, will feature 18 of the best players in the world.

There's a new title sponsor, but the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods in California still has a loaded field this year. The inaugural World Challenge event took place in 2000, but Woods took the reins along with Chevron to make it one of the marquee offseason events of early December.

Woods hosts the AT&T National event during the regular season, but this limited field setting also attracts some of the top players in the world, including 13 golfers from this year's Ryder Cup.

This was the site where Woods ended his win drought, as he edged out Zach Johnson in dramatic fashion last year. Given the limited field, some put an asterisk next to it, but the victory did portend an improved and strong 2012 season. Woods carried over the momentum from ending the drought, and had an impressive 2012 summer that featured three wins. He returns to Sherwood Country Club this season with fewer questions about his game, but a deep field gunning to take him out at his own event.

The Ryder Cup element is largely on the American side, as nine of Woods's teammates will participate this week. They are Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker, and Bubba Watson. Furyk won the event in 2009, joining Graeme McDowell as the only players to have won this event in the past (other than Tiger, who's won it five times).

McDowell and Englishman Ian Poulter are the two European Ryder Cup team members playing in Thousand Oaks this week. McDowell maintained his status as one of the most reliable and clutch players in the world here two years ago, when he stared down Woods in a two-man battle. Poulter occasionally likes to poke the bear and try to stir Tiger, but the two are gregarious off the course and he'll try to continue his incredible Ryder Cup play this week in an individual stroke play event.

Capping the 18-player field are Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Bo Van Pelt, Jason Day, and Nick Watney. Combined with the aforementioned Ryder Cup team members, that's about as deep and talented a field of American golfers you will find (save for one Lefty).

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