Despite battling a sore back at last week’s PGA Tour event at Bethpage Black, Tiger Woods still planned to be the star attraction at the fifth annual Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge golf tourney at Turning Stone Resort on Wednesday.
“After checking in with folks on-site at the NB3 Challenge today, it sounds like all systems go for Tiger at this point,” a spokesperson for the event, hosted by Woods’ college golf teammate, told us via e-mail on Tuesday.
For sure, Begay looked forward to Woods’ appearance at the event that benefits health and wellness programs for Native American youth, but he worried about his friend’s durability.
“It was more concern for him personally, like hoping that he’s not really hurt,” Begay told Central New York’s Syracuse.com. “I know he’s going into the FedEx Cup, and the Ryder Cup is right around the corner. So, of course, I want him here, but certainly we want him to be as healthy as possible.”
Woods, who is expected to start Friday in the second of four FedEx Cup matches, the Deutsche Bank Championship, opened with a 68 at The Barclays last Thursday. He added a 69 on Friday but cameras captured him wincing and grabbing his back several times during his second round, as Golf Channel analysts speculated that the 14-time major winner might withdraw from the contest.
Blaming a soft hotel mattress for the crick in his back, Woods stuck it out. His final-round 76, however, was his worst score of the season and led observers to wonder if he would make it to TPC Boston for the Labor Day weekend event.
With no word either way from Team Tiger, Begay and Deutsche Bank organizers anticipated that the world’s No. 3 would be in both fields. Woods is scheduled to play in a pro-am at TPC Boston on Thursday beginning at 6:50 a.m. ET.
As for Begay’s event, when Woods and Yani Tseng shake hands on Wednesday, the world’s top-ranked woman golfer will meet the former No. 1 for the first time. Golf’s biggest names will then head up their respective teams in the NB3 Challenge’s inaugural “East meets West” format.
For the first time in its five-year history, the August 29 event will pit U.S. and Asian players against each other in threesomes for a stroke-play, best-ball competition. Although Woods, whose mother is from Thailand, could qualify for either unit, he’ll tee it up with Begay and a handful of other top LPGA and PGA Tour stars on the West squad.
In addition to Woods and Begay, the West team will feature Cristie Kerr and Lexi Thompson (unseated last week by Lydia Ko as the youngest golfer ever to win an LPGA tournament), as well as the PGA’s Rickie Fowler (who is part-Navajo) and Gary Woodland. The East will field a team comprised of Tseng and South Korean legend Se Ri Pak from the women’s tour, and the PGA’s K.J. Choi, Charlie Wi, Danny Lee, and Tiger-tamer Y.E. Yang. Yang, of course, stunned Woods in the finale of the 2009 PGA Championship, breaking Tiger’s 14-0 streak of winning each major in which he held the 54-hole lead.
Though each team will play for bragging rights on Wednesday at Atunyote Golf Club, the event is all about philanthropy. Begay expressed gratitude to the headliners for taking time from their busy schedules to raise awareness and funds for a cause so critical to his community.
“As a young non-profit foundation looking to bolster our donor base, to enhance the presence of our mission and get exposure, it helps on a variety of fronts [to have Woods and Tseng in the field],” Begay told us last week. “Having a personal friendship with Tiger Woods and getting him committed on an annual basis stirs interest.”
With a $450,000 winners’ purse at stake, all proceeds from the tourney will go directly to benefit the NB3 Foundation. Thanks to the support of golfers like Woods and Tseng, and a partnership with the Oneida Indian Nation, the event has raised more than $3 million to date.
Tickets ($50 for adults) are still available online and by phone (315-361-7469) for the tourney, which is expected to kick off at 11 a.m. ET.