Tiger Woods will defend his title this week in the Zozo Championship, but instead of being in Japan where he won it last year, the tournament will be played at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks because of travel concerns over the Coronavirus pandemic.
Woods, who tied Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record of 82 victories by winning the inaugural Zozo last year at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba, Japan, hosted his charity tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation at Sherwood from 2000-13.
“I am excited to defend my title at the Zozo Championship,” said Woods, who won his tournament at Sherwood in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011, in addition finishing second five times.
“It is disappointing that we will not be able to play in Japan this year, but Sherwood Country Club will be a great backdrop for what I know will be a great championship.”
Woods has played only eight PGA Tour events since winning the Zozo because of the pandemic and periodic back tightness, finishing fourth in his Hero World Challenge and tying for ninth in the Farmers Insurance Open.
However, since returning after the shutdown caused by the pandemic, Tiger has done no better than a tie for 37th in the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco in five events, including a missed cut in the 120th U.S. Open last month at Winged Foot.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Sherwood drew a number of high-profile commitments, including top-ranked Dustin Johnson, who hoped to return after missing the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek last week after testing positive for Covid-19.
Johnson is a member at Sherwood where his future father-in law, hockey great Wayne Gretzky lives, hoped to be ready this week but was forced to withdraw again.
Heading the field are second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, third-ranked Justin Thomas, fourth-ranked Collin Morikawa of nearby La Canada Flintridge and Cal, fifth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, seventh-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, eighth-ranked Webb Simpson, ninth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England and 10th-ranked Patrick Reed.
Among the others in the loaded field are Adam Scott of Australia, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Daniel Berger, Marc Leishman of Australia, Rickie Fowler of Murrieta and Phil Mickelson, who is back on the PGA Tour winning for the second time in as many starts on the PGA Tour Champions last week.
“I’ve been able to play Sherwood a few times when Tiger’s event was there,” Fowler said. “Sherwood’s the perfect example of get the ball in play and go play your game from there, and (Tiger) has been one of the best iron players over time.
“So get the ball in play and then go score from there. It’s a great fit for him, but hopefully we’re able to take down the defending champ.”
Maybe not, if Woods can conjure up his old magic.
- Jon Rahm, Spain – After taking a little time off following his victories in the Memorial and the BMW Championship late last season, plus a solo fourth in the Tour Championship, Rahm had his moments while tying for 23rd in the U.S. Open and tying for 17th in the CJ Cup. Expect him to get back on track in his Zozo Championship debut.
- Xander Schauffele, United States – Having finished second six times since his fourth PGA Tour victory in the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions, Schauffele must start finishing things off again. He was second in the Tour Championship, fifth in the U.S. Open and second in the CJ Cup in his last three starts. Tied for 10th in the Zozo last year.
- Tyrrell Hatton, England – A week after winning BMW PGA Championship outside London, Hatton flew back to the U.S. and was in contention again before tying for third in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek. First PGA Tour title came in Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of six top-10 finishes last season, including a tie for seventh in Tour Championship.
- Justin Thomas, United States – Slipped to a tie for 12th in the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek with a closing 74 after he tied for eighth in U.S. Open. Tied for second in the Tour Championship after winning the CJ Cup, the Sentry TOC and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational last season. Tied for 17th in the 2019 Zozo Championship, closing with a 65.
- Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory was in the chase last week in the CJ Cup before closing with a 74 to tie for 21st, after he tied for eighth in the U.S. Open, again fading with a final-round 75. He closed out last season with another tie for eighth in the Tour Championship. Shot 65-63 in the middle rounds to tie for third in the 2019 Zozo.
- Webb Simpson, United States – Finished last season with a tie for third in the third in the Wyndham Championship, a tie for sixth in the Northern Trust and a tie for 12th in the Tour Championship, before starting the new season with a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open and a tie for 13th in the Shriners. Webb did not play in inaugural Zozo last season.
- Patrick Reed, United States – Was near the top of the leaderboard after opening with a 66 in the U.S. Open in his last start, but couldn’t break 70 the rest of the way and tied for 13th. Reed finished last season with a tie for eighth in the Tour Championship. He closed with three rounds in the 602 after opening with a 70 to tie for 17th in the 2019 Zozo.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – The PGA champion bounced back from missed cuts in the U.S. Open and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open by tying for 12th in the CJ Cup, carding a 65 in round two. After winning the PGA in August, he tied for sixth in Tour Championship. Shot 64 in the second round en route to a tie for 22nd in 2019 Zozo.
- Tiger Woods, United States – Won the Masters and the Zozo Championship last year to tie Sam Snead’s PGA Tour record of 82 victories, and would love to break it this week at Sherwood, when he won his charity event five times. However, Woods’ best finish in his last six starts was a tie for 37th in the PGA, and he missed the cut in the U.S. Open.
- Jason Kokrak, United States – Claimed his first PGA victory in his 233rd start last week, winning the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek by two strokes. But you might have seem it coming, as he tied for 17th in the U.S. Open, tied for sixth in the BMW Championship, tied for 13th in the Northern Trust and tied for 15th in the Wyndham Championship.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Phil Mickelson, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Tony Finau, United States; Daniel Berger, United States; Mackenzie Hughes, Canada; Marc Leishman, Australia; Patrick Cantlay, United States; Adam Scott, Australia.
- Talor Gooch, United States – Winner of the 2017 News Sentinel Open on the Korn Ferry Tour finished fifth in CJ Cup after posting nine finishes in the top-25 last season.
- Lanto Griffin, United States – Won 2020 Houston Open and twice on Korn Ferry Tour. Was T-7 in CJ Cup, T-18 in Tour Championship, T-10 in BMW, T-19 in PGA.
- Sebastian Munoz, Colombia – Four-time winner as a pro, including 2019 Sanderson Farms, was ninth at CJ Cup after T-8s in Tour Championship and BMW Championship.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – The 21-year-old, who won 2019 Greenbrier, was sixth in CJ Cup, T-13 at Shriners, T-23 in U.S. Open, T-27 in Tour Championship, T-3 in BMW.
- Viktor Hovland, Norway – Winner of the 2020 Puerto Rico Open finished T-12 in CJ Cup last week, T-13 in U.S. Open, T-20 in Tour Championship in his last three starts.