AP – Tiger Woods has another loaded field for his Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods yesterday announced 17 players for the 20-man field, and all but four are from the top 21 in the world ranking. Still to be announced is whether the player at number 1,195 in the world – Woods – will tee it up at Albany.
Woods saved three spots for tournament exemptions, and it is widely expected he will play for the first time since 2019. He played three majors this year, most recently at the British Open in July.
For the tournament to qualify for world ranking points, the exemptions must be among the top 50 in the world ranking. The exception is for the tournament host if he is not already eligible.
Woods did not play the Hero World Challenge last year while recovering from his February 2021 car crash that badly injured his right leg, though he caused a big stir when he was seen hitting full shots on the back of the range.
He returned two weeks later at the PNC Championship with his son, Charlie.
Among the newcomers to the holiday event are Will Zalatoris, Cameron Young, Sungjae Im, Max Homa and 20-year-old Tom Kim.
The only players from the top 21 who chose not to play were Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay and Shane Lowry. British Open champion Cameron Smith is not eligible because he signed with Saudi-backed LIV Golf and this is a PGA Tour-sanctioned event. The tournament is December 1-4.
The fields currently features 10 of the 12 Americans from the Presidents Cup team. Cantlay is not going and the other is Kevin Kisner, who most likely will get one of the tournament exemptions to be announced later.
Three of the five qualified players from the International team who will be in the Bahamas are Im, Kim and Hideki Matsuyama.
The path for 30 players to reach the PGA Tour starts in the Bahamas next year as part of a Korn Ferry Tour schedule that has the same number of tournaments, nearly USD8 million more in prize money and a revamped end of the year.
The Korn Ferry Tour released its 2023 schedule yesterday with changes that already had been in the works, starting with a minimum USD1 million purse for the regular season, with USD180,000 to the winner.
The change comes at the end of the year.
Instead of 25 players earning PGA Tour cards at the end of the regular season, the Korn Ferry goes to a playoff system similar to the FedEx Cup with increased points and reduced fields after each of the four weeks.
The top 156 players qualify for Albertson Boise Open, with 144 players at the Simmons Bank Open in Tennessee, 120 players advancing to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in Ohio and the top 75 going to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in Indiana. All playoff events have USD1.5 million purses (USD270,000 for the winner).
“I am thrilled with the momentum we’re carrying into this next chapter of our tour’s history,” said Alex Baldwin, who enters her fifth season as Korn Ferry Tour president.
The Korn Ferry Tour previously awarded 25 PGA Tour cards from the regular season and 25 cards from the postseason of fields that were a mix of Korn Ferry and PGA Tour players.
Now there will be 30 cards, with at least five cards from a traditional Q-school and 10 cards available to the leading players from the European tour.
As for the Korn Ferry Tour schedule, two Louisiana tournaments and one in Maine are no longer on the schedule. They have been replaced by new tournaments in Chile, Oklahoma and New Jersey.
The season opens in January with two tournaments in the Bahamas, two in Latin America (Panama and Colombia), and then it is off five weeks before resuming in late March.
The developmental Epson Tour wraps up its season this week in Daytona Beach, Florida, with only three players assured LPGA Tour cards for next season. Linnea Strom tied for eighth last week to move to number three, joining Xiaowen Yin and Lucy Li as clinching cards.
Celine Borge moved up 11 spots to number five by winning in Alabama last week. “I didn’t expect it. I didn’t look at the order of the money list, so I didn’t know how far it was to the different positions,” said Borge, who said her goal now was to “try not to think too much” about her standing.
Among those on the bubble are former Duke player Gina Kim at number seven and 18-year-old Alexa Pano at number 10. Pano has a lead of USD1,072 over 11th place.
The Masters is the only major Ryan Fox of New Zealand has yet to play. He made a wager with a couple of friends long ago that he would take them to Augusta National if he was ever invited to play. He had no reason to think it might be next year. Fox was coming off a year in which he had only two top-10 finishes and was number 213 in the world when it ended.
“So to even be talking about going to the Masters is pretty incredible,” Fox said.
Now he is up to number 25 after winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship for his second title this year, to go along with runner-up finishes in the Soudal Open, Irish Open and Dutch Open.
He would be a lock to finish the year in the top 50 and receive an invitation to the Masters.
“That would be pretty cool to get that in the mail,” Fox said.
“Obviously, I would love to keep playing how I’m playing at the end of the year.”