Tiger Woods won’t need an exemption to compete in the Hero World Challenge this year. After two consecutive years of being (by far) the lowest-ranked player in the small, but star-studded field, Woods, currently No. 13, has played his way into this year’s event. Although, his lofty ranking wouldn’t even place the tournament host in the top half of the draw right now.
Sixteen participants were announced on Thursday and it’s a particularly elite gathering of golfers. Led by World No. 1 Justin Rose, four of the top five, seven of the top 10, and 16 of the top 23 have committed to play Nov. 29-Dec. 2 at Albany, Bahamas. Here’s the list:
Justin Rose (1) Dustin Johnson (3)
Justin Thomas (4) Bryson DeChambeau (5) Jon Rahm (8)
Rickie Fowler (9) Tommy Fleetwood (10) Jason Day (11)
Xander Schauffele (12)
Tiger Woods (13) Tony Finau (15) Bubba Watson (16) Patrick Reed (17) Webb Simpson (20)
Alex Noren (21) Hideki Matsuyama (23)
The Official World Golf Ranking will continue to shift for the next couple of weeks, but that’s a strong group. And two more players will get exemptions at a later date to complete the field of 18.
Fowler is the defending champ of the tournament that offers Official World Golf Ranking points, but does not count as an official PGA Tour event. Reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and current World No. 2 Brooks Koepka is the only top-five player in the world not making the trip to the Bahamas at the end of the month.
Woods began his current comeback at last year’s Hero World Challenge after undergoing a back fusion that April. He finished T-9 to move up 531 spots in the Official World Golf Ranking, from No. 1,199 to No. 668. Woods has won the event, which is run by his foundation, five times, but not since 2011 and not since the tournament moved to Albany in 2015.
Of course, Woods will first play in an even more select event. His Pay-Per-View match against Phil Mickelson in Las Vegas is scheduled for Nov. 23. Perhaps, Mickelson, currently No. 26, can use that opportunity to talk his new business partner into one of those remaining exemptions.