When a winner is crowned Sunday in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, it will mark the end of a 15-year stay at Sherwood Country Club. The event, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, will move to Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Fla., next year.
"It made sense," tournament host and five-time winner Tiger Woods said Wednesday. "It certainly was not an easy decision."
Woods said the event has raised more than $25 million, enabling his foundation to build The Tiger Woods Learning Center in Orange County, Calif., in 2006, and six outposts in Washington, Philadelphia and Stuart, Fla. The TWLC has served more than 100,000 Orange County students and their families with college-access programs.
"I foresee an emotional Sunday, no doubt," he said. "Sherwood and its board have been fantastic to us."
The tournament is going out with a bang. The 18-player field is the best ever assembled at Sherwood and includes 10 of 12 U.S. team members from the victorious 2013 Presidents Cup, along with foreign standouts Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Jason Day. McDowell, McIlroy and Americans Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, Jim Furyk, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley have all won major championships.
McDowell is especially comfortable at Sherwood. In three starts, the Northern Irishman has a pair of wins -- in 2010 and 2012 -- and finished second in 2009. Last year, he led the field in greens hit in regulation (63 of 72), which was eight more than any other player.
If you're looking for a dark horse, first-time participant Jordan Spieth is your man. The 20-year-old Dallas native took the PGA TOUR by storm this year by posting nine top-10 finishes and winning the John Deere Classic.
First prize this week is $1 million, and the 18th-place finisher receives $100,000.
"The course is in the best shape it's ever been," said Woods, who played in the pro-am on Wednesday. "It's firm and fast."
Tiger hasn't played much golf lately, spending time with his kids and girlfriend Lindsey Vonn. He has been working out and is pleased with his ball-striking.
Woods will use a new Nike Covert prototype driver this week, and has switched to a 103-gram Diamana Blue Board shaft, the same one he uses with his 3- and 5-wood. He previously used a lighter 73-gram shaft in his driver and now has a better feel of the club at impact.
"I feel very comfortable," Woods said.
The top-ranked Tiger led the PGA TOUR in victories in 2013 with five, three more than any other player. Although he turns 38 on Dec. 30 and has scuffled with injuries, Tiger said his motivation for 2014 remains the same.
"Just win every tournament I play in," he said. "Keep improving. I won five times and think that's a pretty good number. I'd certainly like to play better in the majors."
Woods isn't noted for his tweeting, but Vonn enjoys it.
"I grew up in a different era," Woods smiled. "Old school."
Vonn has resumed training for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February. The reigning Olympic gold-medal downhill champion suffered a partially torn ligament in her surgically repaired right knee last month during a training spill, but hopes to race next Wednesday in Lake Louise, Alberta, in Canada.
Asked if he would accompany her to the Olympics, Tiger said, "That's day-to-day. We just don't know how her leg is going to be."
Tiger begins first-round play Thursday at 1:25 p.m. ET with Matt Kuchar.