Tiger Woods believes he has what it takes to become the first player in PGA Tour history to reach US$50 million in career earnings. The world’s top ranked player Woods needs just US$56,974 in earnings and he will get a legitimate shot at reaching the lofty mark when the Western Open begins on Thursday.
Stephen Ames, of Canada, will also be looking to defend his only PGA Tour title.
Ames won by two shots last year, becoming the first player at least 40 years old to capture his first tour victory since Brad Bryant in 1995 with a final-round 70 on the Dubsdread Course at the Chicago-area Cog Hill Golf and Country Club.
Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Ames has been unable to duplicate the success he had a year ago.
He had a career-best 11 top-10 finishes in 2004 but has just one this season, a tie for sixth at the Heritage.
Woods is making his first start since his runner-up finish at the US Open in Pinehurst two weeks ago.
The winner of The Masters in April, Woods was undone by two late bogeys and finished second in a major for only the second time in his career.
Woods has had great success in the Western Open, winning the event three times. He finished tied for seventh last season.
Joining Woods and Ames in the field is Vijay Singh, who will be looking to pad his lead atop the tour money list.
Singh, who finished 17th here last year, has earned US$5.68 million in 19 events.
With the British Open looming on the horizon, much of the focus will shift to Woods and Singh and the state of their games heading into the season’s third major.
The two have played in the same event 10 times this season, with Woods posting all three of his victories and Singh winning one. In their 10 head-to-head events, Woods has a scoring average of 69.19, just over two strokes a round better than his Fijian-Indian rival.
If Woods or Singh – or even Ames – are not in contention on Sunday, there are plenty of other talented players in the field ready to make a charge.
American Jim Furyk, who finished second last week at the Barclays Classic, Luke Donald, John Daly and Mike Weir also are in the field.
Scott Hoch and Woods share the tournament record of 21-under-par 267.
Woods also is one of seven players who share the course record of 9-under 63, and is the player to set the mark most recently, during his victory here in 2003.
First prize is US$900,000.