Tiger Woods used a week off to strengthen his sore back and he says he’s ready to make a run at US PGA Tour playoff points leader Henrik Stenson.
Stenson roared past Woods to the top of the table by winning the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston two weeks ago.
The 37-year-old Swede will be trying to maintain that position at the US$8 million BMW Championship, starting Thursday at Conway Farms Golf Club.
Woods, who remains world number one, will aim to finish the season on top, especially after the week off between tournaments.
“That was nice, it was nice to have that week of treatment, strengthening, so that was all good, and practicing towards the end of the week,” Woods said after he carded a bogey-free 68 in the pro-am on Wednesday.
Conway Farms is hosting a US PGA Tour event for the first time, but has hosted two US Golf Association championships.
Woods, whose wins in the Chicago area include two PGA Championship titles at Medinah and five US Tour wins at Cog Hill, says he likes playing in front of Windy City sports fans.
“It’s a great sporting town,” Woods said. “They come out and support their events. This will be a fun crowd.”
But things will be serious inside the ropes with the remaining 70 playoff contenders narrowing down to 30 by the end of the tournament, with those players advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The playoff points will be re-set prior to the season finale so that everyone in the field has a mathematical chance of claiming the US$10 million FedEx Cup playoff bonus.
Only the top five in the standings will go to Atlanta knowing that a victory will earn them the prize.
Stenson, whose current world number six ranking is just two spots lower than the career-high he reached in 2009, has been tremendously consistent of late.
“I’m excited about these two weeks and I’m obviously going to try my hardest to try and keep the boys behind me,” he said.
Stenson, Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott, lead the standings and will play together in the first two rounds. They are virtually guaranteed to remain in the top five in the standings going into the Tour Championship.
Woods gained his strong position in the standings with five tour titles this year, while Scott won the first playoff event, The Barclays, last month.
At fourth and fifth in the standings, American Matt Kuchar and Canadian Graham DeLaet, could be vulnerable. Kuchar said his task this week is simple: “Stay inside the top five come Tour Championship and have a chance to win the FedEx Cup.”
Several big names, however, need a good week just to ensure they advance, with defending BMW champion Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald among them.
McIlroy lifted the trophy last year at Crooked Stick, but goes into his title defence 41st on the playoff points list after a season in which he has missed several cuts and struggled for form.