Reason No. 1: he has won nine WGC tournaments in his career. Reason No. 2: he has won this tournament three times ' on three different courses, including this years return stop in Kilkenny, Ireland. Reason No. 3: Vijay Singh isnt in the field.
But Woods hasnt won a stroke-play event since he walked away with this title a year ago. And if his back starts acting up, he may not even get a chance to defend it.
Woods said Wednesday that he injured his back sleeping awkwardly on a plane last week. He played only seven holes in his practice round at Mount Juliet before his back stiffened and he decided not to risk further injury.
I could have played 18 (holes) today, but it would have been tough, he said.
Asked if there was any doubt he would play Thursday, he responded: Yeah, there is a little bit.
Warm-up session will probably determine it, he added. If Im able to go, Ill go. If I cant, then I wont. Ive never been one to pull out of tournaments and quit just because Im physically sore. But if I cant actually swing a golf club, then its pretty tough to play.
Woods, who is scheduled to tee off with Luke Donald and K.J. Choi at 12:50 p.m. local time, has been getting treatment for the injury. He said the soreness is between his shoulder blades and hurts at impact.
Woods won the inaugural AmEx at Valderrama in 1999. He triumphed at Mount Juliet in 2002, when he didnt make a bogey until the 72nd hole, and then repeated last year outside of Atlanta, when he beat, among others, Singh by two strokes.
Singh, who has won five of the last six events he has entered, will not be around to exact any revenge this week. He withdrew to be with his family in their Florida home damaged by Hurricane Jeanne.
Singh isnt the only notable absentee. Phil Mickelson withdrew for personal reasons. Mike Weir, the 2000 champion at Valderrama, pulled out due to illness. Nick Price, John Daly and Kenny Perry also failed to make the trip.
What is it, six out of 70 people? Well, theres still plenty of other players to cover up that loss, Padraig Harrington said. Vijay would be obviously a star attraction, so that is a bit of a loss.
The field includes the top 50 players from the world rankings, as well as leading money winners from various tours (top 30 from the PGA Tour money list and top 20 from the European Volvo Order of Merit). There is no cut.
Harrington, who used to be affiliated with Mount Juliet, is among a small but strong Irish contingency that includes good friend Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, the only European to win an individual WGC event.
Yeah, it would certainly mean a few ticks off the goals if I could win a tournament in Ireland, Harrington said. It would be better to win it here than anywhere else.
Clarke is battling a cold that he thinks he picked up the Sunday of the Ryder Cup. He is among 10 European Ryder Cup team members in attendance, along with nine from the U.S. side.
One of those U.S. Ryder Cuppers, Stewart Cink, had a nightmare trans-Atlantic trip. He was among a group of players who took up 84 Lumber founder Joe Hardy on his offer to play in his event and then take an all-expense-paid charter flight from Pennsylvania to Ireland.
One of the two Boeing 737s, however, experienced air conditioning problems, which sent smoke bellowing through the cabin. They also had to endure two refueling stops, making the total flight time nearly 20 hours.
'I was on the one that had to stay over with mechanical problems,' Cink said. 'There was smoke in the cabin, but you can't make a big deal out of it. That's in the past now. We got here.'