Woods is searching for his third win at the Western (97 and 99) and his fifth win of the 2001 season.
If he is to contend at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club this week, however, he will have to bring a better game than he has displayed in recent times. The 25-year-old is coming off his two worst consecutive weeks all year, finishing in a tie for 16th at the Buick Classic and a tie for 12th at the U.S. Open.
The Westerns defending champion is up-and-coming Australian Robert Allenby.
Allenby beat out Nick Price on the first extra hole of a playoff last year, after each man finished regulation play at 14-under 274.
For Allenby, the win marked his second of the year. Earlier in the 2000 season, he disposed of Craig Stadler in a playoff at the Shell Houston Open for his first win on the PGA Tour.
Since last years edition of the Western, the Aussie has continued to impress.
In his 18 starts this season, he has missed only two cuts and recorded six top-20 finishes, one of which came by way of victory at the Nissan Open, when he birdied the first hole of a six-man playoff.
Plenty of big names will be in attendance this week in Chicago.
Last weeks winner of the Canon Greater Hartford Open Phil Mickelson will tee it up again this week. So too will Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Vijay Singh, Charles Howell III, and former champion Scott Verplank.
The Western Open is one of the longest-standing golf championships in the United States. It was first held in 1899, when Willie Smith won at the Glen View Golf Club. For several years the Western was hosted exclusively at the Butler National Golf Club (74 to 90), but has since been stationed at Cog Hill.
A record purse is on the line this year at the Western. Of a total of $3.6 million, $720,000 will go to the winner.