The tournament, to be shown live on The Golf Channel starting Thursday morning at 8 AM ET and replayed each evening at 8 PM ET, will have Tiger looking for a three-peat in an event he has dominated since his first visit in 1999. The champion in '99, 2001 and last year, Tigers only year without returning home without the trophy was in 2000, where he still finished in a very respectable third place.
Last year he defeated Colin Montgomerie on the third hole of a sudden-death play-off.
This week would have also marked another showdown between the worlds No. 1, Tiger, and worlds No. 2 Ernie Els, but Els withdrew Saturday due to an ongoing wrist injury. The Big Easy, who got out of the gate quickly in 2003 by winning the PGA Tours season-opening Mercedes Championships and the Sony Open, had people hoping he would be the one to step up and challenge Tiger in 2003.
But unfortunately for golf fans, things haven't matieralized into an Ali-Fraziar rivalry by any stretch of the imagination so far this year.
Tiger, unlike Ernie, didn't get off to a fast start in 2003, or any start actually, due to his off-season knee surgery. But he quickly answered any doubters by bringing home the title in his first event in 2003, the Buick Invitational. Two weeks later he held off young Adam Scott to capture his first Accenture Match Play Championship. He then became the first player in 73 years to win the same PGA Tour event four straight years by winning the Bay Hill Invitation by a whopping 11 strokes, despite a constant downpour and a bout with food poisoning.
Also in the field, trying to keep Tiger from getting the hat trick, are European stalwarts Nick Faldo, Germanys own Bernhard Langer, Montgomerie, worlds No. 5 Retief Goosen and Paul Lawrie.
Padraig Harrington, who's playing well after a second-place finish last week, looks for a good showing here to climb back into the Order of Merit race with the injuried Els.
A slew of young guns will likewise be hoping to hunt down Tiger and include two-time European Tour winner Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Scott, Ty Tryon, Trevor Immelman and Nick Dougherty.
Casey is coming off a big win over Harrington in the Benson and Hedges, and also was victorious at the ANZ Championship in February. Immelman captured this seasons South African Open.
The events host country, Germany, though not exactly a hotbed for golf despite the wildly successful Langer, showed last year it too has latched on to Tiger fever as it marked the first time that tickets for a golf tournament in Germany had been sold out.
Look for the crowds to be back to watch what indeed has become a spectacular field put on another great battle for the German spectators.