Rory McIlroy could get his eagerly awaited showdown with Tiger Woods at December’s Chevron World Challenge in California.
The world No 1 has invited the young Ulsterman as well as US Open champion Graeme McDowell and US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer to his $5m, season-ending charity event.
McIlroy had hoped to face Woods in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor but while that showdown never materialised, they could meet in strokeplay competition at Sherwood Country Club from December 2-5.
Woods, set to surrender his world number one ranking at the end of the month after a reign of 281 weeks, announced 15 of the 17 rivals he will face in Thousand Oaks near Los Angeles.
Jim Furyk, who won last month’s Tour Championship and the $10m FedEx Cup, will defend the title he won by a shot from McDowell last year
Englishmen Paul Casey, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter and Americans Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, Zach Johnson, Sean O’Hair, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson will also play for the $1.2m top prize.
The 18-man field will be completed next Monday when Woods adds two more players to the field. The 72-hole event features an elite field compete for a $5 million purse.
The field is made up of the current four major winners who accept invitations, the top 11 available from the Official World Golf Rankings, the defending champion and two special-exemption players. The winner receives $1.2 million, and the 18th-place finisher receives $140,000
The event comes only a week after the first anniversary of the eruption of a sex scandal that shattered the iconic image of Woods and led to his divorce from wife Elin after admitting to multiple affairs and seeing more than a dozen women claim to have had sex with him during his marriage.
Woods took a five-month hiatus from golf before returning at the Masters but has yet to win an event in 2010.
As a result of his struggles, Woods is set to lose his grip on the top ranking on October 31. England’s Lee Westwood or Germany’s Kaymer could take over the top spot if Woods does not play until November as expected.
Woods said he plans to play in November’s World Golf Championships HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai and defend his Australian Masters title in November. He has also committed to play next February at Dubai.
Woods’ accident proved to be a blessing in disguise for McDowell, who replaced the American in the Chevron field, came second to Furyk and earned enough world ranking points to finish the year inside the world’s top 50.
“What happened at the end of last season, and getting the invite to the Tiger Woods golf tournament was the real catalyst for everything that has happened this year,” McDowell said. “I walked off the golf course in China with Rory and myself just having lost the World Cup by a shot to the Molinari boys.
“My manager, Conor (Ridge) then suggested there was a shadow of a chance, and what with the Tiger Woods story unfolding that week, that I might get an invite into the Chevron World Challenge.
“As it so happened that I was flying home from China to Orlando through L.A. that week so I said of course I will get off the flight there and take my chance.
“I don’t how Conor managed to do it but we got the nod on the invite and then I go and finish second.
“I moved from 55th to 38th in the world it got me into Augusta and smoothed up the start of the season and then later after Wentworth I get into the U.S. Open right on the bubble at Number 50.
“So if I had not been top 50 at the end of last year, I maybe would not have got off to the start I had this year.
“Maybe I wouldn’t have got myself into the U.S. Open and things like the Ryder Cup. It was just one of those very fateful moments.
“In a very twisted way what happened to Tiger Woods’ world affected my world and it was the catalyst for the season of my dreams.”