HWC: Woods Aiming for Third Title of 2019, Defending Champion Rahm Stands in His Way

Nassau (Bahamas), Dec 4 (PTI) Tournament host Tiger Woods will aim to win his first Hero World Challenge title in eight years following a landmark 2019 but standing in his way is a star-studded field, including world number three and defending champion Jon Rahm.

Woods, who won his first Major since 2008 with a come-from-behind victory at the Masters this year, will be playing alongside 17 proven performers.

In fact, 10 out of Woods' 12 teammates for next week's President's Cup in Melbourne will be in action at the Albany Golf Course here, giving them some time for team bonding. Woods will be the playing captain of the American team.

His countless fans expected Woods to triumph even when he was not in the best shape but now that the 43-year-old is back to winning ways, expectations have only grown.

Woods, a five-time winner at the Hero World Challenge, will be looking to close the year with a third win, after the Masters and the Zozo Championships in Japan.

"Interestingly, when I have done well here, it has acted like a springboard to my following season. Successes at this event have kind of mirrored what I have done at Torey on west coast. This event really has been a kind of a springboard for me," Woods said ahead of the tournament beginning Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, 2016 wasn't very good, I built on 17 and then 18 and now 19. It's incredible what it was, when you look back, and what I went through. And here I am now in front of you, as the Masters champion," said Woods, who has had to endure multiple back surgeries.

The 15-time Major winner faces stiff competition from the likes of Rahm, the highest ranked player in the field this week.

The Spaniard was chosen as the European Tour Golfer of the Year after winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

The 25-year-old will be looking to become the first player since Woods, in 2005 and 2006, to win the Hero World Challenge in successive years.

A fourth win in 2019 will also make it his best year in terms of golf.

It will also be a nice gift to win three straight starts - Open de Espana and DP World came in his last two starts – ahead of his marriage to his fiancee Kelly Cahill.

Rahm smiled and answered when asked if his wedding preparations could distract him this week.

"I'm getting married, next week. No, (it won't distract me). I think we thought about it long enough the last few months trying to figure it out. It's a happy occasion, it's a joyful occasion, so it's not like my mind's going to wander.

"I'm focusing on this week, I want to defend and I want to finish the year strong. Nothing better than finishing with three in a row so my mind is on this week so once it's over I'll focus on that," said Rahm.

Woods also said he is looking forward to the dual challenge in Australia next week.

"It was a joke, but turned into reality. Here we are. I'm the second playing captain in the history of the President's Cup, so it's a pretty neat responsibility. And the role's not easy. There's a lot of moving parts, whether it's talking to the guys, talking to my vice captains, organising what we need to have done down there, not only to be ready but also I need to keep sharp.

"I need to keep practising, I need to keep working on my game, make sure I have all my feels and my game is sharp and ready to go, because at minimum next week I'll be responsible for two points," said Woods.

Adding to all this is his Charity work in Bahamas, which recently was hit by Hurricane Dorian, the worst in recent memory.

Hero MotoCorp chairman Pawan Munjal, who will be working alongside Woods in restoration work of the affected islands, said: "Two of the islands were really, really devastated badly. We (the tournament organisers) are challenging the players this week to make birdies, eagles and aces.

"Every birdie counts for USD 500, every eagle for USD 1,000 and every ace gets USD 2,500. All this money will be will be given to the ONE Bahamas Fund to use it to rebuild the two islands that got devastated."

The tournament purse is USD 3.5 million and the winner gets USD 1 million.

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