Will Zozo’s move to Sherwood give course another Tiger Woods chapter? It’s a good bet

The PGA Tour is returning to Sherwood Country Club.

The $8 million Zozo Championship was shifted from Japan to Thousand Oaks on Monday, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament will be played Oct. 22-25, as part of a reconfigured West Coast swing ahead of the rescheduled Masters.

“When the pandemic started, I reached out to my contacts at the PGA Tour, LPGA and USGA and said, ‘Should there be a time in the future when there was a need for a course, Sherwood would be interested in being involved,’ ” said Sherwood general manager Rob Oosterhuis. “Fast forward to really just a couple weeks ago, when all of a sudden this came to fruition.”

The shift may mean Tiger Woods, the tournament’s defending champion, will return to Sherwood, which Oosterhuis labeled “a homecoming of sorts.”

“It’s another layer in the Sherwood lore of golf,” Oosterhuis said. “Tiger goes back 20 years with Sherwood.”

Tiger Woods tees off on the 4th hole during the Pro-Am round of the World Challenge golf tournament, an unofficial PGA Tour event sponsored by pro golfer Tiger Woods, at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. Proceeds will benefit the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Sherwood previously played host to Greg Norman’s Shark Shootout from 1989 to 1999, the Showdown at Sherwood in 1999 and Wood’s World Challenge from 2000 to 2013.

Woods defeated David Duvall in the 1999 Showdown and won the World Challenge, sponsored over the years by Williams, Target, Chevron, and Northwestern Mutual, in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011.

“It’s great for everybody,” Oosterhuis said. “It’s great for golf. It’s great for the tour. It’s great for Zozo as the sponsor. In an unofficial way, it’s almost like (Woods) has his event back here on a bigger scale with much higher stakes, too.”

The Zozo Championship at Sherwood will be held a week before the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek, which was shifted to Las Vegas from South Korea. Together with the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, which will also be held in Las Vegas on Oct. 8-11, the tournaments will form a refashioned West Coast swing, just weeks ahead of the Masters, which has been rescheduled for Nov. 12-15.

The field will include the top 60 golfers in the FedEx Cup rankings, which means it would be the first professional tournament locally for Matthew Wolff, who finished 35th in the rankings as a rookie, and went to nearby Westlake High School.

“We have a great relationship with Matthew,” Oosterhuis said. “We’re very excited. We have tons of Westlake High graduates and Westlake High supporters at Sherwood. … They knew him growing up. It’s always nice when you’ve got your local to root for.”

Typically, Sherwood would spend a year preparing for a big event. The runway for this tournament is seven weeks.

“Fortunately, October is a good time of the year for golf conditions locally,” Oosterhuis said. “We moved up the aeration of our greens from Sept. 17 … to (Monday).”

“That’s probably the biggest thing that we had to do. …. You’d like to have maybe a little bit more of a runway, but we have an exceptional Director of Agronomy in Neil Edwards. I’m sure he and his team can handle it.”

The event is not expected to have spectators.

“As of now, we anticipate that this will be played similar to the bubble environment that the tour has had in its other events,’ Oosterhuis said. “I anticipate there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on the event.”

Sherwood hosted a PGA Tour Champions event the last four falls. Colin Montgomerie edged Bernhard Langer in a playoff to win the Invesco QQQ Championship last November.

Last year’s Zozo Championship was the first time the PGA Tour staged an official event in Japan. Woods won by three shots over Hideki Matsuyama for his 82nd career PGA Tour victory, tying Sam Snead for the record.

While it is moving to America, the Zozo Championship will operate as if it’s in Japan. The 78-man field will feature the top 60 players available from this year’s final FedEx Cup standings, 10 players from the Japan Golf Tour and eight exemptions — four from the PGA Tour, three from Japan and one unrestricted.

The temporary rearrangement was a big coup for the tour, especially since Zozo and CJ Group primarily do business in Japan and South Korea, respectively. Along with concerns about the coronavirus, players were reluctant to go to Asia this fall with the Masters having moved to Nov. 12-15.

Both tournaments will return to Asia next year.

Joe Curley covers sports for the Ventura County Star. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @vcsjoecurley

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