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Tiger aims to end ’13 on a high

Thousand Oaks: For the 18 players vying for supremacy at this week’s Northwestern Mutual World Challenge in glorious early winter weather, merely qualifying for the field is confirmation of a successful year.

Though the four-round tournament hosted by five-time champion Tiger Woods is not a PGA Tour event, it offers official world ranking points and every player competing at Sherwood Country Club this week is ranked in the top 30.

England’s Lee Westwood sounded confident about his chances. “There only being 18 players, you know you have to be at the top of the world rankings to play in the event,” said Westwood.

Woods is the favourite to win the title but will face a strong challenge from players such as Northern Irish world No. 6 Rory McIlroy, seventh-ranked American Matt Kuchar and 10th-ranked Australian Jason Day.

Woods, who beat compatriot Zach Johnson by one shot to win the most recent of his World Challenge titles in 2011, is delighted with the quality of the players assembled at Sherwood this week.

“It’s the deepest and strongest field that we’ve had possibly ever,” the world No. 1 said. “It’s going to be a great week, one that everyone is going to enjoy. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hoping to end on a high.”

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who won last year’s title by three shots, will be bidding to triumph at Sherwood for a third successive year.