The last four major champions of the Millennium will congregate at Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio, this week for the inaugural World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational.
Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal, US Open winner Payne Stewart, Carnoustie’s Open hero Paul Lawrie and US PGA victor Tiger Woods will be part of an elite field invited to play for the $5 million purse.
The current European and American Ryder Cup sides constitute the bulk of the field, which is completed by the International and US teams who were involved in the last Presidents Cup match in Australia.
Olazabal will relish a return to Akron, where he has triumphed twice in the former event held there, the World Series. It was in 1990 that the Spaniard devastated a world class field, winning by 12 strokes and in the process establishing a course record of 61 which is widely regarded as one of the greatest rounds ever played.
Then he returned in 1994, the year he won his first Green Jacket at Augusta National, to claim a second title.
The field in Ohio oozes quality with the four major champions and many of the biggest names in the game of golf. The incredible Spanish teenager, Sergio Garcia, will renew a rivalry with Woods which unravelled in dramatic fashion over the back nine at Medinah earlier this month.
Garcia finished runner-up to Woods by a solitary stroke, but won the hearts of the American public and secured a place in history as the youngest player to tee up in the Ryder Cup when he reached Boston next month.
European No.1 Colin Montgomerie, fresh from his victory in the BMW International Open, flies back to the States along with Open Championship winner Lawrie, who also performed creditably in Munich.
Several of the other Europeans remained in America to play in the Sprint International and the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational will offer the 24 players from both sides of the Atlantic an opportunity to size one another up before The Country Club showdown.
From the Southern Hemisphere, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Shigeki Maruyama and Nick Price are all in attendance at Firestone, aiming to capture the first prize of $1 million.