HOUSTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods headlines a field that is limited to the top-30 money winners on the PGA Tour this season as the best golfers in the country begin play Thursday in the Tour Championship.
This year's tournament will actually include just 29 players because world No. 2 Phil Mickelson has decided to remain at home with his recently expanded family. Phil and Amy Mickelson became parents of a second daughter earlier this month.
The spotlight will be on Woods, as always, but his mystique faded a little this season.
"I think that intimidation factor is gone a little bit," said Chris DiMarco, who won last week's Buick Challenge. "I think people know that he can be beat and know that he is human."
That is especially true this week. The field includes superstars David Duval, Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Ernie Els of South Africa and Davis Love III. They will compete over the Champions Golf Club.
Such a group chasing the $900,000 top prize gives the tournament a major field, although the Tour Championship does not have the history of the Grand Slam events.
"Major championships are unique," Woods said. "They stand out in our sport, but there are other events that are equally as important to a lot of the guys."
It might not be as important to Woods, who has won a tour-high five titles this season -- two more than anyone else -- and has clinched his fourth straight money title with $5,568,777.
But Woods has been ordinary by his standards. He has won just one of his last eight starts -- the NEC Invitational in late August -- and has not cracked the top 15 in his last two.
"I feel pretty good," Woods said. "Last time I played, I played halfway decent, shot 16-under. Wasn't like I was playing terrible that week. A lot of guys really played well.
"I feel like my game is coming around. I am hitting the ball a little more crisp, a little more solid, and making a couple of putts."
DiMarco made a lot of putts last week and is riding a high into his final event of the season. He considers the Tour Championship a bonus.
"It's just kind of like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, really," he said. "You play all year, it's a bonus. It's kind of a nice present at the end of the year to come here and have a limited field, and it just shows you how good you played all year."
Those who did not play as well are in Mississippi for the Southern Farm Bureau Classic -- the last full-field event of the season.