THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) _ The Target World Challenge marks the end of the silly season, a time for 16 world-class players to pay tribute to tournament host Tiger Woods and play for an obscene amount of money. For the most part, winning is meaningless. But don't tell that to Luke Donald or Davis Love III.
Donald had gone three years without a PGA Tour victory, and even that wasn't much of a trophy. It came at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, held opposite the Tour Championship, and he didn't have to hit a shot in the final round because it was rained out.
But last year at the Target World Challenge, he closed with a 64 for a two-shot victory. And he doesn't think it was a coincidence that he went on to have his best season in 2006.
Donald won the Honda Classic, shared the 54-hole lead with Woods at the PGA Championship before tying for third, and now is the highest-ranked British player at No. 9.
``I felt 2006 was a very positive year for me, certainly helped by me win last year,'' Donald said Wednesday. ``It got me off to a good start, gave me some confidence going into this year. And any time you win, it's always a good feeling, gives you even more confidence.''
Love can relate.
He had gone 2 1/2 years without winning on the PGA Tour when he showed up at Sherwood Country Club, closed with a 64 and blew past Woods and Sergio Garcia to win by two shots. Two months later, he was holding the crystal trophy from winning at Pebble Beach.
``It certainly gets you going when it's right around the corner to the start of the year,'' Love said. ``Any time you win against a good field like this and on a hard golf course, you certainly feel like you're playing well, and it gives you a boost.''
There's a long list of players who got a shot in the arm at Sherwood.
Tom Lehman had gone three years without a PGA Tour victory, captured the first edition of this silly-season event, and won a month later in Phoenix. Padraig Harrington won twice in Europe after his victory at Target.
It even applies to Woods.
His worst year on the PGA Tour was in 2004, when his only victory was the Accenture Match Play Championship. He finished his year out by winning the Target World Challenge _ it was the last tournament his father saw him win in person _ then broke out of his major drought the next year by winning the Masters and British Open.
There's plenty of guys this year who could use that karma.
All but two players in the 16-man field are ranked in the top 25; John Daly and Fred Couples received special invitations. Daly is coming off his worst season ever, finishing No. 193 on the money list and having to rely on sponsor's exemptions next year. Couples was 110th on the money list, his lowest in five year, and that was with a third-place finish at the Masters.
Then there's Chris DiMarco, whose only good week on the PGA Tour was a runner-up finish at the British Open. He hasn't won since Phoenix four years ago. And Colin Montgomerie could always use a boost in just about any tournament but the Ryder Cup.
Then again, next year is already this year on the European Tour _ its '07 season technically began Nov. 9 in China.
For the PGA Tour, opening day is three weeks away in the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua, a winners-only tournament that Love is thrilled to be playing for obvious reasons.
His victory in October at Greensboro was his first in three years, and it rejuvenated his game and his goals.
``I would have come here trying to get something going for next year, rather than being in Mercedes and Hawaii,'' Love said. ``It was a long time coming. Certainly, getting healthy helped and getting the Ryder Cup behind us helped, and I learned a big lesson from that.''
The Ryder Cup is still a sore subject with Love _ not because the U.S. lost, which no longer is a surprise, and not necessarily because he wasn't a captain's pick. Despite is 20 years on tour, Love fell into the trap of gearing every shot toward making the team, and getting away from thinking only about hitting good shots.
``I'm excited about the way I finished the year, and now excited about starting the year in Hawaii,'' Love said.
Donald will join him there, courtesy of his victory at the Honda Classic. He is only 28, his best years still to come, and the Englishman is eager to take the next step. He feels he got caught the last few years being too satisfied with being on the leaderboard.
``There was definitely a period where I was racking up top 10s and I felt good about my game,'' Donald said. ``But when I really sat down and thought about it, it was really that satisfying. When you get the taste of winning, that's what you really want to do.''