Woods rejects Pines for Abu Dhabi green

His price is down, but his hopes are up. Tiger Woods, attracted by a $1.5-million appearance fee (significantly reduced from what he demanded in his prime), will begin his 2012 season in the unfamiliar surroundings of Abu Dhabi in the unfamiliar role of underdog.

The world number 25 has eschewed the PGA Tour event in San Diego, a tournament he has won six times, to come to the Middle East, where he will face the top four players in the world, two of whom — Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy — were paired alongside him for the first two days of the Abu Dhabi Championship, which began on Thursday.

Coming off his victory at the Chevron World Challenge at the tail end of last year, his first for more than two years, Woods could not have chosen a more exacting test of his apparently restored swing. Yet he did his best to sound optimistic.

“It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been physically fit, so I’m looking forward to getting out there, playing and giving it a full season, which I haven’t done in a while,” Woods said yesterday, before playing a practice round at the Abu Dhabi club.

Who would deny a man the unblemished hope that comes with the start of any new season? But Woods will find that the world of golf this year is considerably different from the world of golf he once dominated. Off the course he still commands more attention than any other golfer, but his power is no longer unfettered. Witness the decision by his former swing coach, Hank Haney, to publish a book chronicling their six years together. Woods is furious about what he believes is a betrayal of trust.

The publication date is timed for the week before the Masters, creating maximum impact for sales and maximum distraction for the book’s subject. Asked whether he found it difficult to trust people in the light of Haney’s publication, Woods was terse to the point of rudeness: “One might say so.”

More prosaically, the former world number one finds himself on the wrong end of market forces. Before personal scandal damaged his gilded brand, he asked for and received upwards of $3-million just to turn up to play in the Middle East, most notably in neighbouring Dubai. This week he is being paid half of that. This is not exactly penury by the standards of normal people, but it is a reflection of his diminished stature, not to mention his personal circumstances in the wake of a reported divorce settlement of $100-million. It is safe to assume he is far from broke, but with a jet, a couple of yachts and a $40-million house, his weekly outgoings are, how can it be said, significant.

Woods unrepentant despite criticism
Woods’s decision to skip this week’s event at Torrey Pines, where he won the 2008 US Open, the last of his 14 major victories, has resulted in his being criticised for placing guaranteed money above an improved chance of victory on a course where he has been a proven winner.

He was unrepentant, conceding that appearance fees play a part in his scheduling. “It certainly does,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why a lot of the guys play in Europe. They do get paid. I think the only tour that doesn’t pay is the US tour.”

The fall in Woods’s “stock price” could easily be reversed were he to start winning tournaments on a regular basis. That, however, may be easier said than done this week. After more than two years without a win, the former world champion prevailed in December’s Chevron World Challenge, where he birdied the final two holes to hold off Zach Johnson. A win is a win, as the old saying goes, but there were only 17 other players in the field, many of them exhausted at the end of a long season. Woods, on the other hand, was out injured for significant parts of the year and was fresh.

This week’s Abu Dhabi Championship represents an altogether different proposition, with Donald, McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, the world’s top four ranked players, in the field.

Donald, who won the money list on both sides of the Atlantic, is coming off the best year of his career, while McIlroy, Westwood and Kaymer all won big events in the closing weeks of 2011. Kaymer has won three times on this Abu Dhabi course. A victory for Woods on Sunday would represent his most significant since that US Open win three-and-a-half years ago.

As always, Woods insisted he had made the journey here – 16 hours in total from his Florida home, with a stop in London for fuel — with the intention of winning. He was more gnomic when asked to look ahead to the rest of the year.

“Who knows? Unless you have a crystal ball and you want to tell me about it, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to it, though,” he said. “Unfortunately, I had only one win last year. I would like to get more than that this year.” –

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

What now for Abu Dhabi’s Man City project?

After being banned by Uefa from European competitions for two years, will the side return to their old, mediocre standards?

Homeground advantage

With the Irish fans behind him and a consistent period of top play, Rory McIlroy is the favourite

Tiger Woods seals first win in five years with Tour Championship

The 42-year-old, 14-time major winner carded a one-over-par 71 at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Course to claim the 80th PGA Tour title of his career

A rivalry golf has been waiting for

Even though Jordan Spieth denies it is a goal, the game is getting more exciting for his chase of Rory McIlroy.

Fowler relishes battle with Rory

With McIlroy and Fowler both aged 25 and displaying a swashbuckling style, they are regarded as a duo who could influence a generation of golfers.

McIlroy is up for the ultimate test

Rory McIlroy tells Ewan Murray why the biennial match between Europe and the US provides golf's 'ultimate buzz'.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

WSU suspends classes and exams to avoid the spread of...

The university says it has to take the precautionary measures because 26 students have tested positive on its East London campus

Entrepreneurs strike Covid gold

Some enterprising people found ways for their ventures to survive the strictest lockdown levels

Ithala backs its embattled chairperson

Roshan Morar is being investigated in connection with KwaZulu-Natal education department backpack sanitiser tender worth R4-million and a batch of face masks that vanished

Emery Mwazulu Diyabanza: Liberating Africa from land of liberté

The cultural and political activist is on a quest to bring looted treasures back home

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday