From boom to bust: Why Tiger and Dubai make a perfect pair

Woods faces the world's top two today with his half-built $1bn course a reminder of his collapse

If Tiger Woods and Dubai dared to reflect on what has happened since they were last together competitively, they would be forgiven for sinking to their knees and burying their heads in all that sand. It is fair to surmise that in this three-year period the pair have gone in for a bit of a synchronised crash landing.

Woods was king of every fairway he surveyed back in February 2008. With a brilliant 65 he overhauled Ernie Els' four-shot advantage to pick up his second Desert Classic title. He was in the middle of a startling seven tournament winning run, the longest of his garlanded career. Nobody could rival him. He was untouchable.

The world knows differently now. A sex scandal led to his life and his game falling apart. Woods has not prevailed in 15 months, the longest barren spell of his career. In property terms, his boom went bust. Dubai could obviously empathise on the score. The emirate's facade was also a great illusion just waiting to shatter.

This mirror mirage is probably best encapsulated by the part-developed waste ground to the south of the city. "Tiger Woods Dubai" was to be the first course he had designed and with palaces peering over mansions would be a $1bn residential monument to his success and Dubai's excess. Last month, it was officially mothballed. A statement from the developers confirmed what by then had become obvious: "Project suspended". The suspicion is it will not be finished at all. The desert will soon reclaim the six completed fairways.

Predictably, Woods was asked about this yesterday and even more predictably declined to comment. He did say, "We have a few meetings set up this week", but his tone was not positive. Instead, it was as it has always been – guarded. At least one thing has stayed the same in this period of devastation.

Woods has long since perfected the art of saying plenty while revealing nothing and yesterday's 20 minutes in the media centre were like the edited lowlights of his collected press conferences. "I am here to win, same as always," was about as good as it got. We did find out that he quite likes Paris, but has only been there twice. Yet there were a few brief moments of candour at the very end.

"You've had a club in your hands the best part of 33 years, do you ever think, 'I'd quite like to do something else'?" he was asked. "Yeah," he replied. "Well, what would that be? Where do you see yourself in 20 years?" "I won't be in front of you guys." "What would you like to be doing?" "I'm not telling you." "No idea?" "I know where I'll be. But it won't be here."

It would be fascinating to be let in on his life plan, just as it would be interesting to see where the game took him before he packed his clubs away. Woods used to enthral through his inevitability, but now he grips through his unpredictably. He used to be distinct from the crowd because of his superiority but now he is distinct in this crowd because of his similarity. He's out the back, down the pack and in uncharted territory, whatever he may claim to the contrary.

Rory McIlroy explained it very nicely yesterday, although Woods could well be hurt by the young man's honest assessment. "Tiger's not been playing badly, he's just been playing like a normal professional golfer," said the Ulsterman. "You know, I never played in those tournaments when he was dominating, so I've never felt that aura. When I play with Tiger I don't really feel like there's any special presence about him. He's just one of the guys."

Will he ever be anything more again? Indeed, will he ever be "just of the sporting gods" again? McIlroy isn't so sure. "If he swung it the way he swung it in 2000 I definitely think he would dominate again," said the 21-year-old. "But with the knee injury he had, it's very difficult for him to do that now. But he's working very hard with [his coach] Sean Foley, putting in the hours, and if that new swing clicks into place I'm sure he'll start winning a lot of tournaments again. But I'm not sure we'll ever see him dominate the way he did back in the early 2000s."

McIlroy, like everyone in the game, is intrigued by the 35-year-old's attempt at a sporting resurrection, as he fights with the new motion he believes will, at the very least, net him the five majors to displace Jack Nicklaus at the top of the golfing roll of honour. That is one of the reasons why McIlroy, when he completes his first round this lunchtime, will return to his room to watch the afternoon transmission. The other two reasons are Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer; the golfers immediately above Woods in the rankings. Together they will make up the most illustrious three-ball in the history of the European Tour.

Never before have the world's No 1, 2 and 3 been "drawn" together, a fact that gives the 12.20pm tee-time such a delicious billing. Woods welcomed the initiative. "It's going to be a fun pairing," he said. "Back in the States our Tour is making a concerted effort to put together some featured pairings and I think it's good for the game. That's why they're doing it here this week. It's great for us as players and it's great for golf fans."

Woods was never going to say anything else, but he would not be human, and certainly not "just one of the guys" if at least a part of him did not worry about the potential for inferiority. His swing is nowhere near the finished article – one American analyst quipped this week, "he's shifting his hips more than Shakira" – while his once legendary scrambling powers have gone AWOL. Furthermore, a rookie who partnered him in the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open last month basically accused Woods of giving up as he stumbled towards a tie for 44th in his season opener.

Little wonder, therefore, that Ladbrokes have resisted installing Woods as the favourite to "win" the marquee three-ball. Neither, however, do they have No 1 Westwood as the player most likely to record the lowest opening score among the trio. Instead the pride of place in the betting market goes to Kaymer.

Ironically, it was the German who finished runner-up to Woods in 2008. Then he was only 23 and freshly arrived on the scene. Now he is the USPGA Champion and, in many people's eyes, the main long-term threat to Woods ever regaining his mantle. With an eight-shot victory in Abu Dhabi three weeks ago, Kaymer is clearly the man Woods must look out for, if not the one against whom to gauge his own progression.

"No we don't know how Tiger will perform, but then Westwood has not enjoyed the best start either to the year," McIlroy said. "But I think we know what Kaymer is going to do. He is going to go out and play pretty well. It's up to the other two to play as well as him."

To think, not so long ago they would say that about Woods. Perhaps they will again. And perhaps it will be sooner than later. How he could do with turning the corner in the desert, at the Majlis Course where, in five starts, he has never finished outside the top five. After this, he has only three more events before the Masters.

Then there is the brand. His manager, Mark Steinberg, is in talks with prospective sponsors to replace the desertees – Accenture, Gatorade and AT&T – and is realistic about what it will take to return him to his previous endorsement mark of $100m-a-year. "We live in a society that is about second chances," Steinberg said. "And if he conducts himself the way he has been, continues his rehabilitation and performs on the golf course, I do believe he'll be back where he was before."

But Woods must perform. Or Dubai, for one, will never again offer him the $3m appearance fee to be here. That would be a lot of money to be spending on a has-been; particularly when the oil is running out and the cash is following suit. Fortunately for Woods, his own commodity still has its supply line. For now.

Return of the Tiger

Tiger Woods' record since his comeback:

US Masters: April '10, T4

Quail Hollow Championship: April, MC

The Players: May, WD

Memorial: June, T19

US Open: June, T4

AT&T National: July, T46

The Open: July, T23

WGC Bridgestone: August, T78

US PGA Championship: August, T28

The Barclays: August, T12

Deutsche Bank: Sept, T11

BMW Championship: Sept, T15

WGC-HSBC Champions: Nov, T6

Australian Masters: Nov, 4th

Chevron World Challenge: Dec, 2nd

Farmers Insurance Open: Jan '11, T44

T=tied; MC=Missed cut; WD=withdrew

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim footballer acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster