Shifting sands help Abu Dhabi to capture Tiger Woods
Same desert, different Sheikh. Tiger Woods has shown he is still prepared to stray if the money is right by moving his long affiliation from the Dubai Classic to the Abu Dhabi Championship.
Yesterday's announcement was something of a coup for the European Tour as it means that for the first time in his 15-year career, Woods will not be teeing off his year on American soil. The 26-29 January spectacular promises to be one of the top events on the entire calendar, as Woods is joined by the world's top four players in Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
However, it says plenty about the continued lure of Woods that the collective appearance fees of that top-ranked quartet will be dwarfed by that of Woods. Indeed, the total prize fund is $2.7m (£1.7m) while Woods will collect at least $2.75m simply for turning up and fulfilling a couple of promotional obligations. Not bad for a disgraced icon.
Abu Dhabi have been chasing Woods' signature. His "exclusive" contract with Dubai ran out in January and, with funds comparatively short in that particular city in the UAE, there was little chance of a new deal. Perhaps Woods is not the most popular in Dubai after it was reported he was paid $55.4m up front in 2008 for putting his name to a $1bn golfing and residential development which was never finished. In February's Dubai Classic, Woods was fined for spitting on a green.
HSBC is the other reason Woods will be in the UAE and not at Torrey Pines. The banking giant always tries to lure Woods and yesterday boasted this will be "his only competitive appearance in the Middle East of the year".
This morning, as the Presidents Cup began at Royal Melbourne, all eyes were on Woods. He was partnering Steve Stricker in the foursomes against Adam Scott and K J Choi as the International team tried for their first win over the US since 1998. Scott's caddie, of course, is Steve Williams, who referred to Woods, his former employee, as "that black arsehole" in an awards speech in Shanghai two weeks ago.
* The merger of the English Golf Union and the English Women's Golf Association was approved yesterday at simultaneous general meetings of both organisations. England Golf will come into effect on 1 January 2012 and will be the one governing body representing all amateur golfers in England.
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