Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Tiger Woods, centre with Lee Westwood, left, and Rory McIlory, right joined Emirati dancers on stage. Woods said he makes it a requisite that he plays different events during the year and experiences new places.
Tiger Woods, centre  with Lee Westwood, left, and Rory McIlory, right  joined Emirati dancers on stage. Woods said he makes it a requisite that he plays different events during the year and experiences new places.

The golfers get into the Abu Dhabi rhythm

Tiger Woods, the 14-time major winner, is excited to be in the capital and part of an 'incredible field', and he tees off with McIlroy and Donald.

ABU DHABI // The last time Tiger Woods felt this fit at the start of a new season, Rory McIlroy was yet to reach adolescence and Luke Donald was winning the Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island.

Tomorrow he will play alongside both men as the threesome compete together on the first day of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.

Yesterday morning, shortly before the Arabian sunshine brought a light sweat to his brow during a nine-hole practice round with McIlroy on the UAE capital's National Course, Woods said at a press briefing that he was feeling physically and mentally healthier than he had for "eight, 10, 12 years".

The 14-time major winner finished 2011 with victory at the Chevron World Challenge last December, ending a 107-week winless streak. Following a two-week break he has been gradually preparing for the new season and is looking to maintain the momentum.

The 36 year old has appeared at the Dubai Desert Classic six times, but is making his debut in Abu Dhabi and is starting his season in the Middle East for the first time. Woods has been forced to miss his favoured season-opening tournament at Torrey Pines to compete in the capital's US$2.7 million (Dh9.9m) event.

"There are probably several reasons why I've wanted to come to Abu Dhabi. The guys who have played here have said just wonderful things," he said, adding the involvement of HSBC helped his decision as they have "been a huge supporter of my foundation for years".

Woods, who took part in a traditional Emirati dance alongside McIlroy earlier in the day, said he tries to make it a requisite that he plays different events during the year and experiences new places.

"This is exciting for me," he said. "It is an incredible field that they have assembled here."

Three of the four reigning major winners, as well as the world's top four golfers, will join Woods, ranked No 25 in the world, this week.

The Californian was quizzed on the imminent release of a book entitled "The Big Miss" by Hank Haney, his former swing coach. The diary covers a six-year period from 2004 up until a month after the 2010 Masters, including the period when Woods took a voluntary break following scandalous revelations regarding his private life.

"Am I disappointed? Yes," he said when asked about the book. "Frustrated? Certainly, because I have to answer the questions." When pressed further on the subject, Woods closed up and gave brief answers: "No", "I don't know", "One might say that".

Despite Woods being exposed for multiple extramarital affairs, he remains the game's strongest crowd puller.

Sergio Garcia, the Spaniard, however said the American's involvement is irrelevant to him.

"To me, [he] doesn't bring anything," he said. "Obviously to the people who come watch it, he does.

"But if he wasn't here, I would still - it would not change my schedule."

Woods is believed to be receiving in the region of $3m for playing this weekend and, while refusing to comment on whether he had reduced his appearance fee, he conceded his schedule is often influenced by money.

"That's one of the reasons why a lot of the guys who play in Europe: they play in Europe and they get paid," he said. "The only tour that doesn't pay is the US Tour."

The 22-year-old McIlroy and Donald, the world No 1, will join Woods at the 10th hole to tee-off tomorrow at 7.40am.

Donald raised eyebrows last year when he said his Northern Irish playing partner was the most talented golfer he had ever seen. When Woods was asked if he agreed with Donald's assessment, he replied that Seve Ballesteros had impressed him more.

"[I've] never seen a person do things with the golf ball that he was able to do and the creativeness that he was able to do," Woods said.

"I never saw [Ben] Hogan hit a ball, never saw Mr [Byron] Nelson hit a ball, never saw Jack [Nicklaus] in his prime. But I did see Seve; it was impressive."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Al Ahli's Ismail Al Hammadi, left, battles for the ball during the Arabian Gulf Cup final between against Al Jazira at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium on April 19, 2014. Al Hammadi hit the game-winner in the 81st minute for Ahli. Al Ittihad

Al Ahli maintain course for domestic treble with victory over Al Jazira in Arabian Gulf Cup

Al Ahli maintained their hopes of a domestic treble with a superb comeback victory against Al Jazira in the Arabian Gulf Cup final on Saturday night.

 Yuzvendra Chahal, centre, and the Royal Challengers Bangalore teammates celebrate after the bowlers set up an easy win over Mumbai Indians. Pawan Singh / The National

Bowlers set up Bangalore as Patel stand tall over Mumbai

Mumbai bowlers gave early hope but Parthiv Patel and AB de Villiers' unbeaten stand of 99 ensures second defeat for the men in blue in Dubai.

 Roelof Kotzee is leading UAE to unchartered territory. Sarah Dea / The National

UAE step into the unknown ahead of Asian Five Nations

Performance manager Roelof Kotze will give 12 players their first experience of international rugby, but there is also minimal information on Singapore ahead of first Test in Dubai on Wednesday, reports Paul Radley.

 Manuel Pellegrini believes Manchester City have the ability to bounce back from recent defeats to win the Premier League title. Andrew Yates / AFP

Pellegrini certain Manchester City will take title race down to wire

As his side host West Brom in a must-win match, the manager is banking on other teams dropping points in the last few weeks of the Premier League title race.

 Novak Djokovic of Serbia winces in pain during his semi-final match against Roger Federer of Switzerland at the Monte Carlo Masters on April 19, 2014. Federer prevailed to set up an all-Swiss final with Stanislas Wawrinka. SEBASTIEN NOGIER / EPA

Ailing Djokovic will ‘just rest now’ while Nadal not pressing the panic button

Djokovic says only rest will help is injured right wrist after he falls to Roger Federer on Saturday, and Nadal suffers just his third career defeat in Monte Carlo when he slumped to a shock 7-6, 6-4 quarter-final loss to compatriot Ferrer on Friday.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National