x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Here comes Tiger Woods

Abu Dhabi has followed its Formula One grand prix with a loud Wednesday in its onward, upwards path toward global loudness.

The roar coming from Abu Dhabi is about Tiger Woods, who announced he will be playing in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Tournament.
The roar coming from Abu Dhabi is about Tiger Woods, who announced he will be playing in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Tournament.

Bringing the biggest name in golf to Abu Dhabi is something of a coup in many more ways than one

After a loud weekend at Yas, Abu Dhabi followed with a loud Wednesday in its onward, upwards path toward global loudness.

Three days after the foamy earplugs came out, the noisy name "Tiger Woods" came in, as the proper noun "Abu Dhabi" continued mining sport toward such recognisability that even the geographically oblivious souls we know as "Americans" can pronounce it, sometimes.

Bringing the most fascinating No 50-ranked golfer in history to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship did meet the criteria for coup in several ways. It shifted him and his thick galleries over from Dubai but moreover shifted him 13,602 meaningful kilometres from San Diego.

(It also helped further a worthy cause, that of diversion from any residual chatter about England's 1-0 "win" over Spain in that friendly at Wembley Stadium, an outcome deserving of zero coverage and zero reporters except perhaps those brave sorts from Hello! and the like. If you carefully compute the meaning of England beating Spain in a friendly, it ends up having this much meaning: 0.0000000001, unless I misread and it's actually -0.0000000001.)

For so much of our misspent lives, Woods in San Diego in late January or early February marked a staple of the American calendar, much like the Super Bowl or the horrifying shopping day after Thanksgiving. Woods would win at Torrey Pines, the scenery would look gorgeous, and a thousand more people would relocate to San Diego.

He won in 1999, again in 2003, again in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008.

In 2009, a ripped-up knee prevented his entry, and the entire place cratered deep into the earth's core. (Actually, they refrained from discontinuing, enabling one of the nicest men in human history, Nick Watney, to win.)

Dating back to 1952, that tournament once had the singer Andy Williams as host before becoming the San Diego Open (good clarity), the Shearson Lehman Brothers Open (no longer possible), the Buick Open (prettier than the other Buick Opens) and nowadays the Farmers Insurance Open. The parent and future author Earl Woods brought his young son there to witness.

"It obviously goes way back for me," Woods said when he made it his debut event in 2011. "This was the first tournament I ever watched at a PGA Tour level. I played here as a junior. I came down here and played the South Course when I was seven or eight … It means a lot for me to come back down here."

Even more, it staged Woods's last major title, the stirring 2008 US Open when he kept breaking his leg shot after shot, yet kept toward a Monday play-off with Rocco Mediate. To wrest Woods from San Diego to Abu Dhabi marks a fine little shift.

(It also forestalls an entire preachy column on the concept of "friendlies" and exhibitions such as the one between England and Spain - or England and Sweden - on their carbon-footprint sins, their triplet wastes of petrol, electricity and traffic-police effort, their manufactured significance and their appeal to managers, which alone should exclude them from 21st-century life.)

Then, when Woods arrives with European Tour kingpins while many colleagues arrive in San Diego, he will bring along his peerless storyline and his feckless recent past. Like Torrey Pines in 2011, the Abu Dhabi Championship will resonate in 2012 as his season lidlifter.

The 2011 Farmers Insurance even qualified as microcosm with his 69-69-74-75, a shout of promise followed with a weekend fade. He finished T-44. Uh oh.

Unfortunately for drama addicts, his troubled days since that US Open of 2008 have come freighted with little hints of hope and thorough bursts of reality (plus heaping dollops of scandal). It has grown lost that he did finish fourth in the 2011 Masters (while you and I did not). It also has grown exhausting listening to him give the necessary self-pep-talks in press conferences as we scan our binoculars hunting for the breakthrough.

It felt tired again last weekend with the hullabaloo over his third-place finish in Australia, but by January in a fresh year we can envision a fresh Tiger, in Abu Dhabi.

(Meanwhile, those of us who wish to see England win a World Cup before exiting the planet should conspire on a fresh tack we might call the Campaign of Hopelessness. Rather than have the team travel in the usual cloud of expectation and delusion of viability, it should travel as a mass-derided entity that might gain spark from the noblest athletic pursuit, that of proving "experts" wrong. For its part in drowning out the sound of any recent violation of precious hopelessness, a special thanks to Abu Dhabi.)


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