The seventh year of the event has attracted three of the four major winners from 2011 and the world No 1 Luke Donald.
Tiger Woods is confirmed to play at Abu Dhabi Golf Championship
ABU DHABI // Tiger Woods’s decision to play in January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship came after three years of talks with tournament organisers who were determined to lure the world’s most famous player to the capital.
Peter German, the tournament director, said negotiations with the representatives of the former world No 1 began in 2008 yet only came to fruition after the British Open in July when Woods privately confirmed his participation.
German suggested the personal turmoil Woods has endured contributed to the protracted nature of the negotiations.
“It’s been hard work, in part, because of everything that has happened to him over that period,” German said. “It didn’t help. We know Tiger’s new manager [Mark Steinberg] very well and that was beneficial to getting the deal done. We got the ‘yes’ in July and had to keep it secret all this time.”
Woods’s appearance in Abu Dhabi means he will not play in next year’s Dubai Desert Classic, an event he won in 2008 and played in last year. The four-day event in the capital will be his only Middle East tournament of 2012.
Earlier this year, organisers managed to attract the then holders of the four majors: Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Phil Mickleson. They feel they have usurped that this time by attracting the 14-time major winner.
“He is the most charismatic golfer in the world and the fact he has slipped down the rankings doesn’t affect his standing in the game,” German said. “I believe he will be back [to his best]. He’s too good a player for that not to happen and I hope it’s in Abu Dhabi.”
The field for the seventh staging of the championship will also include Luke Donald, the world No 1, and three current major holders Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlory and Darren Clarke. Kaymer, the three-time Abu Dhabi winner and reigning champion, will also at one of his favourite courses.
The other players confirmed yesterday were Lee Westwood, Jason Day, who finished runner-up in both The Masters and US Open this year, and KJ Choi, who lifted the 2011 Players Championship.
“We have the top four in the world, plus Tiger Woods,” said German. “You will struggle to get a stronger field outside of a major championship. The difficulty for us now is what we do next year to top this.”
Other names will be revealed over the coming weeks, the organisers said. Mickelson could return while Keegan Bradley, the PGA champion, is rumoured to be considering playing. But it is Woods who will grab all the headlines ahead of the event between January 26-29.
“I know research has been done on who is the most famous sportsman on the planet and it’s between Tiger and David Beckham, and I would say Tiger is the best known,” German said.
Woods first played in the UAE in 2001 in the Dubai Desert Classic but this will be his first appearance in the capital.
“I’ve heard a lot about Abu Dhabi and the championship, which is a favourite among many of the players who return each year,” Woods said in a statement.
“I’m looking forward to 2012 and what I hope will be a great year of golf for me. I’ve always enjoyed playing in HSBC events ... so I have been interested in including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in my schedule for some time.
“I am also intrigued to spend time in Abu Dhabi. Visiting new places is one of the things I really enjoy about being a professional golfer.”
Dayne Lim Kok Chun, product development division director for Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, who organise the event, described the inclusion of Woods as a “massive coup” and “icing on the cake” of a tournament first hosted in 2006.
There will be prize money of US$2.7million (Dh9.9m), an increase of $500,000 on this year. The winner will take home $450,000.