x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Still no sign of a return to form for Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is still struggling to recapture his form and it is now looking more likely Martin Kaymer will win a second major before Woods wins a 15th.

Tiger Woods failed to shine at Torrey Pines last weekend despite having won there six times in the past.
Tiger Woods failed to shine at Torrey Pines last weekend despite having won there six times in the past.

As Tiger Woods prepares for his long-awaited return to the Emirates Golf Club next week, the doubts about his capacity to return to peak form show no signs of dissipating.

Since his second Omega Dubai Desert Classic victory three years ago, Woods has undergone knee surgery, lost his No 1 world ranking and seen his private life put under an intense microscope.

During his absence, the best players on the European Tour have risen to such a degree that he does not arrive at the Majlis Course as the favourite, let alone the best golfer in the world.

Lee Westwood relieved him of the top ranking at the end of last year and Martin Kaymer has since emerged as the heir apparent to Woods.

Things showed no sign of improving for Woods last week when he launched his challenge at Torrey Pines, on one of his favourite courses and scene of six of his Tour successes. It was also the venue for his last major victory, in the 2008 US Open.

But Woods failed to challenge for the top spot, which eventually went to Bubba Watson, and he probably will be casting envious eyes to Doha over the next four days where Westwood and Kaymer hope to continue their rich vein of form before joining the American in a summit meeting of the world's top three in Dubai.

Another victory for Kaymer in Qatar this weekend on the back of his triumph in Abu Dhabi last month will elevate the German to top of the rankings ladder if Westwood fails to finish second.

A runner-up finish for Kaymer would be sufficient to make him the 14th player to claim No 1 status since the rankings were introduced in 1986, providing Westwood finished outside the top 22.

Such a scenario is on the cards as Kaymer has continued to look the real deal since his major breakthrough in last year's US PGA championship.

The German looks more likely to add to his single major title than Woods does to his haul of 14.

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The Desert Classic will for the first time this year complete a full month of high quality professional golf in the Middle East when it is held next weekend.

That is thanks to the successful addition of Bahrain last week to the fixture list.

The Volvo Champions tournament, which marked a belated return to the winner's enclosure for Paul Casey, the two-time Abu Dhabi champion, provided an interesting platform for the powerful voice of Colin Montgomerie to advocate even more golf in the Middle East.

Europe's triumphant Ryder Cup captain, who already has strong connections in the region, is pushing the claims of Saudi Arabia at a time when local discussions about a separate Middle East Tour are close to coming to fruition.

Money talks nowadays and such an addition to the calendar is more probable than fanciful.

wjohnson@thenational.ae