Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Tiger Woods: Fee influenced schedule
By Bob Harig
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Tiger Woods acknowledged Tuesday that being paid an appearance fee played a significant role in deciding to open his 2012 season in the Middle East instead of California, where he had traditionally started his golf year.
Woods, who has played in Dubai on six occasions, is making his debut at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which begins Thursday at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
The tournament purse of $2.7 million is less than half of what is being offered this week on the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, but only slightly more than what Woods is believed to be receiving just for showing up here, 12 time zones away.
Asked if the payment of appearance fees influences his scheduling decisions, Woods said, "I'd have to say yes, it certainly does. That's one of the reasons why a lot of the guys who play in Europe, they do play in Europe, and they do get paid. I think the only tour that doesn't pay is the U.S. Tour."
The PGA Tour prohibits the payment of appearance fees. While the subject is not officially discussed among European Tour officials, it is a widely accepted practice. It is perhaps the biggest reason this tournament has attracted the best field of the year to date.
Woods will play the first two rounds in Abu Dhabi with world No. 1 Luke Donald and No. 3 Rory McIlroy. The pairing will start at 7:40 a.m. local time Thursday (10:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday night ET) and at 12:05 p.m. local time Friday (3:05 a.m. ET.)
In addition to Donald, McIlroy and Woods, who is ranked 25th in the world, the tournament has each of the top four players in the Official World Golf Ranking -- No. 2 Lee Westwood and defending champion Martin Kaymer (No. 4). In all, six of the top 10 and 11 of the top 25 are in the field.
Meanwhile, the Farmers Insurance event at Torrey Pines will play out without Woods, who has won the tournament six times in 12 appearances and finished out of the top 10 just once -- last year, when he tied for 44th. It is also where he won the 2008 U.S. Open in a playoff over Rocco Mediate.
"Torrey has been a golf course I have enjoyed playing since junior golf, since I used to play the Junior World there," Woods said. "Unfortunately, just scheduling-wise, it didn't work out. As I said, HSBC has been a huge supporter of [his] foundation. It's one of the reasons I'm here."
HSBC has been working to get Woods to play here for several years. But he previously had an appearance fee deal with the Dubai Desert Classic, which will be played in two weeks, where he played six times and won twice.
Woods said the strong field and good reviews of the course also helped with the decision.
"I've tried to make it a requisite that I'm playing different places throughout the year and playing new events," he said. "This is a new event for me. I've never played here before, and this is exciting for me."
Woods, who played a practice round with McIlroy after his news conference, was asked several questions about the book written by his former coach, Hank Haney. Last week Woods told ESPN.com that he felt his coach of six years was "unprofessional" for writing a book that will be released just prior to the Masters.
Asked about Haney's book and the controversy that enveloped former caddie Steve Williams, Woods said Tuesday "certainly it's something I have to deal with. I get asked at press conferences what these guys have done, and that's just part of it. Am I disappointed? Yes. Frustrated? Certainly, because I have to answer the questions. It's been awhile since I haven't had to answer those questions ... and I guess I'll have to continue doing it."
Woods dismissed another query about Haney and the book, saying, "I think I've answered all the questions on that."
Abu Dhabi is Woods' first tournament since winning the unofficial Chevron World Challenge on Dec. 4 -- his first victory anywhere in two years. The tournament offered world ranking points and jumped Woods 32 spots.
Bob Harig is ESPN.com's senior golf writer.