Tiger Woods (pictured) is apparently being paid $3 million to play in the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour this week. That is a huge amount for four days work, but Woods would say it is justified as he brings spectators through the gate and can promote an event like no other player.
At the same time, Rory McIlroy has signed an 80 million pound deal with Nike to use their equipment and now becomes one of the most marketable sportsmen in the world. Both deals question the players’ concerned hunger for a tournament that carries a prize fund of a mere 2.7 million Euro.
This tournament in the United Arab Emirates is part of a three week Desert Swing which also includes events in Qatar and Dubai over the next two weeks. Each event has a lucrative prize fund and that is reflected in the quality of the fields.
McIlroy and Woods are number one and two in the world and the field also includes Justin Rose who is ranked fifth in the current standings. Interest is also added by the appearance of Jason Dufner, statistically the 11th best player in the world.
This week’s event has been held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club since 2005 so there is plenty of course form to assess. At 7600 yards, the course is above average in length by modern standards. Although driving distance will be important finding the greens in regulation is the key to victory here.
The National course was altered from its recreational set up to provide a tougher test for the pros with the addition of 30 bunkers, a hundred trees and five new tees. With seven lakes on the course, water comes into play on half the holes. The course is quite exposed so wind can be a factor.
Martin Kaymer has the best course form of the entire field but McIlroy has also shown he is suited to the layout over a number of years. Woods is playing at Abu Dhabi for the first time but its worth noting that he finished inside the top 50 for both driving distance and greens in regulation on the US Tour last year.