The golf media has gone Full Circle Jerk-it on Woods’s commitment to play Phoenix this year. But let’s take a look under the hood regarding this wonderful “change of heart” by Woods.
Let’s start by looking at Woods’s past nine years:
- 2006 Dubai Desert Classic
- 2007 Dubai Desert Classic
- 2008 Dubai Desert Classic
- 2009 (didn’t start until week 9; coming off of knee surgery)
- 2010 (played on the Sexual Addiction Tour)
- 2011 Dubai Desert Classic
- 2012 Abu Dhabi Championship
- 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship
- 2014 Dubai Desert Classic
Woods played in the UAE every year with the exceptions of 2010 (when he didn’t play at all until the Masters) and 2009 (when he didn’t play at all until the Match Play).
We all know Abu Dhabi and Dubai pay appearance fees, so Woods had a strong financial incentive to play in the UAE and jettison tournaments such as the Phoenix Open (and L.A. Open and Pebble Beach Pro-Am) to keep his playing commitments around 20 events total. Like clockwork, Woods flew to the UAE every year to play one of those two events and pocket the appearance fee (in addition to any money he might win in the tournament).
So what happened this year?
Well, recall the past two years. In 2013, Woods missed the cut at Abu Dhabi. In 2014, Woods finished T-41 at Dubai.
Why would the sponsors of the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic want to pay large appearance fees to a guy who isn’t competitive in their events? Answer: They don’t.
[I]t has become something of a tradition for Woods to play one of his first events of the year in the United Arab Emirates with Dubai and Abu Dhabi at times competing for his signature. Until now that is.
A Tour insider told The Telegraph: “Of course Tiger is still a huge name, but those tournaments are not prepared to bust their budgets any more.”
“There are other players of big interest now, not least Rory McIlroy. In these market conditions, at those prices, Woods does not represent the value he once did.”
Another reason for Woods to skip the Dubai Desert Classic: He didn’t want to hear Rory’s victory song, The Script’s “Hall of Fame.” The Dubai tourney is sponsored by Omega, the creator of the ubiquitous commercial featuring that tune.