TIGER KNOCKING, RORY IN THE WINGS
If you've never heard of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, let alone witnessed a round played there, I'm sure you do now. And the reason? Two words - Tiger Woods.
The former World Number One may not light up the courses the way he did before "the incident", but he sure can draw the crowds. I was privileged enough to have been at the wonderful Abu Dhabi Golf Club over the last weekend to witness the near "second coming" of Tiger, accompanied by what seemed like everyone in that small, but highly illustrious, country.
Alas, an errant driver (two fairways hit in the final round) prevented a fairy tale ending to Tiger's on-going saga to come back from the doldrums of social outcast back to the limelight, but he can take heart that he didn't blow up his round (ending with a ho-hum even par while those around him chalked up sub-par rounds). If there's any consolation, I didn't see Tiger miss a single putt from under 10 feet, and he can take that positive with him to the circus in Pebble Beach when the AT&T is held in a couple of weeks' time.
The unofficial words is that Tiger was paid under US$2m for his time in the Emirates, a bargain from the high price he used to command. The eyeballs, and golf shoe cladded feet, his presence attracted is arguably way more than that price tag (as a comparison, the winner of the tournament earned less than US$350,000). It more than paid off with his steady play through the week, and close contest with the "pretender to the throne", Rory McIlroy (who finished a creditable second, one stroke ahead of Tiger with a birdie on the 17th).
It's early days in the season, but if any of the barometers are showing, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship is a clear indication of what is in store for us excited golf fans this year. That is a healthy Tiger showing some teeth, Rory continuing to play stellar golf, and a bunch of journeymen possibly coming out of nowhere to snatch the trophy away from the usual suspects.
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