Former world No.1 Tiger Woods will make his debut appearance in next year’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, tournament organisers announced here on Wednesday.
The $2.7 million tournament, which is part of the European Tour’s early season Desert Swing, will be played from January 26-29. It is expected to be Woods’ first event of the 2012 season.
The American has clearly made a major reshuffle in his schedule as participation in Abu Dhabi means he will not play the Farmer’s Insurance Open in Torrey Pines, which has been his usual season-opener.
The 2012 tournament dates coincide with the Torrey Pines event.
And according to tournament organisers, IMG, Woods is not scheduled to play in any other tournament in the Middle East this season, which would mean he is not playing the Dubai Desert Classic, which has been his regular stop in the region since 2001, having played it six times since then.
“I’ve heard a lot about Abu Dhabi and the Championship which is a favourite among many of the players who return each year. I’m looking forward to 2012 and what I hope will be a great year of golf for me,” Woods said in a statement released by organisers.
Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), promoters of the tournament are expecting record attendances because of the Tiger effect, as well as a classy line-up which includes reigning world No.1 Luke Donald, three-time champion and world No.4 Martin Kaymer, world No.2 Rory McIlroy and No.3 Lee Westwood.
Faisal Al Sheikh, Events Manager at ADTA, said: “We are confident that record crowds will gather to see Tiger Woods make his Abu Dhabi debut in what will be his only competitive Middle East appearance of the year.”
Apart from reigning US Open champion McIlroy, the tournament will also feature British Open champion Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
Another big name to confirm his presence in Abu Dhabi is Australian world No.7 Jason Day.
Woods, a 14-time Major champion, hasn’t won a tournament since the Australian Masters in November 2009, and his ranking has dropped to 50th in the world.
But the American has shown some signs of regaining his magic touch, and played three good rounds in last week’s Australian Open where he finished third.
The announcement will come as a major blow for the long-established Dubai Desert Classic, which is played two weeks after the Abu Dhabi tournament.
Woods was always the biggest drawcard there, having won the title twice – in 2006 and 2008.