2003: Newsmakers - Players pick safety over golf in Dubai
The show will go on in Qatar and Dubai. But several of the world’s top golfers have decided not to.
Tiger Woods said March 2 he would not play in the March 6-9 Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates because of safety concerns. He delayed his decision two days while his handlers monitored tensions in the Middle East with government officials, including the U.S. State Department.
“It’s just not a safe environment,” Woods said after his victory over David Toms in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. “I don’t think it’s wise to go over there. I want to go. If it’s safe next year, I’ll go. I had fun there (in 2001, when he finished second to Thomas Bjorn). There was go-cart racing, a gun club and we had a great time.”
Woods would have received an appearance fee said to be worth $3 million for playing Dubai, up $1 million over past overseas visits. If the tournament were called off because of a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq, Woods would have been paid his appearance fee based on his contract, agent Mark Steinberg said.
WGC semifinalist Adam Scott, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are others who have decided not to go to Dubai because of the threat of war.
Defending Dubai champion Ernie Els had said after losing in the WGC first round that he would not return, but a couple of days later he changed his mind. Mark O’Meara, Woods’ neighbor and best friend on tour, also plans to play at Dubai, as do European Tour players Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley among others.
In addition to the Dubai event, the PGA European Tour plans to push ahead with the $1.5 million Qatar Masters in Doha the following week despite British government warnings on travel to Qatar, according to David Probyn, the tour’s assistant director of operations and tournament director for the Qatar Masters.
“The people in Qatar are very positive about holding the tournament over there, and we are going forward,” Probyn said of the March 13-16 event. “Unless there is any dramatic change to the situation we intend to be there. . . . I was there last week and the situation was very much as normal, and so we don’t believe there to be any need to change our plans.”
Scott, the 2002 Qatar Masters champion, will not play the event.
Earlier this month, the British Foreign Office issued a specific warning advising British citizens to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary.
“We advise you not to make any non-essential travel including holiday travel to Qatar,” the Foreign Office said on its Web site. “We are giving this advice because of the increasing regional tension and of the risk of terrorist action.”