1. The heat is on.
On Tiger Woods, that is. Full blast.
This week’s $2.5 million Dubai Desert Classic might just define how the former world No. 1 is going to play the rest of the year.
Woods’ place in world golf is obvious when you arrive at the Emirates Course. A huge poster of Woods sits on the left-hand side of the driveway. Underneath reads the words “World Number 3.”
Woods’ inclusion in a three-ball with world No. 1 Lee Westwood and No. 2 Martin Kaymer over the first two days heaps a lot of pressure on the increasingly fragile shoulders of the 14-major winner.
The former world No. 1 didn’t look two happy with the way he was hitting it on the range when he arrived in Dubai. Woods had a golf glove lodged under his right armpit. His iron play looked fine, but he didn’t look too comfortable with the big stick.
Westwood and Kaymer both want to see Tiger Woods back at his best for the good of the game. So does
Rory McIlroy, winner here two years ago. The young Northern Irishman might have delivered the most insightful comment on Woods when he said: “I’m not sure we’re going to see him dominate the way he did back in the early 2000s.”
Here’s what players competing at this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Dubai Desert Classic must do to ensure their spot in the bracket:
61.) Thomas Bjorn – 51st (Dubai)
62.) Seung-yul Noh – 26th (Dubai)
63.) Toru Taniguchi – Not playing
64.) Henrik Stenson – 17th (Dubai)
65.) Thongchai Jaidee – 4th (Dubai)
66.) Lucas Glover – Not playing
67.) J.B. Holmes – 4th (Pebble)
68.) Angel Cabrera – Not playing
69.) Jason Dufner – 4th (Pebble)
70.) Anders Hansen – 4th (Dubai)
2. Vijay Singh’s streak of seven consecutive WGC-Accenture Match Play appearances is in jeopardy. This is the final week for players to crack the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking and earn their spot in the Match Play’s bracket. Singh is No. 81 in the OWGR after finishing third last week at the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
He likely needs to finish first or second this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to crack the top 64, according to OWGR officials.
The WGC-Accenture Match Play will be held Feb. 23-27 at Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain in Marana, Ariz.
3. All those years as neighbors in Windermere, Fla., are still paying off for Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara.
The friends made use of their chemistry, winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic Challenge on Tuesday.
The American pair took on Lee Westwood and Miguel Angel Jiménez, and Jeev Milkha Singh and Noh Seung-yul over the Emirates Golf Club’s par-3 floodlit course.
Woods said: “It’s always fun to play with Mark. We don’t play as much as we used to. Obviously, he’s on the (Champions) Tour now, and it’s nice to catch up and play, and we’ll have dinner this week.
“He’s like my big brother, and it’s always fun to get out there and play with him. I hit some good shots, and he made all the putts.”
Woods and O’Meara finished 4 under for the nine-hole Challenge; Westwood and Jiménez were 2 under; Singh and Seung-yul were 1 under.
4. Europe has changed its Ryder Cup qualifying process to strengthen its team through the world ranking, while reducing the captain’s picks from three to two players.
The top five players to make the 2012 team will now come from the European Points list, which is based on money earned in the 12 months before the matches. The next five players will come from the World Points list, which is world ranking points accumulated during the same time.
Previously, the top four came from world ranking and the next five from European Tour money list. Had this change been in place last year, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose would have earned spots on the team, while Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez would not have qualified.
“I asked for a change in the criteria because I believe that it will give me the strongest team possible,” European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal said.
Unless the Americans change their process, captain Davis Love III gets four wildcard picks.
But it’s a curse in disguise for him.
“I would rather not have to make four captain’s picks,” Love said last month. “I watched Corey (Pavin) do it. . . I think that will be one of the hardest things to do.”
5. Australian Geoff Ogilvy is back in action.
In the nine years that Ogilvy played at the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open as a local resident, he finished no better than 17th and missed four cuts.
Translation: There was no home cooking.
So what happens in the first year after the Ogilvy family relocated to Del Mar, Calif? He turns in his best performance at the former hometown event, with scores of 67-66-67-71 leaving Ogilvy tied for 13th at TPC Scottsdale.
Especially satisfying is the fact Ogilvy was playing for the first time this year. He required 12 stitches to repair a cut to his
finger just before the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, causing him to miss three tournaments he normally would have played in.
“Once the stitches came out, I was practicing putting and the short game,” Ogilvy said. “It feels pretty good.”
To make up for the time lost, Ogilvy added this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to his schedule.