Woods' Dubai performance may define 2011

Tiger Woods looks on during the pro-am for the 2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on February 9, 2011.

Tiger Woods looks on during the pro-am for the 2011 Omega Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club on February 9, 2011.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The heat is on.

On Tiger Woods, that is. Full blast.

This week’s Omega $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 read the words “World Number 3.”

Woods’ inclusion in a three-ball with world number one Lee Westwood and World No. 2 Martin Kaymer over the first two days heaps a lot of pressure on the increasingly fragile shoulders of the 14-major winner.

His performance will be measured against the two pretenders to his throne.

All three players have done their best to play down the obvious battle for supremacy that will be staged over the first two days. Especially Woods.

“It’s still the same,” Woods said about being world number three. “It’s to win a golf tournament. Winning takes care of all that (the world rankings). That’s how I got to No. 1 in the world. That’s how I was able to sustain it, to win golf tournaments. That’s what Lee did to get to No. 1.

“You have to play well. You’ve got to be consistent, but you also have to win. So the goal is still the same. It’s to go out there and win.

“I’ve been out here long enough to know that it’s all about sustainability. The guys who have been No. 1 when I’ve been out here, how they got there, they won golf tournaments.”

Woods would normally arrive in the Middle East as a pretty good bet to win the tournament. In five previous visits he has never finished outside the top 5, with victories in 2006 and 2008, his last visit to Dubai.

However, many thought he would win at Torrey Pines (in the Farmers Insurance Open) in his first start this year, another course he has practically owned in the past. Yet Woods battled his new Sean Foley swing for four days and came away with a 44th place finish.

“It was frustrating that I didn’t perform the way I know I could. I’ve been here before. It takes time to make these changes. You don’t make changes and just start winning a bunch of golf tournaments. It doesn’t work that way.”

If the evidence from the range the first couple of days is anything to go by, then Woods might struggle with his driver this week. It certainly hasn’t been working well in practice.

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.”

He might not even dominate this week.

It might be winter here in the desert, but the heat is definitely on Tiger. This week could just determine his entire year.

Welcome to Golfweek.com's comments section.
Please review the posting guidlines here: Golfweek.com Community Guidelines.
All accounts must be verified using Disqus email verification