Economic downturn halts Woods' Dubai project

Tiger Woods in front of a poster showing the planned development of the Tiger Woods Dubai community at a venue in Dubai.

Tiger Woods in front of a poster showing the planned development of the Tiger Woods Dubai community at a venue in Dubai.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Plans for a Tiger Woods signature golf estate, including a boutique hotel and sheik-style palaces, have been shelved as Dubai’s financial downturn claimed another major project launched during the eye-popping boom years.

A statement Monday by the golf course developer – part of a conglomerate controlled by Dubai’s debt-squeezed ruler – said “market conditions” were behind the decision to suspend work on The Tiger Woods Dubai on the city’s desert outskirts.

The announcement – just before Woods is scheduled to play in the Dubai Desert Classic next week – shows that Dubai’s property market is still wobbling from the severe credit crunch that hit last year and stalled many headline-grabbing projects, including an even larger version of the manmade palm-shaped island that helped put Dubai on the map.

“It’s been put on hold for right now. A lot of projects are out there,” Woods told The Associated Press on Sunday after he finished his season debut at Torrey Pines. “It’s still there. We’ve got six completed holes and a few that were about to be grassed before construction was halted. Everything is on hold.”

The golf course developer, part of Dubai Properties Group, left open the possibly that work could someday resume.

“These conditions will continue to be monitored,” said a statement to the AP after questions about the status of the long-delayed golf complex. “A decision will be made in the future when to restart the project.”

Only a few holes have been completed on the $1 billion course, planned as the centerpiece for a complex of 100 villas, 75 mansions, 22 palaces, a boutique hotel, a golf academy and 30,000 full-grown imported trees.

The first phase of the development had been promised by the end of 2009 – about the same time Dubai stunned world markets by announcing staggering debt for many of its state-linked companies.

The course is part of a far-larger leisure and living master plan known as Dubailand, which also has largely come to a standstill by Dubai’s fiscal crunch. Officials had planned to open multiple theme parks including Universal Studios, Legoland and Six Flags – none of which has been built.

Dubai Properties Group is part of a conglomerate known as Dubai Holding, which is controlled by the city-state’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Like a number of government-linked Dubai companies, the conglomerate is deeply in debt and has been locked in talks with creditors to renegotiate the terms of its liabilities.

Dubai property prices plunged by roughly half from their peak in mid-2008 in less than a year. They have yet to recover.

Woods was among the sports personalities who frequented Dubai during its free-spending boom years. He won the Desert Classic in 2006 and 2008 and never finished lower than fifth since he started playing in the emirate in 2001.

He missed the 2009 tournament due to a knee injury and was absent last year amid the turmoil surrounding his extramarital affairs.

Dubai officials, however, have sought to maintain close ties with Woods even as sponsors dropped away. The course developer said it and Woods “will retain our commercial agreement together.” Terms of that deal have not been disclosed.

An 18-hole course designed by Colin Montgomerie was launched in Dubai in 2006, and another by Ernie Els opened in 2008.

• • •

Murphy reported from Dubai; Schreck from Kabul, Afghanistan. AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed from San Diego.

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