Tait: Tiger playing Abu Dhabi is all about money

Tiger Woods plays a shot during the last round of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in the Gulf emirate on February 13, 2011. Spain's Alvaro Quiros won the Dubai Desert Classic.

Tiger Woods plays a shot during the last round of the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in the Gulf emirate on February 13, 2011. Spain's Alvaro Quiros won the Dubai Desert Classic.

Money changes everything, according to the song made famous by Cyndi Lauper. It’s certainly changed the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Money is the reason Tiger Woods will tee it up in the richest emirate in the UAE next year. Even if Tiger says he has other reasons for playing.

“I've always enjoyed playing in HSBC events around the world, so I have been interested in including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in my schedule for some time,” Woods said in a statement. Then came the punch line. “I am also intrigued to spend time in Abu Dhabi. Visiting new places is one of the things I really enjoy about being a professional golfer.”

Ha, ha, ha!

No doubt Mark Steinberg, his agent, wrote this line with a straight face. Well, he would. He’s on a percentage of what Woods earns. The former world No. 1 is going to earn loads just for signing up to play in Abu Dhabi.

Woods is playing in Abu Dhabi for more money than any of us will make in a lifetime.

And “signing up” is the correct term. Woods will have agreed to a contract to play in Abu Dhabi, one that stipulates he includes some promotional events to help advertise the tournament. For how much, no one knows, but it will be in the seven-figure range, that’s for sure.

Woods is no stranger to the Middle East. He’s competed in nearby Dubai on six occasions, winning the Dubai Desert Classic twice and earning $1.2 million in official money. Unofficially he may have earned 10, maybe 20, maybe even 30 times that in appearance fees. Such figures are never published, but $2 million, $3 million per event are the numbers bandied about. It could be even higher.

He’s also done pretty well out of a proposed golf development in Dubai. Woods’ Al Ruwaya course might be in mothballs because of the downturn in the world economy, but he reportedly profited by about $55 million. Not bad for a job he never completed.

Money is the real reason Woods and the top stars fly to the Middle East. Don’t think Adam Scott played the 2009 Sony Open in Hawaii one week then flew 7,500 miles to Qatar the next to see the delights of Doha, the Qatari capital. He went to Qatar because he was getting paid to turn up.

Yes, sir, the top stars have raked in some nice pension money from trips to the Arabian Desert. And when it came to a spitting match, the oil-rich Abu Dhabi, the wealthiest of the Arab Emirates, was always going to come out on top.

Abu Dhabi began hosting the European Tour in 2006, but they started throwing real money at the event in 2010. That Abu Dhabi Golf Championship had the lowest purse of all three Middle East tournaments but got the strongest field. Five of the world’s top 10 teed it up that year, and 18 of the top 50. Not bad for a €1.5 million tournament. One Euro less and the winner would only have earned a one-year European Tour exemption instead of the normal two-year free pass. (The tour awards only a one-year exemption for events under €1.5 million.)

Another €2 million was probably spent as sweeteners to get Anthony Kim, Geoff Ogilvy, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy to play.

HSBC got involved last year and upped the ante by offering financial inducements to get all four 2010 majors winners in Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer. McIlroy, Casey, Poulter, Colin Montgomerie, Padraig Harrington and Lee Westwood also turned up to play.

So it’s no surprise Woods will play Abu Dhabi next year. It was only a matter of time.

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