Tiger Woods was out and about in Dubai today, doing the sort of things that the world’s most famous sportsmen are asked to do, much though he might have liked a day to recover from a marathon journey across 12 time zones,
After arriving from California at around midnight Woods was up for a brief practice session at the Emirates club before being flown to a helipad nearly 300 metres up at the seven-star Burj Al Arab Hotel.
From the scary-looking lofty perch – the hotel is taller than the Eiffel Tower and built on a man-made island – Woods hit some shots into the bright blue waters of the Arabian Gulf.
It did not take long, but there was still no time to visit a suite that includes a private cinema, two bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, office and dining room complete with its own butler, all over two floors connected by a lift. It costs over €4,400 per night.
Back on the helicopter Woods was whisked to another golf course for a nine-hole challenge match also involving Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington, Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Mark O’Meara.
Then it was back to his luxury base to eat, rest and set his alarm for a 7.45am tee-off in the Desert Classic pro-am.
After pulling out of the event last year because of the build-up to war with Iraq Woods has received the necessary assurances about security, with manager Mark Steinberg stating that he was “very comfortable” with all the arrangements.
“It does not look far on the map (between the United Arab Emirates and Baghdad), but it feels a long way from it,” he commented.
“That said, you have to take precautions wherever you are in the world.
“We gave a promise last year that Tiger would return and we’re happy to be back.”
Midnight Monday was the earliest Woods could have arrived. He was in San Diego all day Sunday making a successful defence of the Accenture World Match play title – the 53rd victory of a professional career still in only its ninth season.
It might have been 54th, but on his one previous appearance in Dubai three years ago he lost to Thomas Bjorn by taking a double bogey seven on the last.
It did not hurt for long. A month later he completed golf’s first-ever clean sweep of the four major championships.
Now 28 and engaged to Swede Elin Nordegren, Woods’ appearances on the European tour will again be limited this season.
He is definitely not making another trip to the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidelberg.
“We never entered, so I was taken aback when it was announced he was withdrawing,” said Steinberg.
But he will be at Troon in Scotland for the Open in July and at Mount Juliet for his defence of the American Express world championship in September.
That comes two weeks after the Ryder Cup in Detroit and two weeks before the HSBC World Match play at Wentworth.
Woods chose not to play in that last October and Steinberg stated: “The timing is awkward again, but we spoke about it on the flight over here and there’s still a chance.”
Most could not resist the lure of a £1m (€1.5m) first prize – the biggest in the sport – but Woods has close to $50m (€40.4m) in career earnings already, plus millions more from sponsorship deals and appearances like this week’s.
World number three Els, twice a winner of the Desert Classic and runner-up to surprise champion Robert-Jan Derksen last year, should feel good about his chances.
The South African elected not to play in California last week, is the course record holder with his 61 from 10 years ago and in winning the Heineken Classic in Melbourne four weeks ago opened with a European tour record-equalling 60.