Tiger Woods will tee off with the two players ahead of him on the world rankings – Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer – in the first two rounds of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Thursday and Friday.
It is the first time since 1994 that golf’s top three players have all competed in a European Tour event other than the majors and the World Golf Championships.
Woods’s five-year reign as number one was ended by Westwood in October, while Kaymer’s eight-shot victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship three weeks ago knocked him down to third.
The German failed to dethrone Westwood in Qatar last week, but has another chance now. Anything worse than second place on Sunday will not be good enough, however.
Woods, without a victory since the sex scandal that hit the headlines in November 2009, is playing his second event of the year. He was only 44th at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines two weeks ago.
Despite being number one in the world Westwood is the fourth favourite this week. He was only 64th in Abu Dhabi, then missed the halfway cut in Qatar and Kaymer, Woods and Rory McIlroy are all ahead of him in the tournament odds.
Woods beat Kaymer by a shot on his last visit to the Desert Classic in 2008. He was out injured the following year and last February was still taking time off to try to sort out his private life.
The 35-year-old was also the champion in 2006 and third in 2007, making him a cumulative 50 under par for his last three trips.