Tiger cheques in for season-opener

Tiger Woods does not deny that appearance money is one of the factors in determining where he plays.

Tiger Woods does not deny that appearance money is one of the factors in determining where he plays.

Woods could have been at Torrey Pines this week on a course where he has won six times, including his last major title.

Instead he is in Abu Dhabi for his first event of the year and is widely reported to be receiving well over €1.2m for it.

Woods might have tried to justify his trip because of the competition he faces. Europe’s world top four Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer are all kicking off their seasons as well.

But after saying sponsors HSBC had been supporters of his Foundation over the years he was asked today if appearance fees ever influenced his movements.

The former world number one, who on his last start last month ended more than two years without a win, said: “I’d have to say yes, it certainly does.

“A lot of the guys play all around the world and they do get appearance fees. I think the only tour that doesn’t pay is the US Tour.

“Where we offset it is our prize money is pretty high. We certainly play for more money than any other tour in the world – I think the average winner gets a million bucks (dollars) a week.”

First prize at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is under €360,000 and the total purse is €2m.

Woods is paired in the opening two rounds on Thursday and Friday with Donald and McIlroy.

That would be fascinating wherever and whenever they faced each other, but it comes only a month after top-ranked Donald sparked a debate when he said the 22-year-old Northern Irishman had the most talent of anybody he had ever played with.

Woods, of course, is the one with 14 majors. McIlroy, the younger by 14 years, grabbed his first at the US Open last June.

After his comment Donald went on his Twitter site to say he would “never try to disrespect Tiger in any way. He is still the greatest player I have played with.

“TW has always been the best at getting the ball in the hole when it mattered the most. That’s not just talent, that’s something else too.”

Woods was asked about that as well today, but did not rise to the bait.

“As far as being the most talented player, I think the most talented player that I’ve ever seen in person was Seve (Ballesteros),” he said.

“I’ve never seen a person do the things with the golf ball that he was able to do and the creativity that he was able to produce.

“I never saw (Ben) Hogan hit a golf ball, never saw Mr (Byron) Nelson hit a golf ball, I never saw Jack (Nicklaus) in his prime.

“But I did see Seve when I first came out here and I was able to play with him a few times. It was impressive.”

Woods is excited about the season ahead. Not just because he has finally got back to winning ways, but also what came before in Australia.

His victory at the Chevron World Challenge in California followed a third-place finish at the Australian Open in Sydney and a superb singles win over Aaron Baddeley at the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

Asked by Sky Sports if he saw the Chevron as a big step forward, Woods said: “I certainly did, but I think Australia was probably more.

“I played really well at the Open, then carried on in the Presidents Cup and basically continued that trend in the World Challenge.

“Hopefully I can build on that heading into this year and get ready for Augusta.”

His bid for a fifth Masters and 15th major starts on April 5.

“Australia was big. I hit so many good shots, especially when the wind was howling at 30mph, with gusts at more than that.”

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