ARIZONA will command the American sporting spotlight later this month after Tiger Woods announced his first start of 2015 will be in the “Grand Canyon State” in the same week that it plays host to Super Bowl XLIX.
Following speculation earlier in the week, the former world No 1 has confirmed that he will indeed be playing in the Waste Management Phoenix Open – the event that attracts arguably the most raucous crowd in the sport.
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Taking place from 29 January to 1 February, it will be Woods’s first appearance in the tournament since 2001, having played a fair bit in the Middle East instead in recent years in the opening month of the season.
Indeed, in the corresponding week last last the 14-times major winner was among the former champions taking part in the 25th staging of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic won by Stephen Gallacher as he made history by becoming the first player to successfully defend the title.
“It will be great to return to Phoenix,” Woods said on his website. “The crowds are amazing and always enthusiastic and the 16th hole is pretty unique in golf.”
That, of course, is reference to the par-3 that is completely surrounded by stands and where around 15,000 fans either cheer or jeer depending on whether a player hits the green.
Woods missed a large chunk of the 2014 season after requiring back surgery before returning to finish joint-last in the 18-man field for his Hero World Challenge in Florida last month.
Keen to get back on track this year, the 39-year-old will also play in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, scene of his last major title in 2008 when winning the US Open, the week after the Phoenix event.
“Torrey is a very important place to me,” he added. “My pop took me there when I was younger and I have a lot of special memories of watching the Tour play there when I was growing up.”
Meanwhile, David Drysdale heads into the final two rounds of the South African Open with the leader in his sights despite the Cockburnspath man dropping four shots in the last six holes as he carded a level-par 72 in the second circuit at Glendower in Ekurhuleni.
Drysdale, who has developed a knack of playing well in South Africa over the years, briefly held a share of the lead with Englishman Andy Sullivan after moving to eight-under with four birdies in his first 11 holes. His faltering finish dropped him into a share of ninth but the 39-year-old holed two good putts, including one to avoid a double-bogey 6 at the last, to stay in touch.
As fellow joint-leader overnight Jbe Kruger slumped to an 80 that saw him only just survive the cut, 2011 Scottish Open Stroke-play champion Sullivan stayed on course for a first European Tour victory after a 70 to sit on eight-under.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel finished birdie-eagle-birdie to emerge as his closest challenger, leapfrogging tournament host Ernie Els as the five-times winner dropped eight shots off the pace after going 7-7 at the ninth and tenth in his 77.
Playing with Schwartzel, Paul Lawrie made it through to the weekend with nothing to spare on two-over, but there were early exits for both Chris Doak and Scott Henry.
Elsewhere, Dunbar’s Danny Kay shot 73 for the second day running to sit joint-40th with a round to go in his Asian Tour Q-School qualifier in Thailand.
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