Tiger Woods’ early 2017 schedule will include a first appearance in a regular European Tour event in three years after the 14-time major winner confirmed speculation that he will be teeing it up alongside Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic next month.
The 41-year-old, who made his comeback after a 15-month absence in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas at the beginning of December, is heading to the United Arab Emirates in between two events on the PGA Tour in California.
Woods had already made it known that he’s playing in the Genesis Open, formerly known as the Northern Trust Open, in Los Angeles on 16-19 February and now he has followed up an announcement that he will start his 2017 campaign in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on 26-29 January by revealing that he’s heading to Dubai the following week.
It will be Woods’ eighth appearance in the Desert Classic, having won it twice – in 2006 and 2008 – but his first outing on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club since finishing joint-41st behind Stephen Gallacher as the Scot became the first player in the event’s history to successfully defend the title in 2014.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in Dubai and it’s fantastic to see how the city has grown phenomenally from when I first started playing there [in 2001],” said Woods. “It was great winning in Dubai in 2006 and 2008. When you win in Dubai, you know you’ve beaten an outstanding field.”
The former world No 1 looked forward to resuming his comeback in a 1,500-word blog on his website. In that, he also talked about how changing to a Bridgestone golf ball from a Nike one, as he did in the Hero World Challenge, wasn’t as difficult as some might have imagined.
“I am working hard to sharpen my game for 2017, and my goal is simple: to win. Winning takes care of itself,” said Woods, who has also confirmed that he’ll be playing in the Honda Classic when the PGA Tour switches to Florida at the end of February.
“I’m still testing clubs and trying to find the best ball-wood combo. What people don’t realise is that Bridgestone made the Nike golf ball for a number of years. It’s a great ball and making the switch wasn’t that hard. I’m really excited to join the Bridgestone team. For now, I’ll probably stick with some of my old Nike equipment, and use my Scotty Cameron putter.”
Woods described his comeback performance as a “positive step”, admitting that even he had doubted that he could play competitive golf again after three separate back surgeries. “My love for the game never left,” he stressed. “It’s just that the body would not allow me to play. Now my body is allowing me to do it again. Combine that with the amount of support I have received from so many people, and the help I’ve had from players and friends, and there is great reason for optimism.”
On the course design front, Woods said he is “excited” about his first US layout, Bluejack National near Houston, earning rave reviews but is equally pleased about a new 12-hole par-3 course he’s laid out at Diamante Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. “With this design, I’m trying to go back to my roots,” he said. “I grew up playing Heartwell, a par-3 course in Long Beach, California. That’s how I got introduced to golf.
“Golf now is almost impossible to play in less than five hours, so why don’t we open things up? We can play faster and have more fun in an entertaining environment – like a short course – where everyone can participate, practice and learn the game, and kids can play without being overwhelmed by a big golf course.”