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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is It Just About the Money?

Tiger starts his year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship this week. Of course, there's no question why he's playing there instead of Torrey Pines. Word on the street is that he's getting paid seven figures -- $2-3 million. That's a lot of good reasons to show up, especially since Tiger almost certainly has money concerns like alimony payments and those new digs down in Florida.

But are we sure that's the only reason?

Some have suggested that he's also bypassing Dubai since it's sponsored by Omega -- a move that might not set well with his new sponsor Rolex.

But is that all?

I'm sure both of those play a part in Tiger's decision to play Abu Dhabi this week. But I'm not so sure they're the only reasons.

Back in December I questioned how much the world rankings were really worth. I won't rehash all of that, but I can't help but wonder if Tiger hasn't chosen Abu Dhabi in part because he could make a huge move in the world rankings this week.

Look at it this way. According to this week's OWGR rankings, #1 Luke Donald has 9.89 points and #10 Jason Day has 4.93 points -- a difference of 4.96 points. But from Jason all the way down to #1001 Shamim Khan, at 0.06 points, there's only a difference of 4.87 points. There's more distance between #1 and #10 than between #10 and #1001!

Tiger is currently #25. He has 3.44 points. He's only 1.49 points out of the Top 10.

Now let's look at the fields. At Torrey Pines, Dustin Johnson -- #9 in the OWGR -- is the only Top 10 player scheduled to play. (And let's not ignore the fact that he had to withdraw with back problems last week. That could happen again this week, depending on how far out of shape he is.) Make it the Top 15 and you can add #12 Nick Watney and #15 Phil Mickelson.

How about Abu Dhabi? Well, I see Luke Donald (1), Lee Westwood (2), Rory McIlroy (3), Martin Kaymer (4), Charl Schwartzel (8), and Jason Day (10). That's 6 of the Top 10... and please note that 5 of these players are all ranked above DJ. You can add Graeme McDowell (13) and K.J. Choi (14) to that list if you go down to the Top 15.

I don't know exactly how the points for a win are assigned but I'm pretty sure that, with so many highly-ranked players in the field, a win at Abu Dhabi just might kick Tiger all the way back into the Top 10 in the world. A win at the Farmers Insurance Open probably wouldn't.

The list of events Tiger has committed to (listed at his website) only has two events so far -- Abu Dhabi and Pebble Beach. I don't know what the field at Pebble will look like, but the WGC-Accenture Match Play is only 3 weeks after Pebble. The major season gets started in earnest after that.

So maybe it's not just about the money after all. If I was Tiger and wanted to make a serious run at #1 in the world again, I'd play Abu Dhabi too.

But then, $3 million wouldn't hurt either. Smiley Faces

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