‘Independent contractor’ Woods brushes aside questions over his schedule
World number one not worried about lack of tournament action ahead of Turkey event
Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the pro-am ahead of the Turkish Airlines Open in Antalya. Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Tiger Woods refused to be drawn on questions regarding his schedule as he prepared to play his first competitive golf in over a month at the Turkish Airlines Open this week.
The world number one’s last meaningful action came in the United States’ successful defence of the Presidents Cup at the start of October, since when the 14-time Major winner has elected to collect a sizeable appearance fee for a challenge match with Rory McIlroy in China and make exhibition appearances in Singapore and Macau.
That left no room in his diary for the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week – an event co-sanctioned by the game’s major tours and one of four annual World Golf Championships, the tournaments generally regarded as coming second only to Majors in terms of prestige.
“Independent contractor” was the 37-year-old’s blunt response when asked about his scheduling, before adding “that’s it” when pressed on the matter.
However, Woods insists his lack of competitive action will not be a hindrance at the Colin Montgomerie-designed Maxx Royal course this week.
“When I played against Rory, I was a little bit on the rusty side, because I really had not touched a club for a couple of weeks,” he said.
“After the Presidents Cup, I shut it down. I’ve been playing in Singapore and doing some exhibitions there, as well as in Macau, so I’ve been playing a little golf.
“The rust is starting to come off and I’m going to do a little bit of work today.”
Woods is making his second appearance in Antalya, having also featured in an unsanctioned matchplay event last year.
The tournament has enjoyed a lofty promotion for 2013, playing host to the third event of the European Tour’s inaugural final series and offering over €850,000 to the winner.
That could go a long way to determining who wins the Race to Dubai – Woods is ineligible as he is only a member of the US PGA Tour – with Justin Rose and Ian Poulter among those trying to close the gap on current leader Henrik Stenson.
With second-placed Graeme McDowell not playing, the English pair, currently third and fourth in the standings, both have a chance to go top with a win in Antalya, and Rose would relish a battle with his friend at next week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The 33-year-old, who won the exhibition version of this event last year, described becoming European number one in 2007 as his greatest achievement prior to winning the US Open at Merion, but his Ryder Cup team-mate could hold the advantage ahead of the season finale due to a new rule introduced this term.
Poulter is eligible for a 20 per cent bonus on all earnings from the final series, having lined up in the BMW Masters, WGC-HSBC Champions and this week, while Rose’s absence from the opening event in Shanghai will preclude him from such a boost.
With a shade over €200,000 between them, and Poulter already due to have over €130,000 added to his total through the bonus incentive, that could prove crucial, but Rose joked: “I would make sure Poults knew he needed a 20 per cent bonus to beat me.
“I still see Henrik as the man to beat, and, to do that, you’re going to have to play some good golf.
“Any time you go head to head with Poults, he’s a great competitor, so it will be fun to go eye to eye with him.
“It’s going to be exciting going into Dubai. There’s obviously a lot of money at stake here, and, if Henrik was to win, he’d probably be in a very strong spot.
“But the likelihood is that it will all come down to Dubai, which I think is exactly what you want for the final tournament of the year.
“Being European number one is right up there, for sure. I think at this point, it’s now the goal for the year – it would be the icing on the cake.
“Having won the European Tour order of merit, I would say, before I won the US Open this year, that was my career achievement and something that I was very proud of.
“So to have the opportunity to do it for the second time, in the modern era, in the new format, would be great.”
Pádraig Harrington has his last chance to make the top 60 that will travel to Dubai in Turkey this week and has the advantage of playing with course designer Montgomerie in the opening two rounds.
The three-time Major winner is presently just under €80,000 behind Danny Willett in 60th place so he will need to finish in joint 13th or better to earn an invite.
Presently in 83rd position, Damien McGrane will need to finish in the top seven. Shane Lowry, who has booked his place in the end of season event, is also in action in Turkey.