Woods says no to Dubai World Championship

From Brian Keogh in Thousand Oaks, California

Hopes of seeing Tiger Woods play the European Tour’s inaugural $10 million Dubai World Championship in 2009 took a nose-dive at a pre-tournament press conference by the world number one ahead of the Target World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club near Los Angeles.

The 13-time major winner can only compete in the season-ending event the season after next if he becomes a member of the European Tour by committing to play a minimum 11 counting events. The problem for European Tour boss George O'Grady is that Tiger has no plans to up his workload.

Woods is designing his first course in Dubai and will play in the Desert Classic there for the fifth time next February, but he revealed last night that he has no plans to expand his schedule to fulfill the minimum requirement for eligibility into the Dubai World Championship in November 2009.

In the season just ended, Woods competed in nine counting tournaments - four majors, three World Championships, Dubai and 2007 counting HSBC Champions in Shanghai in November 2006.

But while he would only need to add one more event to become eligible for the Race to Dubai and a possible $20 million pay-off, Woods appeared to rule out a move to join the European Tour.

He said: “I’ve contemplated that (taking European Tour membership) since 1999 when I went over to play in Europe and started playing in Germany, I believe. I’ve always been one or two (events) short of keeping my status over there and there is really no way I can keep up the commitment level that I have by playing that much golf on both sides of the continent (sic) with all the things that I have to deal with.”

Like Open champion Pádraig Harrington, whose wife Caroline gave birth to baby Ciarán just two weeks ago, Woods will round off another stellar season in California with the Player of the Year title in his back pocket.

Woods became a father for the first time in June with the arrival of daughter Sam Alexis and it was no surprise when the PGA Tour announced the 31-year-old as the winner of the Player of the Year title for the third season on the trot yesterday.

“This year was a fantastic year on and off the course” said Woods, who will donate his winnings this week to the Tiger Woods Foundation. “It’s been great to be at home with Elin and Sam see how fast Sam has grown. You really appreciate the little things.”

Winner of the US PGA title and second in the US Open and the Masters, Woods as now won the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year title nine times in the last 11 years thanks a stellar season that saw him lift his 13th major title in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in August.

He added: “On the course I had a great chance of winning three of the four majors this year. I was just a few shots away from doing what I did in 2000.”

The PGA was one of seven victories by Woods in 2007, not including the inaugural FedEx Cup and he now leads the world rankings by a massive 11.59 ranking points from Phil Mickelson.

The American’s staggering CV now also includes an eighth Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA Tour’s leading money winner with $10,867,052 following a 17-event season that saw add six top ten finishes to those seven victories with his worst performance a share of 37th place in The Players Championship at Sawgrass.

World number eight Harrington, who will tee it up in his 29th event of the season alongside Vijay Singh at Sherwood Country Club tomorrow, did not arrive in Los Angeles until late last night.

Winner of the title in 2002, this season’s European Tour Player of the Year Harrington spent the day 160 miles further down the coast at the Titleist Performance Institute in Carlsbad, north of San Diego.

Winner of the title in 2002, the Dubliner has earned just over $3 million from six previous appearances in the elite, 16-man event and while he has set his sights on the $1.35 million top prize, he is guaranteed $170,000 just for turning up.