Brian Keogh in Dubai
The Dubai skyline is bristling with more skyscrapers and cranes with every edition of the Dubai Desert Classic. But the dollar sums involved in transforming the emirate into a business and tourism hub are staggering even to Tiger Woods, who looks set to become the first billionaire sportsman.
The world number is reputed to have been paid in excess of $3 million to tee it up in an event where the total prize fund is “just” $2.5 million and the winner takes home a "mere" $416,660.
Woods is also said to have been paid another $25 million to design his first golf course here, The Tiger Woods at Dubai, which goes a long way towards explaining why Golf Digest magazine estimated his 2007 off-course earnings at a shade less than $100 million and his career haul to around $769 million.
Yet golf is only part of the equation in a city where $3.89 billion is being spent on the construction of the Dubai metro system alone and Woods is as impressed as another other mortal by the sheer scale of the projects.
“What they are doing here is frankly phenomenal,” Woods said. “I haven’t seen anything like this and I don’t think anyone around the world anywhere has seen his type of growth. And I think golf is just one component of it.”
Woods plans to set foot on the site of his golf course design project for the first time this week and confirmed that while he will have an input into the design of the clubhouse, there is no danger of him branching out into interior design just yet.
“Oooh, interior design is obviously not my forte,” he said, flashing that famous grin. “But I certainly have a feel for what I like. My taste has always been catered to more of a modern feel.
“But that’s why this project has been very time consuming and also, for lack of a better word, cerebral. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what it’s done to me and how much I had to think things through.
“And I’ve always enjoyed that part of who I am. And part of the reason I went to Stanford (University) is I enjoy that part.”
So far, just two holes have been shaped on a layout that will also features 300 villas, 20 mansions and an 80-room VIP hotel.
“It’s been eye-opening the detail that goes into it,” Woods added. “I didn’t really realise that but I’ve also loved it too. I spend hours just looking at plans and thinking and creating. That to me is fun: trying to give the developers what they want.
“That’s my responsibility and hopefully I can do that and deliver that.”