Tuesday, July 03, 2012


Nine days after the Ryder Cup (September 28-30), Tiger Woods will square up again to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood in a new matchplay event in Turkey which will attempt to establish the country as an Olympic destination.
Woods, who celebrated his third win in seven starts on Sunday, is the main draw for the $5.3 million Turkish Airways World Golf Finals on the Antalya coast, which also involves Justin Rose. It is understood that as part of a three-year commitment Woods has forged a lucrative “relationship” with the country’s national airline.
This will be more welcome news for Woods’s management team as they rebuild a sponsorship portfolio depleted in the wake of their client's sex scandal.
By next year the event intends to offer “the richest first prize in golf” – a mooted $2.5 million – and this cast-list shows the elite are interested in signing up for four days which will remind of the first World Matchplay Championship founded by Mark McCormack.
The winner will receive $1.5 million, the runner-up will collect $1 million, while seventh and eighth will have to make do with $300,000. Ostensibly, the make-up was decided on ranking points, with Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson completing the garlanded field.
Inevitably, this unauthorised event has been received negatively by the tours, although Chubby Chandler, the ISM chief executive masterminding the project, has taken moves to assuage their concerns.
As it bids for the 2020 Olympics, Turkey is determined to prove its ability to host big sporting occasions and, indeed, the biggest sporting superstars. Golf will be reintroduced at the Olympics in 2016 and Woods is an influential figure to have on side.
Certainly Woods’s downfall has been greatly exaggerated. He arrives on Tuesday at the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia knowing that should he follow-up his triumph at his own tournament, the AT and T National, he will pass the $100 million mark in US PGA Tour winnings.
He would then head to Royal Lytham as the overwhelming favourite to win a fourth Open Championship despite being major-less for more than four years.
By the time the Turkish extravaganza takes place in the first week of October many will be surprised if Woods has not regained the world No 1 berth, currently held by Donald. Yet doubt will continue to swirl over his resurrection until he wins a major.
But such was his improvement with the putter in Maryland – where he held firm to beat Bo van Pelt by a shot – that more tournament victories seem a given. This was his 74th win on his home tour, relegating Jack Nicklaus to third place on the all-time list.
Only Sam Snead, with 82, is ahead. “It’s great to pass Jack,” said Woods. “I’ve done it when I’m 36 and I’m very proud.”
As for the here and now, nobody else in America has won three times this season and Woods could not resist a dig at all the critics who were penning his obits just a few months ago, following a two-year barren run.
“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,” said Woods. “Well, here we are.”
Will Lytham witness him carrying his form into the major? Woods knows the variance between a parkland course in Washington and a links in Lancashire. “I’m going to have to start practising some different shots and getting used to hitting the ball a little lower,” said Woods. “I’ll have one week of prep prior to the Open and we’ll get after it.”



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