Johannesburg - Tiger Woods will make a welcome return to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday with the hope of winning the event for the third time.
The 14-time major winner bounced back into competitive golf last month at the Hero World Golf Challenge at New Providence, Bahamas, after being sidelined by back problems for 15 months. He is currently competing at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego, California.
The erstwhile world number one still relishes fond memories of winning the Classic twice – in 2006 when he carded a flawless under-par 19 for 269 and under-par 14 for 274 two years later.
Woods’ return to the fairways is certainly relished by his fans who have been itching to see their idol in action and back on his winning streak.
Back with a bang
He has been written off as a has-been, with some of his detractors proclaiming he will not equal Jack Nicklaus’s enviable record of 18 majors because of his decline in form.
At the Bahamas, Woods finished a disappointing 15th on the leader board where he carded 76 in the final round.
He is looking forward to winning the Classic and proving that he is back with a bang.
“I’ve always enjoyed playing in Dubai and it’s fantastic how the city has grown phenomenally from when I first started playing there,” Woods was quoted by european.tour.com a few days ago.
“It was great winning in Dubai in 2006 and 2008.”
Woods will be seen in action on the fairways, showcasing his skills using clubs of his new equipment sponsors, TaylorMade.
After long-time backers Nike got out of the equipment side of golfing last year, Woods became a free agent. He formally endorsed his new sponsors recently.
However, since Woods is still signed with Nike, he will likely continue to wear Nike Golf apparel.
There will be strong competition at this European Tour-sanctioned event, with defending champion England’s Danny Willett out to prove that his win last year was not a fluke. He kept his nerve to win by a stroke from compatriot Andy Sullivan and Spain’s Rafa Cabrero-Bello in the final round.
Willett, who was an overnight leader, shot a final round 69 to finish on under-par 19 for 269, after needing to make a 15-foot putt on the last hole to clinch his fourth European Tour title.
Also in the mix to give Woods a match at the tough Dubai course will be Henrik Stenson of Sweden, winner of the 2016 British Open. He had a great European Tour season which he capped by winning the Race to Dubai.
South Africa will have Trevor Immelman, Haydn Porteous and Brandon Stone as competitors at the Classic.
But as usual, it will be Woods’ presence that will give the Classic the spark because he will hopefully attract a large number of spectators to the event.