Grief in the Gulf as McIlroy & Woods flop
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) – In golf, as in other sports, money talks, but money cannot guarantee results.
Proof of that came in Abu Dhabi this week when the two biggest and best paid names in the game – Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods – travelled to the Gulf to kick-start their seasons and both fell at the first hurdle.
McIlroy was feted after arriving in Abu Dhabi to sign one of the biggest sponsorship deals in sport with Nike, reported to be in the region of $250 million (188 million euros) over 10 years, although there was no official confirmation of this figure.
Woods, the player who has defined the modern game and who is currently trying to climb past McIlroy to regain the world No.1 spot, was believed to have been paid $3 million (2.3million euros) in appearance money alone.
Having failed to make the cut on Friday, that works out at around $80,000 (60,000 euros) a hole.
Their duel in the desert was top billing, the first round of a rivalry many believe could fire up golf for the next five years.
They drew big crowds to the splendid Abu Dhabi Golf club as they played together on Thursday and Friday and at times it was compelling viewing as both golfing giants struggled with their games.
But the net result is that neither man will be there for the weekend and the big-money tournament is shorn of its star turns.
Woods has the excuse that he would have ducked under the cut were it not for a tough two-stroke penalty, imposed on him after his second round for a misread of the rules on the fifth hole.
But such was the general waywardness he showed once again off the tee that there must be concerns in his camp that the radical swing changes he has been taking on board for the last year have still to be fully accommodated.
Woods has headed home to the United States to prepare for his 2013 US debut next week at Torrey Pines, where he won the last of his 14 majors in June, 2008.
For McIlroy, the issue is with his new Nike clubs, which, by his own admission after back-to-back rounds of 75, he has yet to get to proper grips with.
The 23-year-old Ulsterman, who switched to Nike from long-time supplier Titleist, had insisted that the changeover would not knock him out of his stride, despite warnings from such as Nick Faldo, that such a move in golf was easier said than done.
He probably knows better now even though he said after missing the cut that “it’s more the Indian than the arrow at this point,” pointing the finger of blame at himself after a two month layoff from competition.
His manager Conor Ridge agreed telling the Irish Times: “Rory even said himself at the start of the week that it was going to be an unknown.
“Going into tournament play versus what he was doing on the range. To be honest, he said himself he didn’t play well yesterday.
“And he hasn’t played well today. I think if he had 14 Titleist clubs in his bags yesterday and today, it would have been exactly the same.”
At least McIlroy now has four weeks off to work on the flaws in his swing before he returns to the United States to begin his preparations for the year’s first major, The Masters, in early April.
Behind them, Woods and McIlroy leave a slightly bemused local golf fraternity, who had all geared up for a titanic clash at the weekend, but who will now have to do with the so-called lesser lights.
“I’m sure Tiger and Rory are disappointed to exit and would’ve wanted to be chasing the Falcon Trophy going down the final stretch on Sunday,” said Faisal Al Sheikh of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
“There are no certainties in sport, golf included.”