The Farmers Insurance Open this week is played at Torrey Pines, where Tiger Woods has won seven times, including the 2008 US Open. Woods, however, won’t be there. Instead, he’s chosen to start his season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on an unfamiliar track.
I’m sure he didn’t do this on a lark, so I’m wondering about the strategy. Assuming Tiger’s there to win and not just to collect the hefty appearance fee, what does Abu Dhabi offer that Torrey Pines does not? The smart money would seem to be on Torrey Pines, one of five courses that account for forty percent Tiger’s Tour victories (Torrey Pines – 7; Bridgestone – 7; Bay Hill – 6; Cog Hill – 5; Augusta – 4).
I can see a downside in this, however. Expectations at Torrey Pines would be astronomical, and anything less than a top five would be viewed as a disappointment. Abu Dhabi, on the other hand, carries none of the expectations. As a bonus, it’s halfway around the world, out of the US Media limelight. Most here won’t see the event, except on Golf Channel highlights.
Then there’s the level of competition. If you buy into the notion that the European Tour right now is the superior tour, he’s facing tougher competition in the desert. Indeed, the top four in the world golf rankings are scheduled for an appearance there. Torrey Pines has just one of the top ten: Dustin Johnson at nine. I’m not sure whether is is a plus or a minus. On the one hand, playing against top competition may make Tiger better; then again, he may have a better chance at a winning against a less powerful field. Then again, not winning against lesser competition makes him look bad.
Gee. I’m sounding like that old joke about economists: Put five economists on a problem, and you’ll get ten opinions. “On the one hand … but on the other hand.”
At any rate, I’ll be very interested to see how Tiger fares at Abu Dhabi. And I’m interested to see what others think of the Desert Strategy.