Tiger Woods upset organizers of last week’s WGC-HSBC Championship when he snubbed the Shanghai-based tourney to take care of sponsorship business. Small wonder they were unhappy with Woods' no-show, considering how the president of the Turkish Golf Federation gushed about the impending arrival of the odds-on favorite to win the inaugural Turkish Airlines Open.
"He brings with him much more than golf. He is a superstar in many other ways," Ahmet Ali Aoaoolu told Bernie McGuire on Monday about the world No. 1, who will pocket a reported $3 million just for teeing off at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Belek, Antalya, starting Thursday. "We know he costs money but we believe it is well spent because he does all the off-course stuff with the same class."
Woods, who was elsewhere when Dustin Johnson won his eighth PGA Tour event on Sunday at Sheshan International, purportedly collected about half as much for 18 holes of grins and giggles with Rory McIlroy in China as he will when he takes on a limited field of European Tour golfers revving up for next week’s Race to Dubai finale.
The contest will mark the second Euro Tour event this year for Woods, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi in January after incurring a two-shot penalty in the first of what would become four extremely high-profile rules violations over his five-win 2013 campaign. Ahmet, the Turkish links kingpin who gained notoriety when he head-butted a reporter following Woods during the opening round of last year’s World Golf Challenge -- a precursor to this year’s competition -- believes Tiger’s appearance elevates his country’s stature in the world of sports.
"With Tiger Woods agreeing to again compete in Turkey it will also help boost Turkey’s goal of hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, showing the world Turkey is capable of hosting world-class sporting occasions," Ahmet told McGuire earlier this year.
In addition to Woods, this week’s 78-player, $7 million, fully sanctioned European Tour event will feature FedExCup winner Henrik Stenson; U.S. Open champ Justin Rose, who came in fifth in China last week; and Ian Poulter, who finished in second at the HSBC tourney, just three shots behind DJ’s tourney-winning 24-under.
Woods, who lost by a stroke to McIlroy in their head-to-head exhibition match a week ago, will be vying in Turkey for the second consecutive year. He last teed it up in competition when he helped the U.S. prevail in the Presidents Cup in October, and he closed out the PGA Tour’s Race to Dubai-like season-ending playoffs with T2, T65, T11 and T22 finishes.