Tiger Woods draws Fred Couples in Dubai Champions Challenge

Scott Halleran

When Tiger Woods takes the tee in two weeks in the Middle East it will be the first time the world No. 1 starts the Dubai Desert Classic since 2011, when he drew a fine from the European Tour for not-so-gentlemanly conduct on the course.

Tiger Woods will tee it up with his old buddy and Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples for the "Champions Challenge" appetizer to the Omega Dubai Desert Classic later this month.

Woods, a past victor of the winners-only, 18-hole, stroke-play event that precedes the four-day, 72-hole tournament, also drew defending champion Stephen Gallacher to round out his Challenge threesome on the Tuesday before the real festivities get under way on January 30. Woods will kick off his 2014 season at Torrey Pines next week, after which he’ll join Couples, Rory McIlroy, and other luminaries who will vie for the child-sized trophy in the $2.5 million event.

Tiger has two wins, in 2006 and 2008, in his previous six starts at Emirates Golf Club.

"I appreciate the support I have received from the people in Dubai, and I have always enjoyed playing in the tournament," Woods said on his website. "They always attract a strong field, and the course is in top shape."

For McIlroy, the longest-running European Tour event in Asia holds particular import since the former world No. 1 posted his first professional win there in 2009. This year’s tilt will mark the 25th anniversary of the Dubai competition.

"It always feels nice to get back to a golf course where you have enjoyed success," said McIlroy, a two-time major champion who will try to build on the momentum he enjoyed from his one-shot victory over Adam Scott in last month’s Australian Open. "That win was a real stepping stone for the success that followed.

Woods will be making his first appearance since 2011 at the Dubai tourney. The last time he played, he incurred a Euro Tour fine for spitting on the course.

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