Tiger Woods to make debut in Abu Dhabi Championship

Tiger Woods
Woods has won twice in the United Arab Emirates, at the Dubai Desert Classic

Former world number one Tiger Woods has opted to play in Abu Dhabi this week, and he could be back in the world top 10 if he were to win the tournament.

The 14-time major champion dropped out of the top 50 last month but rose to 21st after ending a two-year wait for a title at the Chevron World Challenge.

In his first event since, he will now make his Abu Dhabi Championship debut.

The world's top four, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, are also in action this week.

In rankings terms, it is the second best field for a European Tour event outside the four majors and World Championship events since the list began in 1986.

Woods normally chooses to begin his season in America at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, near San Diego.

The 36-year-old has won five times at the course, which was also the venue for the last of his 14 majors, the 2008 US Open.

However, there are considerably more ranking points on offer in Abu Dhabi and there is also the added incentive of an appearance fee reported to be well into seven figures.

Should his renaissance continue it is possible Woods could be in a position to challenge for the world number one spot as early as April at the Masters.

"I'm very excited to get going," said Woods. "I'm looking forward to testing my game against a very strong field."

Woods has dropped to 25th in the rankings after taking six weeks off following his World Challenge victory at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, on 4 December, when he birdied the final two holes to beat Zach Johnson by one stroke.

"It's hard to believe it was that long," said Woods. "It was a nice way to end the season and hopefully I'll win a few more in 2012."

The four-time Masters champion has confirmed that he will make his first start on the PGA Tour at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 9-12 February.

Meanwhile, Europe's Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal has found himself one of the beneficiaries of a decision to increase the field in Abu Dhabi from 126 to 129.

The 45-year-old had not been given one of the seven sponsors' invitation places, which went to Woods, Sweden's Henrik Stenson, Australian Jason Day, Korean KJ Choi, China's Liang Wen-chong, England's Challenge Tour winner Tommy Fleetwood and locally-based professional Stuart Fee, a 34-year-old Englishman who last month won a qualifying event.

But the Spaniard, who finished sixth at the Volvo Golf Champions event in South Africa at the weekend and was heading to the middle east in any case for a Ryder Cup press conference, received the news that he, German Alex Cejka and Swede Niclas Fasth would all now be able to compete in the tournament.

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