How can a tournament with a purse of "only" $2.7 million ($445,000 to the winner), played in a place that's a 14-hour hour flight from the East Coast, match a rich ($6 million purse, $1.044 million for first) domestic event held at a former U.S. Open venue? Can you say "appearance fees”?
Such payouts are forbidden on the PGA Tour -- the only perk players will get at Torrey is the use of a rental car -- but the Euro tour has fewer restrictions, and Abu Dhabi is the major championship of pay-for-play. The extras are so lavish that they more than make up the $3.3 million purse differential. For starters, everyone in the field gets free travel and accommodations at the luxurious Emirates Palace. After that, the size of the envelope varies based on star power.
Players universally refuse to discuss specifics, so we’re left with no choice but to speculate. Here's a guesstimate, based on many conversations with fellow golf journalists, as to what some of the headliners might be receiving. Tiger Woods, $2.5 million: Woods's has played in Dubai, where his Al Ruwaya golf course project has returned to the desert, but this is his first start in Abu Dhabi. Rory McIlroy, $1 million: The U.S. Open champ is the second-biggest draw in golf and a regular at Abu Dhabi, playing there five straight years. Lee Westwood, $750,000: You don't hear much about it, but keeping easy-money events like Abu Dhabi on their schedules is one reason Euros like Westwood come and go from the PGA Tour. Luke Donald, $600,000: This was the world No. 1's first trip to Abu Dhabi. If he wins a major, his price could double. Darren Clarke, $400,000: Being the British Open champ is a big deal in an event like this. Plus, who doesn't love Clarkie? Graeme McDowell, $200,000: Another regular in the UAE and a popular U.S. Open winner. Martin Kaymer, $200,000: Kaymer is the King of Abu Dhabi, where he has won three times and is the defending champ. Charl Schwartzel, $200,000: All the 2011 major winners were pursued, and only Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship) said no. K.J. Choi, $100,000: At Abu Dhabi, they regard the Players Championship as if it really is the fifth major. Colin Montgomerie, $0: No cash, but since he has played in all seven Abu Dhabi Championships, he'll get the royal treatment.