How well is Tiger Woods going to play in Abu Dhabi, and when is he going to win?
As I wrote in December, Tiger's win at the limited-field Chevron World Challenge was significant for Woods because it showed that the progress we saw in Australia wasn't an aberration. His iron game was more consistent, he putted better and he hit more fairways.
Woods wasn't missing fairways both left and right, and when he misplayed an iron he seemed to leave himself room to get up and down. Those playable misses can help transform a 73 into a 70, or a 70 into a 68.
I will be paying particular attention to how well Tiger's game holds up if the desert winds start to swirl. No one seems to pay closer attention to the wind than Woods. On the tee, he's constantly looking at tree tops and flags and tossing grass clippings. If Woods has any lingering doubts about his swing changes, the wind will expose them.
Rumors have been swirling that Tiger has played some epic rounds in Florida lately, including reports of a 62 at the Medalist and a 63 at Seminole. He'll need rounds like that this week because the field in Abu Dhabi is stacked with talented Europeans, including top-ranked Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer.
This is the kind of event that Woods used to dominate. He has won 16 World Golf Championships; Australia's Geoff Ogilvy is second with three.
I'm not ready to say that Woods will win a major this season, but I think he'll play very well and be in contention on Sunday in Abu Dhabi. He loves playing in the Middle East, loves the relative privacy he's given there and says he is 100-percent healthy. I can't wait to see how today's top-ranked players like Donald, McIlroy and Westwood will react if Woods is near the lead with 18 holes to go. Guys used to crumble, but I think a lot of them would now relish the challenge of taking on Tiger at his best.
If Woods can finish in the top five, it will be a good sign. If he can win, watch out -- this season could be one of the best ever.
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|1. Luke Donald||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
|2. Lee Westwood||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
|3. Rory McIlroy||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
|4. Martin Kaymer||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
|5. Steve Stricker||Off|
|6. Webb Simpson||Off|
|7. Adam Scott||Off|
|8. Charl Schwartzel||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
|9. Dustin Johnson||Farmers Insurance Open|
|10. Jason Day||Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship|
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