By Bernie McGuire
DUBAI (Reuters) – Tiger Woods will discover just how far his game has slipped when he joins Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in a mouth-watering matching of golf’s top-ranked three players in the Dubai Desert Classic starting Thursday.
Woods was overtaken by Briton Westwood at the end of last year and then the mercurial 26-year-old German Kaymer, the U.S. PGA champion, in January at the summit of golf’s world rankings.
The American’s swing as well as his private life fell apart last year following allegations of multiple infidelities which cost him his marriage and a chunk of the 2010 season.
Dubai marks Woods’ second tournament of the year and his suspect technique will be right back under the microscope after he finished 44th last week in the Farmers Insurance Open after closing rounds of 74 and 75.
Westwood, for one, cannot wait for the chance to go head to head against a man who had dominated the sport virtually unchallenged since the late 1990s until his fall from grace last year, picking up 14 Majors along the way.
Woods has won the Desert Classic twice, in 2006 and 2008.
It is the first time in 17 years that the world’s top three ranked golfers have competed in a regular European Tour tournament.
“It’s a fantastic draw for the tournament and for the people watching,” Westwood told reporters Tuesday as he looked forward to Thursday’s midday three-ball.
“That’s what people like to see. Certainly at other events where you draw the three main champions together — in the PGA Championship — that’s always exciting.”
Mohamed Juma Buamain, vice-chairman and CEO of Golf in Dubai, said ticket sales were up 30 percent compared to last year when Woods elected not to compete in Dubai following the turmoil that overtook his private life.
Westwood leapfrogged past the 35-year-old American to World No. 1 last October and it is the first occasion that he has since played in the same event as Kaymer and Woods, let alone the same three-ball.
“Having a player like Tiger who has dominated the World rankings over the last 15 years and also the No 1 and No 2, and playing in the same three-ball is great for the European Tour,” said Westwood.
The Briton himself is not exactly in the best of fettle having missed his first halfway cut in over a year last week in the Qatar Masters.]]]]> ]]>