Reporting from La Jolla — At least Tiger Woods is honest about the money.
Woods has chosen to skip the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course, which begins Thursday, to play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, part of the European Tour.
Although the total purse in Abu Dhabi is $2.7 million and the PGA Tour’s stop at Torrey Pines this week offers $6 million, Woods is being paid a guarantee reported to be somewhere over $1.5 million just to play in the United Arab Emirates event.
“That’s one of the reasons why a lot of the guys do play in Europe,” Woods told reporters in Abu Dhabi. “Only place we don’t get it [guaranteed money] is the U.S.
“Where we offset it is our prize money is pretty high. We certainly play for more money than any other tour in the world.”
Which is exactly why PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the U.S. tour doesn’t allow appearance fees.
“We understand why other tours around the world may feel it’s necessary to allow for appearance fees,” Votaw said. “We feel our job is to make our tournaments as attractive as possible for our players to compete. Other tours may feel the need to do it. We don’t.”
Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, the top four golfers in the world golf rankings, are also playing in Abu Dhabi. Woods is paired with Donald and McIlroy in the first two rounds.
Dustin Johnson, ranked ninth in the world, is the only top-10 player entered at Torrey Pines this week. Among the top 20 only Matt Kuchar (No. 11), Nick Watney (No. 12) and Phil Mickelson (No. 15) are here.
Farmers Insurance tournament director Tom Wilson, while offering nothing but praise to Woods, calling him a “huge supporter of the tournament,” said he also agrees with the PGA Tour rules.
“Essentially, one person is playing for the same thing as everybody else. It eliminates guys just showing up for the big check,” Wilson said.
“They do have a pretty good field in Abu Dhabi, but not that many American players.”
Votaw said the PGA Tour feels that by offering appearance fees there can be doubt about how hard a golfer is competing.
“A player with the fee misses the cut, for example, there can be the perception, the possibility, that the player just came for the fee,” he said. “That’s something the PGA Tour is concerned about. We’ve never felt that was appropriate.”
Votaw said that the PGA Tour has guidelines for PGA Tour members who play in events outside the tour when there are conflicts.
“Generally it’s three event releases if he plays 15 [PGA Tour] events,” Votaw said. “And one more release per every five tournaments played.” Last year Woods played nine PGA Tour events.
Woods has had huge success at Torrey Pines. He won tournaments here seven times, including the 2008 U.S. Open. But this is the third time in the last four years Woods is missing the event.
Last year he played but finished tied for 44th
“All we can try to do is provide as good a tournament as we can,” Wilson said. “Because we conflict with a European event, players have to make a decision, one or the other. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tiger back here next year.”
Woods is making his PGA Tour debut in two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Woods played at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach but he hasn’t played at the annual Pebble Beach tournament since 2002.