Cut-price Tiger Woods launches season with cheap appearance in Abu Dhabi

Cut-price Tiger Woods launches season with cheap appearance in Abu Dhabi

Tiger Woods makes a cut-price return to the European Tour on Thursday as he launches his 2012 season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The days when Woods commanded appearance money in excess of 3million just for turning up at tournaments are gone.

Tiger Woods

What a bargain: Tiger Woods will make his 2012 debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Instead, he is travelling to the desert to take on English world No 1 Luke Donald and Europe’s major winners Rory McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Martin Kaymer for a fee said not to reach seven figures.

The 36-year-old’s off-course earnings in his prime were estimated at 60m a year, and while he has picked up a couple of new sponsors in recent months, luxury Swiss watchmakers are paying him less than 100,000 a year to be one of their ambassadors.

However, the big question this week is whether Woods can still give his paymasters value for money. One person convinced he can is Colin Montgomerie.

He believes Woods’s presence will not only lift the profile of the Abu Dhabi tournament but that the American could win the Masters in April.

Monty points to the way Woods, after a year wrecked by knee problems, conjured a one-shot win in his own Chevron Challenge before Christmas after finishing third at the Australian Open.

‘Tiger is going to add allure to Abu Dhabi,’ said Montgomerie. ‘Everyone is going to be asking what’s he been doing in the winter break and has he emerged in good shape.

‘I think he’s going to have the bit between his teeth after that win and that he will come back.

Colin Montgomerie

Voice of confidence: Colin Montgomerie says Tiger Woods will fight back to greatness

‘I think he is going to start winning again. Not necessarily in Abu Dhabi but I fancy him for the Masters.’

On his website, Woods has given the gentlest hint he feels ready to follow up that first victory anywhere in more than two years.

‘It’s hard to believe it was that long,’

Woods said. ‘It was a nice way to end the season and, hopefully, I’ll win a few more in 2012.

‘It was great to finish 2011 strong. More importantly, it’s good to be healthy again.’

Woods spat on the green during the final round of last year’s Dubai Desert Classic, resulting in a fine from the European Tour and an apology from the former world No 1.