Tiger Woods won’t be starting his 2012 season at Torrey Pines. Instead of his traditional PGA Tour start in San Diego, Woods has agreed to play in a tournament in Abu Dhabi.
The former top-ranked golfer will play in the January 26-29 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship along with current No. 1 Luke Donald and defending champion Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood.
The move is somewhat surprising for Woods, taking appearance money from a European Tour event instead of playing what he considers one of his favorite PGA Tour courses. He’s won seven times at Torrey Pines as a pro, including his 14th and last major at the 2008 US Open.
Woods has been starting his season at Torrey Pines, when healthy, since 2006. He missed in 2009 (injury) and 2010 (scandal).
His five-tournament winning streak at Torrey Pines ended Jan. 30 when he tied for 44th. He had never finished outside the top 10 at Torrey Pines, and it was his worst start to his golf season since he turned pro.
In a statement on Woods’s website announcing his participation, he said he’s interested in visiting new places.
“I’m looking forward to 2012 and what I hope will be a great year of golf for me,’’ Woods said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing in HSBC events around the world, so I have been interested in including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in my schedule for some time.’’
Adding Woods is a coup for Abu Dhabi in its rivalry with the Dubai Desert Classic, where Woods has been a mainstay for years. Tournament manager Faisal al-Sheikh said that the “giants of golf’’ are coming to Abu Dhabi.
In last February’s Desert Classic, Woods tied for 20th.