The hottest men's golfer this year, South African Ernie Els, will not defend his title at the Ford Championship at Doral, which teed off March 6 in Florida. Instead, the world's second-ranked player has opted for a huge appearance fee to play in the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic.
World number-one Tiger Woods of the United States was also scheduled to play in Dubai, but he pulled out because of security concerns with a war looming in Iraq. Els left his decision to play until the final moment and said he fully understands Tiger's decision to skip the event. Colin Montgomery of Scotland and Nick Faldo of England are among others bypassing the event, even though it has a $5 million purse.
As for the Ford Championship in Florida, the highest ranked player taking part is number-six David Toms of the United States, who finished second to Tiger Woods at last week's World Match-play Championship in California. Compatriot and world number-three Phil Mickelson is staying home with his wife who is expecting their third child, and number-four Vijay Singh of Fiji is injured.