A year ago, Els defeated Woods by two shots at Doral. This year, the tournaments are held the same week, March 6-9.
They are committed to play Dubai, located in the United Arab Emirates. That could change drastically if the United States moves closer to war with Iraq.
'I wouldn't say he's absolutely going to play or not going to play. He still intends to play,' said Mark Steinberg, Woods' agent at IMG. 'We are monitoring and critically analyzing the situation. We'll be talking to intelligent people. This will not be just a 'Tiger and Mark' decision.'
Els, the defending champion at Dubai, is taking the same approach.
'Obviously, we'll wait and see,' he said. 'I'm not going in there with missiles flying around.'
Els has a good source for information. He is friends with Tom Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Command. They played in the pro-am at Dubai several years ago, and Els visits each time he's in Hawaii.
What has Fargo told him?
'I can't tell you, man,' Els said with a big smile. 'Top secret.'
AUSSIE RULES: Nothing is ever too grandiose for Greg Norman, especially when it comes to yachts.
The Shark took delivery Tuesday of the latest version of 'Aussie Rules,' a 285-foot craft that was said to cost $70 million and is the world's largest aluminum motor yacht.
'There are many interesting and unique design features that will place Aussie Rules at the top of her category when she is seen in cruising destinations throughout the world,' Norman said.
Unique might be an understatement.
The yacht has seven auxiliary boats, two hyperbaric chambers and a $1 million home theater. Optional extras include a gym, several jet skis, an outdoor span and a tackle room with 200 fishing rods.
Oceanfast in Western Australia built the craft, which required three years and more than 300 workers.
WASTED TRIP: Carl Petterson of Sweden was hopeful of a glorious debut on the PGA Tour.
The higher-ranked newcomers on tour are usually assured of a spot in the 144-man field at the Sony Open, and Petterson was the first alternate.
Figuring he was a shoo-in, the Swede booked his flight from North Carolina (he went to N.C. State), then spent the next four days waiting -- and waiting. Petterson was on the putting green until 1 p.m. Thursday, when it was clear no one was going to withdraw.
He flew home the next day.
'It was a waste of time,' Petterson said.
DIVOTS: The Byron Nelson Classic won't have Tiger Woods this year, but it will have one of the richest purses on the PGA Tour. Total prize money has been raised to $5.6 million, and the winner will get $1,008,000. It's the ninth straight year the Nelson has increased its prize money. ... Retief Goosen says he might skip the Match Play Championship, depending on how close wife Tracy is to having their first child. ...
STAT OF THE WEEK: Ernie Els is 47 under par after two PGA Tour events. Last year, it took him until the British Open (48 under) to get that far under par for the season.
FINAL WORD: 'Sometimes I talk loudly, I yell, I get excited and everyone gives me dirty looks. It bothers me a bit, but I still find golf an exceptional sport.' -- Former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona.