The mercury is rising on the Hot Seat thermometer.
With most of the game’s best players in action somewhere this week, it’s time again to gauge who is facing the most heat.
Here is our special heat index with the PGA Tour moving to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the European Tour to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at the United Arab Emirates.
Smoldering britches – Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods vs. Jack Nicklaus.
Is golf’s most compelling competition merely on hold? Or is it really over?
If Woods follows up his Chevron World Challenge victory in his last start with a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, it will feel like his pursuit of Nicklaus is about to resume in earnest again.
That would re-ignite the game with possibilities.
A Woods win this week would mean something significant with the top four players in the world rankings at Abu Dhabi.
Woods and Nicklaus are still the only real rivals in the game today. Whether Woods can catch Nicklaus still holds the most potential for captivating folks whether they’re golf fans or not. A Woods’ victory in an event this week re-ignites the possibility he is ready to make Nicklaus feel like he is on the hot seat. It’s ultimately what any Woods resurgence is about.
Middle Eastern shatta sauce – Luke Donald
The No. 1 player in the world can make a bold statement with a triumphant start to the new season.
Donald begins his 35th week atop the world rankings with No. 2 Lee Westwood, No. 3 Rory McIlroy and No. 4 Martin Kaymer all teeing it up with him at Abu Dhabi.
Notably, Ladbrokes doesn't rank Donald among its top three favorites this week. Kaymer, a three-time winner at Abu Dhabi, is favored at 13/2. McIlroy is at 7/1. Woods is next at 9/1. Westwood and Donald are each at 14/1.
Power has been richly rewarded at Abu Dhabi the last five years, with long-hitting Kaymer and Paul Casey having won the last five events there. Kaymer won in 2008, ’10 and ’11 and Casey in ’07 and ’09.
Donald’s best finish at Abu Dhabi was a tie for 11th in 2008, which is also his only appearance in the event.
McIlroy finished second there last year, third there in 2010 and tied for fifth there in 2009.
Westwood tied for second there in 2008.
In the dragon’s lair – Martin Kaymer
With back-to-back victories at Abu Dhabi, with three titles in the last four years, Kaymer is expected to play well.
Over his last two victories there, Kaymer’s scoring average is 66.3. His high score is a 67 in his last eight tournament rounds there. He beat runner-up McIlroy by eight shots last year. It’s going to be awfully difficult for Kaymer to top what he has already done at Abu Dhabi.
General Lee tailpipe hot – Bubba Watson
Now that he owns the famed car from the TV show the Dukes of Hazzard, what is left to want?
What prize tops the General Lee?
It might feel like it is all downhill for Watson at Torrey Pines as he defends his title at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Safari sunburn – Ernie Els
What is left in the tank for the Big Easy?
At 42, Els can’t be finished winning big events yet, can he? He can’t actually be done playing in the Masters, can he? Els isn’t yet qualified to play at Augusta National this spring.
With a final-round 67 at the Volvo Golf Champions in his South African homeland on Sunday, Els came from four shots back to get in a playoff with Branden Grace and Retief Goosen. Grace ended up winning, but Els took a nice step forward, making putts to give himself a chance after a winless 2011. He’ll try to build on that at Torrey Pines.