Els will play Dubai; Woods still deciding
by Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Ernie Els decided Friday to defend his title next week in the Dubai Desert Classic, a big boost for a golf tournament that already has lost top players concerned over a possible war in Iraq.

Still up in the air is whether Tiger Woods will play.

``Don't know,'' Woods said Friday.

Earlier Friday, Colin Montgomerie, Nick Faldo and former Ryder Cup captain Mark James decided not to play in the European Tour event.

Els, the defending champion next week at Doral on the PGA Tour, said he'll still worry about what happens if there is a war while he's there.

``How do you get out?'' Els asked.

He lost in the first round of the Match Play Championship, and told PGA Tour officials on Friday that he would be going to Dubai.

``Good for him,'' said Woods.

Woods said he was monitoring the situation and might not decide whether to play until after the Match Play. He advanced to the quarterfinals on Friday.

Mark O'Meara, Woods' neighbor and best friend on Tour, already has said he would play in Dubai next week.

Paul McGinley of Ireland already is in Dubai, and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland has said he still plans to play.

``With Colin not playing in Qatar (Masters) the following week, he decided the trip from the U.S. to the Gulf would be too much to undertake for just one event,'' said tournament executive committee vice-chairman Mohamed Buamim. ``While he will be missed, we are still on course with our preparations.''

Clarke, Faldo, James and a number of other top European players, have pulled out of the Qatar Masters, which is played the week after Dubai.

``Both events are going forward and both have 150-man fields and both entry lists are full,'' European Tour spokesman Mitchell Platts said.

Under PGA European Tour rules, players have until early Saturday to withdraw. Late withdrawals could face fines.

Woods is not a European Tour member. He is receiving an appearance fee worth over $2 million to play in Dubai, where he was the runner-up in 2001 to Thomas Bjorn.

Tournament spokesman Alan Ewens described the current situation as ``totally peaceful.''

``Everything is in place and ready to go,'' he said.