China - Ernie Els said on Wednesday he was mystified as to why Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods were missing the WGC-HSBC Champions, despite playing a lucrative exhibition in China earlier this week.
Els, who claimed his fourth Major at this year's British Open, said it was “unfortunate” the world number one and two were missing the $7 million showpiece, one of the year's marquee tournaments.
“Good question,” Els said, when asked why golf's two biggest stars were skipping the event at Dongguan in southern China.
“I'm not sure why they are not here. You know they played on Monday, I think they played last week. I think Rory played in Shanghai and Tiger played in Malaysia. They normally play at the HSBC Champions tournament.
“Things happen. Unfortunately both their schedules worked out this way. I think HSBC and the tournament will miss them, number one and number two not to be here.”
McIlroy played the BMW Masters in Shanghai last week and Woods was in Malaysia before they faced off in Monday's one-round “Duel at Jinsha Lake” at Zhengzhou, in front of a chaotic crowd and flashy displays of wealth.
With leisure helicopters parked by the greens, models posing in evening gowns and fans constantly invading the course, the two are reported to have picked up millions of dollars for their day's work.
McIlroy is playing next week's Barclays Singapore Open and will then defend his title at the UBS Hong Kong Open, as he seeks to seal the European merit crown.
Woods is taking a break before his November's World Challenge, his last event of the year. Meanwhile Els is playing through the pain barrier after spraining his ankle in a tennis accident.
“You can't play every week. You can't play everywhere. But they will surely be missed here,” said Els.
“Schedules are schedules. I think Rory has to defend in Hong Kong, and might have a lot of golf to be played and that's why they're skipping. I don't know why they're skipping, because it's a wonderful event. “It's unfortunate they are not here.”
The South African, 43, will play with painkillers and strapping after hurting his ankle two weeks ago, an injury which forced him out of last week's PGA Grand Slam of Golf.
“Yesterday was two weeks since the big fall. So it's been quite a lot of work,” he said. “It's a little painful but I can hit it (the ball) and walk,” added Els.