By Tony Jimenez
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Tiger Woods features in a strokeplay event for the first time in six weeks at the Turkish Airlines Open starting on Thursday and will herald his return by taking part in a spectacular Bosphorus Bridge photoshoot.
The world number one is due to arrive in Istanbul by helicopter on Tuesday before becoming the first golfer to hit balls from East to West on the iconic bridge that separates the continents of Europe and Asia.
Woods will then travel down to the south-western city of Antalya on the Mediterranean coast to take on Europe's finest in the $7 million tournament at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course.
The 14-times major winner also played in last year's invitational eight-man World Golf Final in Turkey but this season marks the first time the country has hosted an official European Tour event.
"I had a great time during my first visit to Turkey... and I'm looking forward to playing there once again," Woods said in a news release.
He has not played a strokeplay competition since finishing tied for 22nd place at the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September, the final event of the U.S. PGA Tour's money-spinning FedExCup series.
Among the 37-year-old American's title rivals this week will be U.S. Open champion and World Golf Final winner Justin Rose.
"It's going to be fun to play in Turkey again," said the 33-year-old Briton. "It's great for Turkey to have an event in the Final Series."
This week's tournament is the penultimate event in the inaugural Final Series, the European Tour's new FedExCup equivalent.
Rose is third in the Race To Dubai money list on 1.87 million euros ($2.53 million), behind Graeme McDowell (2.05 million) and FedExCup winner Henrik Stenson (2.20 million) with just the Turkish Open and DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to come.
Ian Poulter, fourth on the list with earnings of 1.66 million euros, will look to go one better in Antalya than his second-place finish to American Dustin Johnson in last week's WGC-Champions Tournament in Shanghai.
Former world number one Lee Westwood also features in the 78-man lineup this week but Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia are absentees.
First prize is worth 848,930 euros.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)