The Emirates Golf Club hosts many of the world’s best golfers this week. Time Out takes to the fairways for a closer look
When Tiger Woods sunk a monster 30-foot putt on the final hole of last year’s Dubai Desert Classic, it was, for many, the perfect end to the perfect championships.
In a remarkable last day, the world’s number one player started the final round four behind the leader Ernie Els, only to reel off five birdies in the last seven holes to win by a single shot.
Sadly for the crowds – but perhaps to the relief of his rivals – Woods won’t be at the Emirates Golf Club this year. But, while he recovers from knee surgery, many of the world’s other top players will hope to take his crown in what is considered one of the European Tour’s most prestigious events.
Aside from the staggering US$2.5million (Dhs 9,187,025) prize money, the competitors will be looking to rack up valuable points in the ‘Race To Dubai’. This season-long competition culminates with highest ranking 60 players returning to our humble emirate for The Dubai World Championships at Jumeirah Golf Estates – with prize money of US$10million (Dhs 36,748,100). But it won’t be easy: as our handy little guide will demonstrate, the Desert Classic is an epic contest.
The Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club is a true but tough test of the professional golfer’s skills. While good shots are rewarded with birdies, even tiny errors can turn into big headaches. Experts reckon the 16th 17th and 18th rank as among the most dramatic closing holes in golf.
Players to watch
Ernie Els The big, avuncular South African is well-known in these parts. He has his own course here, at The Els Club, and has already won the Classic three times. As a major winner and one of the best players on the European Tour he’s sure to be among the favourites.
Sergio Garcia The mercurial and prodigiously talented Spaniard had a tricky 2008. There were the disappointments of the Ryder Cup and narrowly missing out to Padraig Harrington in the Open, but he is currently the number two-ranked player in the world.
Paul Casey Casey is another young player who many believe is yet to realise his full potential. The Englishman ended a two-year-long barren spell by winning the Abu Dhabi Championships two weeks ago and is confident he can do well in Dubai.
Lee Westwood A consistent performer on the European Tour and a hero of several Ryder Cup victories, Westwood had a good, but not great, 2008. By virtue of 14 top 10 finishes he broke into the world top 10 and should be a player to watch this time round.
Henrik Stenson The Swede was the winner here in 2007 and finished tied sixth last year. He remains a favourite for this year.
Colin Montgomerie The Scotsman was for many years the European Tour’s man to beat. He won the order of merit (the predecessor to the Race to Dubai) on eight separate occasions. Now favourite to be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, his form has been patchy since, but on his day he still has the ability to surprise.
Justin Rose Currently ranked 20 in the world, he was tipped by some to win a major after winning the European Order of Merit in 2007. He’ll be looking to make a good start to 2009 with victory here.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez ‘The Mechanic’, as he’s known to fans, is one of Europe’s most popular players and most recognisable – possessing as he does a ginger-haired pony tail. He’s ranked 26 in the world, but is a canny performer on the European Tour and had several good results last year, including two wins, and finished the European Order of Merit in fourth place.
With thanks to Middle East Golfer
Jan 29-Feb1: Dubai Desert Classic main tournament
February 1: Prize Presentation on the 18th Green (apprx 17:00)
Sanctioning Bodies: PGA European Tour/UAE Golf Association.
Supported By: Dubal
Player Field: 112 members from the European Tour and 8 specially invited players to produce a starting field of 120 players.
Format of Play: The Championship will be played over 72 holes (four rounds) of stroke play. After 36 holes, the field is cut to the leading 65 players plus ties.
Prize Money: US$2.5 million
Defending champion: Tiger Woods (USA)
Tickets: Challenge match – Dhs75 for general public, Dhs60 for UGA members; Pro-am – Dhs75 (Dhs60); Daily tickets – Dhs175 (Dhs160); Season tickets (valid Tue-Sun) Dhs675 (Dhs600).