The European Tour’s Dhs55 million Dubai World Championship is set for another star-studded turnout at Jumeirah Golf Estates next week: world number one Luke Donald from England, number two Rory McIlroy fron Northern Ireland and number six Martin Kaymer from Germany will all tee off on December 8 with plenty to play for. The top 60 in the Race to Dubai tournament standings include defending champion Robert Karlsson (Sweden), Masters winner Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), resurgent Sergio Garcia (Spain) and young English prodigy Tom Lewis. The quartet will be keen to steal the headlines, even if none can claim the Race to Dubai crown in the process.
Donald, who has won three European Tour titles this year, has a lead of more than Dhs4.9 million over defending champion Kaymer and US Open hero McIlroy in the Race to Dubai standings, as he strives to become the first golfer to top both the European and American Orders of Merit in the same season. However, the 33-year-old, who turns 34 the day before the event, hasn’t played much golf recently due to the birth of his second child, while his rivals are fresh from recent triumphs in China: red-hot McIlroy at the Shanghai Masters, and Kaymer at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
‘I will arrive in Dubai with a very healthy lead,’ said Donald earlier this year. ‘Rory and Martin will fancy their chances of winning the Championship and, if either does, they will probably replace me at the top of the money list. My aim, therefore, is to be very aggressive. I want to do what Lee Westwood did in 2009: to win the tournament and Race, and show the world I am a worthy world number one, despite having not yet won a Major. Dubai is my chance to shut a few critics up.’
McIlroy hasn’t given up hope of catching Donald, and the 22-year-old has an excellent record on Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth course – a venue he feels doesn’t complement Donald’s game. ‘I’ve finished above Luke in the last two Dubai World Championships,’ said the Jumeirah-sponsored player during the Shanghai Masters in November. ‘I have also never placed outside of the top five, so have to think I can gain some significant ground on Luke in Dubai. Earth suits long, powerful hitters, and Luke is not really known for that. I genuinely believe I can catch him. Of course, he is the favourite, but I have no problem being billed as the underdog. I quite like that tag – it only fires me up.’
After a few logistical teething problems in 2009, last November’s Dubai World Championship ran flawlessly and this year’s Race to Dubai finale is now expected to be the biggest yet. Refreshingly, tickets to this world-class golfing carnival are free, so there is absolutely no excuse to miss what could be the greatest show on Earth.
The Dubai World Championship takes place on December 8-11 at Jumeirah Golf Estates, near Emirates Road. Tickets are free; register at www.dubaiworldchampionship.com
Unsure of the rules when it comes to watching golf? Just remember these essentials
• Don’t make noise when a golfer is about to play.
• Make sure your mobile phone is set to silent.
• Don’t take photos when a golfer is about to play a shot (it’s fine to snap away as they prepare or after they’ve hit the ball).
• If a ball is heading towards the crowd (due to an errant shot), shout ‘Fore!’ to warn people who may be hit.
• If a ball lands in the crowd (and it often does), do not touch it or move it in any way.
• Spectators must stay behind the ropes at all times, but can perch anywhere on the course. There are stewards throughout who can guide.
• Food and drink is allowed on course.
• Contrary to popular belief, spectators can wear anything, but to really look the part try chinos or smart shorts and a polo shirt.
• At the Earth course, there are bars on the 17th and 18th greens. Both are very popular and open to everyone. There is also a village where you can hang out and watch the golf on the big screen.
• Golfers won’t normally sign autographs mid-round, but there’s no harm in asking. The best place to get autographs is the practice green, driving range or clubhouse bar.