Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Ara­bia in the golf­ing spot­light

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Front Page - WORDS DO­MINIC EL­LIS

The Eu­ro­pean Tour’s an­nual early sea­son ‘Desert Swing’ has a new look this year with the in­clu­sion of the in­au­gu­ral Saudi In­ter­na­tional in King Ab­dul­lah Eco­nomic City ( Jan­uary 31-Fe­bru­ary 3), fol­low­ing the 14th Abu Dhabi HSBC Cham­pi­onship ( Jan­uary 16-19) and 30th Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic ( Jan­uary 24-27).

The Saudi Ara­bia Golf Fed­er­a­tion has con­firmed that the new Eu­ro­pean Tour event at Royal Greens Golf & Coun­try Club (KAEC) will fea­ture Dustin John­son, the world’s top ranked golfer, and Pa­trick Reed, the 2018 Masters Cham­pion. The 18hole course, de­signed by Eu­ro­pean Golf De­sign, fea­tures a club­house of­fer­ing Red Sea views, ex­ec­u­tive busi­ness cen­ter, academy, spa and fine din­ing venues. “We have am­bi­tious plans to ac­cel­er­ate golf de­vel­op­ment in the King­dom, with a spe­cial fo­cus on ju­niors and fam­i­lies, and this event will play a key role in our plans,” said Chair­man H.E. Yasir Al-Ru­mayyan.

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Cham­pi­onship pre­sented by EGA re­cently be­came part of the Rolex Se­ries, and with its prize fund in­creas­ing by US$4 mil­lion to US$7 mil­lion, is one of the pre­mium tour­na­ments on The Eu­ro­pean Tour.

Three-time Ma­jor Win­ner Brooks Koepka will play and he will be look­ing to stamp his au­thor­ity at the 14th edi­tion of the award-win­ning event, fol­low­ing an ex­cep­tional 2018, dur­ing which he be­came a dou­ble Ma­jor- Cham­pion, bat­tled for Golf ’s World Num­ber One sta­tus and was recog­nised as the PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Block­ing his path to vic­tory is the event’s cur­rent reign­ing cham­pion, back-to-back win­ner Tommy Fleet­wood, and Koepka’s United States Ry­der Cup team­mate, 19-time win­ner on the PGA Tour, Dustin John­son. His­tory is at stake as Fleet­wood bids to fight off his ri­vals to win the ti­tle for a record-equalling third year; a feat which so far, has only been achieved by Martin Kaymer.

It’s set to be a land­mark year for the Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic, which will host its 30th edi­tion be­tween Jan­uary 27-30. Spec­ta­tors will be able to en­joy a range of ad­di­tions in­clud­ing a new view­ing plat­form on the 18th green, spec­ta­tor area on the 15th hole and a re­designed tour­na­ment vil­lage.

The Clas­sic has had its fair share of in­di­vid­ual stars over the years though with the ar­guable ex­cep­tion of three­times win­ner Ernie Els, not one pro has com­pletely dom­i­nated the field. Since 1989, the tour­na­ment has seen 24 dif­fer­ent win­ners, in­clud­ing nine Ma­jor cham­pi­ons and 13 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties. The Span­ish have warmed to the Emi­rates Golf Club’s fairways in re­cent years with four win­ners – Miguel An­gel Jimenez, Al­varo Quiros, Rafael Cabr­era-Bello and Ser­gio Gar­cia – in the last eight years.

Eu­ro­pean Ry­der Cup star Tommy Fleet­wood will play this month, re­in­forc­ing the Clas­sic’s sta­tus as ‘ The Ma­jor of the Mid­dle East’. Fleet­wood will be joined by fel­low Ry­der Cup stars, past and present, in­clud­ing Ser­gio Gar­cia, Hen­rik Sten­son, Ian Poul­ter, Tyrrell Hat­ton, Thor­b­jørn Ole­sen, Thomas Bjørn, Lee West­wood, Miguel Án­gel Jiménez and Colin Mont­gomerie, in what will be a star-stud­ded field as the world’s best com­pete for the fa­mous Dal­lah tro­phy.

Ser­gio Gar­cia tri­umphed as the all-time high­est points scorer in Paris,

be­com­ing the most suc­cess­ful Ry­der Cup player in his­tory.

Gar­cia was the se­cond Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic cham­pion who then went on to win The Masters, af­ter Danny Wil­lett ac­com­plished the same in 2016. In a twist of fate, both Gar­cia’s and Wil­lett’s cad­dies were as­signed the no. 89 – the same year the Omega Dubai Desert Clas­sic was born. Will lucky num­ber 89 be vic­to­ri­ous again in 2019?

Last year’s cham­pion Hao­tong Li will re­turn to Dubai to de­fend his ti­tle and seek back-to-back wins. The 23-year-old from China be­came the first Asian golfer to win the event in 2018 when he beat four-time Ma­jor win­ner Rory McIl­roy by one stroke.

Eu­ro­pean Tour Rookie of the Year 2018, Shub­hankar Sharma, is con­firmed to join fel­low UAE based am­a­teur Ray­han Thomas as well as Jo­van Re­bula, British am­a­teur cham­pion and nephew of Els.

HH Sheikh Fahim bin Sul­tan Al Qasimi from the Emi­rates Golf Fed­er­a­tion said the Desert Clas­sic has be­come one of the most fa­mous golf tour­na­ments glob­ally. “The 2019 event will show­case the last 30 years with many stars past and present. It is a great plat­form for our sport and will help to en­cour­age the next gen­er­a­tion of golfers to our great game.”

Fans can take ad­van­tage of the event’s spe­cial 30th edi­tion of­fer where they can en­joy a full four-day ex­pe­ri­ence for AED250.

Ma­jlis Course 10th tee, Emi­rates Golf Club

RIGHT: 8th tee, Ma­jlis Course

ABOVE: Westin Abu Dhabi night golf

BELOW: 18th hole fair­way, Royal Greens Golf & Coun­try Club, King Ab­dul­lah Eco­nomic City

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