TEE FOR THREE
Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia in the golfing spotlight
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