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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 March 2021

Dubai's showcase golf events are staying there

Vultures followed the announcement that the total prize purse of the first Dubai World Championship and Race to Dubai needed to be cut by 25 per cent, but the race will continue to end there.
At 15, Alexis Thompson has already won US$336,000 in six tournaments. 
Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
At 15, Alexis Thompson has already won US$336,000 in six tournaments. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

Vultures had been hovering over Jumeirah Golf Estates for over a year following the announcement that the total prize purse of the first Dubai World Championship (DWC) and Race to Dubai needed to be cut by 25 per cent to $US15 million (Dh55m).

Overseas detractors of the way the UAE's sporting portfolio of major international events has been built up in recent times were probably rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of the two showpiece competitions turning into a nine-day wonder in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The critics were silenced last weekend by a declaration by the man who runs the European Tour that his organisation is "rock solid" with their arrangements for the season-ending event for the foreseeable future.

In saying that, George O'Grady, the Tour's chief executive also dispelled a rumour that started circulating the Earth Course at the start of last week to the effect that an alternative venue was being sought.

"The Race to Abu Dhabi" was one suggestion, "The Race to Doha" an even stronger one as existing members of the Tour fixture list were thought to be looking for a bigger slice of the cake.

O'Grady admitted to discussions taking place with those who help put on the Desert Swing at the start of the season but only in an "advisory" capacity as to how best to make favourable modifications for what is already working smoothly in Dubai.

O'Grady was commenting on why some of his colleagues went to play the new Yas Links and Saadiyat Beach courses during the week of the DWC.

The "rave reviews" they brought back was more an indication that the Tour have found at least one alternative venue (should they ever feel the need for one) for the Abu Dhabi Championship which has attracted a strong line-up for its sixth staging at the National Course next month, rather than a new home for the concluding leg of what used to be its Order of Merit.

The Earth Course's survival as an international venue (its sister course Fire is now available to add on-site variety if required) is excellent news for another of the country's fragile events - the Dubai Ladies Masters - which takes place next week.

That tournament which was won in its first two years by Annika Sorenstam, the former world No 1 from Sweden, has been reliant for its salvation by a deal offering joint sponsorship to those companies who back the more established Dubai Desert Classic, which will again feature Tiger Woods next February.

It is pleasing that the some of the world's top women, including crowd-pulling Americans like Michelle Wie and precocious teenager Alexis Thompson, can still be accommodated on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club.

The phenomenal achievements of Thompson at such a tender age - the 15-year-old has amassed $336,000 dollars so far in her six-tournament rookie year - demonstrate why a cluster of high class international teenage visitors to Abu Dhabi this week are right to be cautious about their future career options.

I put it to Hayley Davis, 17, who won the junior tournament presented by the Daily Telegraph by going round the National Course in four-under par for 54 holes, that her performance was perhaps good enough to expedite a decision to turn professional.

She, like Kelly Tidy and Amy Boulden, who finished joint second, emphasised that she does not lack ambition in pointing out that the standard is becoming so high nowadays that it is better to progress gradually to the professional ranks.

The same message came from Ben Taylor, the boys' winner, whose aggregate of 13-under par made eye-catching reading on the scoreboard in front of the distinctive Falcon clubhouse.

Delighted though he was to conquer a championship course, he reckons he is going to need all of his four years on the United States Collegiate scene before he can even think about pitting his wits over the same 18 holes as the likes of Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, who will be tackling the course themselves in January.

All of which puts into perspective the lofty ambitions of some of the talented youngsters based in the UAE - Emirati and expatriate - who have spoken of joining the paid ranks one day.

Daniel Hendry, 16, who earned the right to play against Taylor and 10 other of the United Kingdom's best teenagers by winning the local qualifying event, was left 26 strokes in arrears over the three days - a chastening experience similar to that suffered by Joel Neale in the same event last year.

Published: December 2, 2010 04:00 AM


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