After a history-making appearance in Abu Dhabi last week, Josh Hill isn’t getting too ahead of himself.
That means, principally, that the game-plan for this week’s Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic is pretty much the same as always. $8 million Rolex Series event, DP World Tour, or not.
“I don’t have any goals other than things like making sure I commit to every shot, making sure me and my caddie talk through the shot well, go through the process,” the Dubai-born teenager said yesterday, ahead of his second appearance at the tournament he made his debut at in 2020. “I don’t really want to think about the result; that will come if I’m able to stick to those goals.”
The approach certainly served Hill well at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Making only his third appearance on Europe’s leading professional circuit, the 17-year-old amateur displayed considerable grit to make the cut. Needing to pick up three shots late in his second round, he birdied three of the final four holes to become the first UAE-born player to contest all four days of the event. Hill excelled in his third round, too, before returning a 3-over-par 75 on Sunday to come home in a tie for 58th.
Now afforded the opportunity to compete in a second successive Rolex Series tournament, alongside the likes of world No 2 Collin Morikawa and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, Hill is concentrated simply on his own game at Emirates Golf Club.
“It doesn’t really matter who you get paired with,” said Hill, who was later drawn for the first two rounds alongside Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, a four-time winner on tour, and Matthias Schwab of Austria. “It’s not going to change how I look at the course, or the week. It’s nice to get a good group, but it doesn’t really matter.”
Hill is not the only home hope this week. Ahmad Skaik, the UAE No 1, has also relatively recently enjoyed some invaluable DP World Tour experience. In November, the Emirati narrowly missed the cut at the Aviv Dubai Championship – it was his fourth appearance on the circuit – and then could manage only two rounds at Yas Links last week as the adverse weather in the capital greatly affected his game.
However, switching focus to this week, Skaik said: “It is always an honour to represent my country, and Arabs in general, and I want to inspire youngsters to show them that we can play in these tournaments, compete, and do well.
“I showed at the Aviv that it is possible. I’m one of them, so if I can do it they can do it as well.”