Paul Casey, the popular English golfer who always emphasises how much value he puts on his UAE links, is the runaway leader of the new Race to Dubai following his exciting victory in the European Tour's flagship event last weekend. The one-stroke triumph in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth also brings Casey another significant reward on the world stage - a rise to a career-high No 3 in the world rankings behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson which makes him officially top European player ahead of Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Padraig Harrington.
All of these puts the powerfully built Casey in good shape to fulfil a burning ambition to add a major championship to his growing list of honours which this year included a second victory in the Abu Dhabi championship in front of his local sponsors Aldar and a first US Tour triumph in Houston. Casey plays much of his golf in the United States, and the man who began the year in 41st place on the world ladder, is setting his sights on next month's US Open at Bethpage State Park in New York which takes place a month before the British Open on the famous Scottish links of Turnberry, owned by the Dubai company Leisurecorp.
"There are lots of things that I still want to accomplish," said Casey after he had bravely held off the tremendous challenge of his fellow Englishman Ross Fisher to capture the European equivalent of the US PGA Players' Championship won earlier this month by Henrik Stenson of Sweden. "Certainly success in a major is at the top of my wish list but there are so many other tournaments we have with great history or that are on great courses," he said.
"Winning at St Andrews would be on my list - say the Dunhill Links Championship [in October] or something like that." The Wentworth first prize of ?750,000 (Dh3.85 million) took Casey past Australia's Geoff Ogilvy, who beat him in this year's final of the Accenture world matchplay, as the halfway leader of the inaugural Race to Dubai - the new name for the European Tour Order of Merit which offers 60 qualifying places in the end-of-season US$10m (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Championship, the richest tournament in the history of the sport.
Just behind Oglivy is the Dubai Desert Classic winner Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, whose fifth-place finish on Sunday keeps him ahead of his Wentworth playing partner Fisher, who climbs into fourth. All of the top four, plus the fifth-placed Angel Cabrera - the US Masters champion - have amassed more than ?1m in prize money, making them guaranteed entries for the Dubai World Championship which carries a record first prize of US$2m when it takes place on the Greg Norman-designed Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.
Organisers of that tournament which runs from Nov 19-22 are reporting a tremendous reaction to their decision to offer free admission to spectators. Golf fans from all over the world have registered for tickets on the website www.dubaiworldchampionship.com and 20,000 places were taken within two weeks. Hamza Mustafa, the managing director of Nakheel, the parent company which recently reabsorbed Leisurecorp, said: "We have been absolutely delighted with the initial response to tickets becoming available. We have seen people register from as far afield as Australia and the United States which is wonderful news for the tournament - and Dubai.
"There has been positive feedback from all corners of the golf world following our decision to offer tickets for free. The Dubai World Championship is going to be one of the leading events on the world's sports calendar." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org