Dubai closes Middle East swing
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2009 Dubai Desert Classic | Preview | 28 Jan 2009
The final leg of the Middle East swing takes place this week at the home of where it all started 20 years ago. The Emirates Golf Club designed by Karl Litten trail-blazed the development of new golf courses in this region and in 1989 Mark James won the inaugural staging when he defeated Peter O’Malley in a playoff.
The event was then known as the Karl Litten Desert Classic but the tournament has since gone on the become one of the most successful on the European Tour and this week’s field again highlights the attractive nature of the event to many of the game’s leading players.
The tournaments leading into this week have benefitted from the impact the Dubai Desert Classic has had on tournament golf in the region generally with the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Qatar Masters now rapidly gaining ground in terms of their own status.
Twelve months ago Tiger Woods produced his almost trademark come from behind victory to catch and pass the likes of Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson, Graeme MCDowell, Sergio Garcia and others to capture his second Dubai Desert Classic title. Woods of course will not be in this week’s field but many of those he defeated in that memorable final round last year will be.
Ernie Els, already a three time winner of this event, made a good start to the season with a 6th place finish in the Mercedes-Benz Championship but has been only average in his two starts since. He loves this event though and that might be enough to take him a long way towards win number four and to avenge a late collapse last year.
In order for him to do so however Els will need to get past Henrik Stenson who has such a great record in this region and the world number two Sergio Garcia along with many others who have chances.
Stenson was runner up last week in Qatar after surprisingly missing the cut in Abu Dhabi while Garcia has shown enough in those two events to suggest his game is close to its best. Stenson is a previous winner of the event and has often been in contention while Garcia has not been quite as successful in the event.
Louis Oosthuizen produced the equal best final round last year to finish in a share of third which, at the time, was a surprise result but if he was to repeat that this week or do even better then it would surprise no-one. The South African has been on top of his game in Abu Dhabi and Qatar finishing runner up on each occasion and his first European Tour victory must surely be close at hand.
Martin Kaymer finished runner up to Woods last year and has a great record in this region having won in Abu Dhabi last year. Kaymer finished runner up two weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi event and despite a disappointing week last week in Qatar could well pose a threat.
Robert Karlsson returned to tournament golf last week in Qatar and while it was just an average week for him he will be the better for it. One of the game’s big movers in 2008, the Swede could well improve further in 2009 and this offers a good opportunity to do so.
The Australasian challenge is headed by previous winner Richard Green. Green won this event in 1997 and just two years ago held a one shot lead playing the last before a bogey cost him the title. Green missed the cut in Qatar last week but a much better effort can be expected from him.
Brett Rumford is enjoying being back on the European Tour and is playing well, while Scott Strange, Mark Brown, the very much improved David Gleeson and Michael Campbell make up the Australasian challenge although Campbell is not a definite starter given his injury concerns.