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Unfinished business in Dubai

Iain Carter | 15:00 UK time, Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Welcome to a real-life oasis. Glorious verdant green peppered with brilliant white bunkers, dappled with deep blue water and surrounded by luxurious abodes with the unmistakeable aroma of unlimited pots of cash in the desert.

Well that's how it was supposed to be in these parts this week, but it hasn't quite panned out that way.

Yes the grass is green and the bunkers are white, but the water is muddied - literally and metaphorically - and let us hope it is mud because some of the smells suggest it might be something else.

It is certainly not the whiff of money that fills the nostrils, and that's despite the fact that several exceptionally wealthy golfers are going to become substantially richer here at the season ending Dubai World Championship.

This is because the Earth Course sits amid a building site. Fairways are lined with half erected scaffold clad properties as the ambitious development to finance the Race to Dubai has been stalled by the global economic meltdown.

There is no clubhouse - instead, admittedly impressive, there are temporary structures to house players, caddies, officials and media. And very nicely too - the caddies are particularly chuffed with their leather sofas and excellent food.

It is easy to see how this will become a magnificent arena for the climax to the European Tour season when (and if) the building works are complete. In the meantime we have a compelling contest to end the year as the continent's number one to distract us from the unfinished building work.

While development has to be the buzz word with regard to the infrastructure at Jumeirah Golf Estates it is fascinating to gauge how the European Tour has developed in the last decade.

606's very own Lee Westwood offers the perfect benchmark as he seeks to bookend the "noughties" with money list victories.

rory595.jpgNorthern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hopes Dubai will cap an encouraging 2009 for him

In 2000 when he ended Colin Montgomerie's domination of the Order of Merit, the Nottinghamshire man needed to win five counting events and have six more top four finishes to secure the title.

Nine years on, he needs what would be only his second win of the season to be sure of overhaulling Rory McIlroy and take the newly named Race to Dubai crown and a bonus cheque for $1.5m.

Indeed, it is quite conceivable that McIlroy or Westwood could win the Race with only one victory to their name while the other candidates for the title Martin Kaymer (2) and Ross Fisher (1) have only three wins between them.

It seems that the decade heralded by Westwood's Order of Merit has seen the demise of the multiple winner (unless your name is Woods). Gone are the days of a Monty, Woosie, Seve et al cleaning up a healthy handful of titles every year.

Of course injury denied Paul Casey the opportunity to add to his three early season wins and Kaymer may have won more than his back to back Scottish and French Opens but for his freak karting prang, but the undeniable trend is that the tour is producing more winners and fewer multiple champions.

"More people can win, it's as simple as that," Ian Poulter, the recent Singapore Open champion lying ninth in the Race observes.

So does Westwood agree? Is it harder to win now compared with his stellar season of 2000? "No I don't think so. You have dominant players in every era.

"Back when I was winning the money list you had the likes of Darren (Clarke) around the top 10 in the world and Monty winning nearly every week in Europe. There were lots of great players back then, so I don't think it is any easier or any harder now," Westwood said.

But he acknowledges that in an era of lucrative World Golf Championships and majors counting on the money list it is easier to make progress by picking up place money. "Obviously there's a lot for second and you can play your way up there with consistency and lots of top tens," added the Englishman who finished third at both the Open and US PGA.

To illustrate the point look at Tiger Woods stats for the year. Without a major win and having played only nine counting events (four majors, four WGCs and the Australian Masters), the world number one would lie fourth in the Race to Dubai with Euro 2,248,579.

"I feel like I haven't played well enough this year to be leading (the Race to Dubai) so it doesn't surprise me that I'm in second place," Westwood admits.

"But I feel like if I had finished off a few events properly I could be stood here with a one to one and half million lead and this week would be irrelevant."

Ah finishing off; that's the elusive trick, for so many and not only the golfers. Just ask the property developers in these parts.

But over the next few days it'll be all about the golfers and how they cope with Greg Norman's Earth Course - an attractive layout with deep bunkers and severely undulating greens.

The big money rests between McIlroy, Westwood, Kaymer and Fisher but there is no shortage of contenders for the tournament as the likes of Padraig Harrington, Geoff Ogilvy, Ernie Els and Poulter seek to end the European season in style.

One final thought, but they may have a bit more time to complete building works for next year as the Tour is rumoured to be considering playing this event the week before Christmas to allow for a full calendar year schedule. Watch this space.


  • Comment number 1.

    It's surely not just me that sees something completely artificial and fake about Dubai as a whole - its golf courses, tennis tournaments, football and cricket aspirations, grand prix motor racing circuit, and everything else that it's bought - essentially hijacked - with its billions and billions of oil money.

  • Comment number 2.

    Einveldi that comment smacks of ignorance or at the very least somebody who has absoloutely no clue about the Middle East. If you had attended the grand prix in abu dhabi for example you would know that not only was it staged to perfection but many of the drivers suggested it is one of the best tracks - surely that is what a sport wants?!?

    As for the comment regarding "billions and billions of oil money" you clearly need to brush up on your current affairs, dubai is not funding things with oil money, credit yes, oil money no!

    I think the whole point here is as a spectator we want to see superb events, showcasing the respective sport and it is hard to deny that Dubai and Abu Dhabi do that.

    If your moan is simply that the Middle East is getting its hands on lots of sporting events then my retort would simply be - tell the other nations to pull their finger out and they will also land the big events.

    The UK is in danger of losing the grand prix, politicians try and put pressure on Bernie and sports fans protest its the home of racing, why do people not wake up to the cold hard reality that its a business and it needs to be viable, further more sports as big as motor racing require a world class stage - donnington?? I think not.

    My suggestion would be get a plane to dubai this weekend, take advantage of the free tickets to enter the golf and enjoy the sunshine in this 'fake country'.

  • Comment number 3.

    One of you knows nothing about the Middle East, and the other knows nothing about motor racing circuits.

    When the riders and drivers have been asked where Donnington sits they put it very near the top of the list as a race circuit.

    That might not suit the clagnuts and hangers-on, particularly the gormless once a year F1 brigade, but it does suit the genuine motor sport enthusiasts and participants.

  • Comment number 4.

    Incredible how Dubai is constantly knocked for trying their best. Hey guys its a free world out there. Dubai or Abu Dhabi have as much right to stage a world event as anyone else. One thing for sure is that when they do get the opportunity they put on a spectacular show for both spectators and competitors from amazing hospitality to spectacular settings. So Mr Einveldi, dont be a Hater!! Get over it...I would rather watch a golf tournament, cricket, tennis or a grand prix in a great surrounding with good hospitality and facilities than at some pit of a place just to maintain tradition. This is the world today buddy and if you dont like it, go and buy a black and white Box TV, sit in a dark room and watch reruns of the "good old days"!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree, I have my free tickets for my family and looking forward to the tournament. I was at the open this year and paid a small fortune to get in and then for food / beverages. At least Dubai is putting on more emphaisis in putting on a good show, rather than making money.
    The Abu Dhabi rulers are indeed rich with revenue from oil, however they ensured that the Grand prix was excellent, adding Kings of leon, Beyonce and Jamariqui to name a few, to the show without any extra cost.
    The desert classic is always well organised and enjoyed by most of the players, and with so many golfers living in Dubai is now a second home to them. so you can go on about it being fake, but for those of us here , we are loving it!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I have never been to Dubai and so cannot comment on either the place or its golf courses. From what I have seen on TV it looks like a fabulous place and the golf course look excellent. That said, I am a bit old fashioned and can't help feeling that the European Tour top spot should be decided in, well.... Europe!

  • Comment number 7.


    Totally agree with the comment about the lack of tournament wins by our number 1 & 2. However I think you're comments about the surroundings of the course are way off the mark. (They've been smart and at least got the externals of the houses within camera shot complete on the outside). The course is amazing and that's what we're here for - not the housing estate that's beside it. I don't hear the player's complaining from their comp rooms at the Atlantis or in the Range Rover courtesy cars - a great show has been put on!

    How anyone can disagree that the middle east and far east have not been a revelation for the european tour is beyond me - if we were only to play in Europe we would have a tour that starts in March and finishes in October (and an empty week or 2 in between!) We've now got a world wide tour that is attracting more players from the PGA tour to playing it - how can that be a bad thing (we should also remember that Phil Mickelson was close to signing up also). So do golf fans want an 8 month tour of Europe or see some good golf in amazing places during the winter months - I know what I want!

  • Comment number 8.

    The Earth is a lovely course... if too easy for the pros... and the organisation once inside was excellent. But there's no decent route in, no traffic signs. Just mighty queues. And with about 30,000 homes in Dubai already empty, who's going to want to buy one of the villas in such a desolate spot? Back to Spain or Portugal for me...


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