In Focus: Dubai
Worldwide Golf takes a trip down memory lane looking revisiting some of the highlights in the region dating back to the first issue of the magazine in November 1999. We also take stock of the increases in world-class golf courses opening in the UAE and further afield.
2001: Bjørn provides an upset for the ages
Thomas Bjøorn produced a performance of a lifetime to deny Tiger Woods a first Dubai Desert Classic title. The Dane shot a 69 for a two-stroke win as Tiger could only muster a 72. Just a few months' later Tiger would win The Masters for his fourth successive Major triumph and the 'Tiger Slam'.
The decade's dominant force, Tiger Woods, righted the wrongs of a few years earlier by winning the first of his two Dubai Desert Classic titles at Emirates Golf Club. Woods downed the defending champion Ernie Els in a play-off in 2006 before going on to win again two years later with a one shot win over Martin Kaymer,
2008: Annika bows out
After a long and successful career, Annika Sorentsam said goodbye to the professional game at the Dubai Ladies Masters – the event she had won the two years previous. The Swede retired with 10 Major titles to her name, 72 LPGA Tour titles and 17 Ladies European Tour titles.
Lee Westwood etched his name into the history books as the first ever winner of the European Tour's newly revamped 'Race to Dubai' at Jumeirah Golf Estates. The Englishman won the inaugural DP World Tour Championship over the Earth course by six strokes to cap a fine season and end the year as the European No.1
2009: Rory begins his journey
Rory McIlroy clinched his first title as a profesional with a one-stroke win over Justin Rose on the Majlis course. The Ulsterman went on to win the event again in 2015 and the DP World Tour Championship in 2012 and 2015, not to mention his four Major championships. He is only a Green Jacket short of completing a Career Grand Slam.
Future star Lexi Thompson gave everyone a glimpse of her talents with her second professional victory at the Dubai Ladies Masters. The American, who was 16 at the time, won by four ahead of Lee-Anne Pace at Emirates Golf Club.
Talk about winning in style, Henrik Stenson hit a stunning 3-wood to within a few feet to set up a closing eagle for a runaway victory at the DP World Tour Championship. He would go on to successfully defend the title the following year
New Clubs since 1999
A great deal has changed in and around the UAE in the last 18 years. Fourteen new courses have been built in the Emirate in that time with redesigns of the Faldo course at Emirates Golf Club and the Championship course at Dubai Creek taking place in 2005, and the revamping of The Track, Meydan in 2012, plus two stunning new Championship courses in Oman and Jordan.
World Renowned architects create Middle East masterpieces
Many of the stunning courses in the region come with a prominent name attached to them as designers from all over the world flocked to the region to leave their signature designs as permanent marks in the landscape.
2000: Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Kyle Phillips: Yas Links, Abu Dhabi, UAE
“When I first came out to Abu Dhabi in February 2007 to look at the site I was immediately captivated by the challenge of turning a 3,200 metre long strip of flat, sandy shoreline devoid of vegetation into an authentic traditional-style links course.”
2002: The Address Montgomerie
2004: Arabian Ranches Golf Club
2004: Tower Links Golf Club
2005: Al Badia Golf Club
2005: Sharjah Golf & Shooting
2005: Al Ain ESG Club
2007: Al Hamra Golf Club
2008: The Els Club
2009: Jumeirah Golf Estates
2010: Saadiyat Beach Golf Club
2010: Yas Links Abu Dhabi
2012: The Track Meydan
2012: Al Mouj Golf, Oman
2015: Al Zorah Golf Club
2016: Trump International, Dubai
Gil Hanse: Trump International GC, Dubai, UAE
“We are hopeful that golfers in the region will find that the course is interesting and fun to play, and although the landscape was completely created it feels like it is on a different scale than other courses we visited in the UAE.”
2016: Ayla Golf Club, Jordan
Karl Litten: Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek, UAE
“I’d say Emirates Golf Club is right up there as No.1 because of the maintenance and the fame it has gained. They have spent a lot of money on the proper equipment and on having good golf course superintendents.”
WHO’S WHO OF COURSE DESIGN
Other notable figures who have designed courses in the region include:
Ernie Els (The Els Club, UAE); Ian Baker-Finch (Arabian Ranches GC, UAE); Jack Nicklaus (Al Zorah GC, UAE); Gary Player (Saadiyat Beach, UAE); Greg Norman (Jumeirah Golf Estates, UAE, Al Mouj Golf, Oman, Ayla Golf Course, Aqaba, Jordan); Colin Montgomerie: (The Address, Dubai, UAE); Peter Harradine (UAE unless stated: Abu Dhabi GC, Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club, Al Hamra GC, Jebel Ali GR, Doha GC, Qatar, Jebel Sifah GC, Oman.)
Abu Dhabi, Qatar and beyond
The region has become a showcase of international golf with tournaments regularly hosted for the world’s best players in world-class events, and there have been plenty of stand-out moments in the world of golf since 1999, including memorable comebacks and outstanding highlights.
2000: O'Sullivan clinches the Senior spoils
The newly-opened Abu Dhabi GC was host venue to the European Senior Tour's final event of the season – a precursor to the venue becoming full-time host of the European Tour Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which happened in 2006.
Chris DiMarco etched his name into the history books as the first winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a one-stroke win over Henrik Stenson. The American had suffered defeat in The Masters to Tiger Woods a year earlier but he defeated an elite field in Abu Dhabi which included Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Vijay Singh
2006: Stenson begins his love affair with the region
One week after losing out to DiMarco, Stenson entered the winner's circle for the first time in the Middle East at Doha Golf Club, the first of four wins he's had in the GCC. The following year he won the Dubai Desert Classic and is a two-time DP World Tour Champion.
2008: Kaymer steps up
Martin Kaymer began his quest for greatness with his first European Tour title in Abu Dhabi. The German has gone on to win the event two more times and is a two-time Major champion.
2011: Rock shocks Tiger and Rory
English journeyman Robert Rock produced one of the upsets of the decade in holding off playing partner Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi for only the second win of his career. The tournament has often thrown up some surprising winners with the likes of Jamie Donaldson (2012), Pablo Larrazabal (2014) and Gary Stal (2015 - right) winning at the famed National Course in Abu Dhabi. Ryder Cup stalwards Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer shared five wins together between the years of 2007-2011 and in recent years Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood have left Abu Dhabi with the glittering trophy.
2013: Oman breaks new ground
Roope Kakko wins the first ever professional golf tournament in Oman at the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic on the Challenge Tour. The next year Max Orrin wins and the tournament is elevated to become the end-of-season Grand Final in 2015. It plays out its role for three years before being elevated again to become a fully-fledged European Tour event, which takes place as the NBO Oman Open later this month.
2016: Grace goes back to back
Branden Grace became the first player to win back-to-back Qatar Masters titles since the tournament's inception in 1998.
Ashok's star on the rise
Indian teenager Aditi Ashok continued her ascent towards the top of the ladies game with her third Ladies European Tour title at the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open at Saadiyat Beach. A year earlier she won the Qatar Ladies Open.
One of the most historic comebacks in sporting history!Europe trailled 10-6 heading into the final day singles after toiling on the Medinah greens in the foursomes and fourballs on days 1 and 2.
The irrepressible Ian Poulter provided the spark by making five birdies in succession to win the last fourball match on day 2 to close the deficit to 10-6 and the Europeanscame out all guns blazing on day 3. The first five matches were all won and the remarkable comeback – which played out over the course of 6 hours – was completed when Martin Kaymer defeated a crestfallen Steve Stricker on the final green.
Spurred on by the spirit of the late Seve Ballesteros, who had died a year earlier, Europe totally dominated the singles session to complere a 14.5 – 13.5 victory and leave the US team scratching their heads.
Padraig Harrington ended an eight-year wait to be a European Major champion with a gutsy play-off win over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie. The last man from mainland Europe to win was José Maria Olazàbal at the 1999 Masters.
2010: McDowell’s magical year
Not many players experience winning a Major and clinching the vital Ryder Cup point in the anchor match to retain the trophy – but that’s exactly what Graeme McDowell did in 2010. The Ulsterman took the US Open at Pebble Beach before entering golf’s folklore with his heroics in the last match at Celtic Manor.
2013: Solheim stars shine away from home
The European Ladies were in inspired form as they clinched an away victory in the Solheim Cup for the first time since the event began in 1990. Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (above) became the first player in history to win all five of her matches and she had the honour of clinching the winning point with a 1-up win over Michelle Wie at Colorado GC.
2016: Golf’s Triumphant Olympic Return in Rio
Golf made its Olympic return in 2016 in Brazil and what a pair of podiums it produced. England’s Justin Rose wins the gold medal by two shots from Ryder Cup colleague Henrik Stenson with American star Matt Kuchar taking the bronze. In the Ladies event a trio of Major Champions took the spoils as Inbee Park (gold), Lydia Ko (silver) and Shanshan Feng (bronze) left Rio with shiny new medals.
Emirates Golf Federation makes great strides
It’s been a tale of steady progression for the Emirates Golf Federation over the years as the game continues to grow at a rapid pace in the UAE under their guidance. In 2011 Ahmed Al Musharrekh delivered an individual gold medal in the Arab Games golf championship and led the UAE team to gold in the team competition after coming from four shots back to win.
Another highlight was the EGF winning the Youth Development Initiative of the Year award at the 2016 Middle East Golf Awards (MEGA) for the EGF Arabic Schools Golf Initiative supported by DP World. The EGF teamed up with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the European Tour and Golf DXB in order to activate ‘golf tasters’ in high percentage National Arabic Schools, with their goal to introduce golf to students through the physical education curriculum.
After introducing the game to six schools, students were invited to the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates to experience a professional golf event. At the same awards future star Reema Al Heloo was named National Player of the Year after winning Individual gold and helping her team to win gold at the GCC Championship in Bahrain.
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