David Howell: Normality is what we all crave right now

As a professional golfer we are always trying to find any positive we can to help us on our way to our next big result. But, of course, staying positive and optimistic can be a challenge for everyone.

In these unchartered waters, in the midst of a world that has collided with Covid19, it can almost seem churlish to worry about the state of the game that I love, but when you have been knocked down there is only one thing to do – get back up on your feet and start back on the journey you were once on.

The game of golf in general could well come through this nightmare in better shape than many other sports. It’s a game that lends itself to social distancing, played outside, with all manner of health benefits embedded into it. So, it seems to me that it stands a better chance than most sports to bounce back.

The professional game has managed to get itself up and running once again in America – but not without some challenges of course, and by the time you are reading this, with a little luck the European Tour will have embarked on its first tentative steps with two tournaments in Austria before we attempt to play a six-week swing in the UK.

Life will feel different on Tour for some time to come. Social distancing, a tournament bubble that is as strict as can be, no crowds, and no dining out, too. All small sacrifices that are necessary to get the Tour up and running again in as safe a way as possible – both for the 500 or so people that will be on site but, more importantly, for the communities we enter into. Still, with a little luck, and with everyone playing their own part, we may just get to finish the 2020 Race To Dubai, albeit with numerous revisions along the way.

Fortunately, the vision is strong, and we can work our way through a safe and sensible schedule that will lead the Tour’s top players to Jumeirah Golf Estates and bring to a close a year unlike any other. For those players who make it to the season-ending finale a glorious welcome, as ever, awaits.

The DP World Tour Championship has, in very little time, become a tournament that seems to always offer up excitement right to the very end. The roster of champions is already a roll of honour for some of the Tour’s finest players, and where better to be able to celebrate than in one of the Emirate’s finest entertainment establishments.

All sports go through cycles and since I have been on the Tour, it’s been a quarter of a century in which Dubai has formed a strong bond with the European Tour, culminating with DP World upping the stakes again to welcome the season’s finest performers to do battle over the magnificent Earth Course. We are living in a new world right now, but wouldn’t it be nice if the Dubai golf fans were to be allowed to come out and enjoy themselves as they usually do so well. Normality is the prize that communities across the globe are craving at the moment, and a packed-out hospitality pavilion to the left of the island green on the 17th would be a great symbol that things have taken a turn for the better.

What better way is there to end the season than to take that walk up the 18th fairway and soak in the applause from the hospitality units that hug the left-hand side of the lay-up area. Any player who gets to enjoy that walk has, at the very least, had a positive year and for many it will have meant a season-long goal had been achieved.

I haven’t managed to tee it up in the DP World Tour Championship often enough in recent years and it’s a huge disappointment to miss out on such an exciting, iconic tournament. Jealousy is a mean emotion but it’s safe to say I have always felt that way when I have to watch the action from afar. If you play on the European Tour, it’s always the place you want to be, no doubt about it.

It has been a pleasure to watch the development grow from the dark days of the financial crash to a booming thriving community. Jumeirah Golf Estates was a grand vision, and to see it mature into the magnificent venue that was envisaged is hugely heartening, and it’s a reminder that, in time, we can and will get through this challenging period.

As I write this column, I envisage walking off that 18th green, with the fabulous clubhouse starting to cast its shadow and a smiling gathering of colleagues awaiting a well-earned refreshment or two. If that doesn’t happen – and all I can do is witness a colleague doing it on TV – then I vow not to be jealous this year, just thankful that everything in the world is heading in the right direction and normality is starting to come our way once again.

One thing that hasn’t been normal for any touring professional golfer is a prolonged period of time at home, and whilst Bryson Dechambeau seems to have been lifting and eating and then more lifting and more eating, I have been gaining a new-found respect for all the school teachers around the world. Golf is a tough and frustrating game – I’ve learned that home schooling is both of those things and more. I am intrigued to find out whether my levels of patience have been enhanced or depleted. I hope it’s the former, but I have a niggling feeling that it may turn out to be the latter.

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