All of Saif Thabet’s golfing dreams will come true this week when the Emirati makes his debut in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship against the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood and the European Tour’s elite crop of players.
Last week he booked his place in this Rolex Series event at Abu Dhabi Golf Club after qualifying at Yas Links in a two-day tournament featuring 72 players. Thabet carded two-over par in both rounds, including a crucial birdie on the 18th to make the cut on the first day and secure qualification for this marquee event. Scott Grayston caught up with the golfer, who was part of the UAE team which recently won the 2018 GCC Golf Championship in Oman, on the driving range at Abu Dhabi when he was practicing amongst the stars.
WWG: How does it feel participating in such a huge tournament here in your hometown Abu Dhabi?
Saif Thabet: It’s all quite overwhelming to be standing here amongst the pros and playing. I managed to qualify as the top Emirati amateur last week to earn this invite and play in this huge event so I’m very happy.
WWG: Is this the biggest event you’ve ever played?
ST: Yes because it’s my first European Tour event. I’ve played in the Pro-Ams but they’re completely different to this! It’s a huge accomplishment for me to be competing in this as a player and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve represented the UAE in events like the Eisenhower Trophy and the Nomura Cup but to be here in this tournament shows the progression I’ve made with my game and the amount of hard work I’ve done recently – which seems to have paid off!
WWG: Will you have lots of fans watching you this week at your local event?
ST: Yes hopefully! My family are so excited about me playing and hopefully I’ll get some local support as I’m born and bred in Abu Dhabi. This course is my home course which I’ve grown up around so I don’t feel nervous and pressurised because it’s a natural environment for me.
32 players took to the Links to battle it out for 3 coveted spots to win a place in next week’s Rolex Series event. ⛳️ Congratulations to @CallumShinkwin, @DominicFoos & @Saif_Thabet for qualifying to play with the #BestOfTheBest at the HSBC Golf Championships!🏌🏼♂️🏆 #ADGolfChamps pic.twitter.com/bGVEHQCZWM
— Yas Links Abu Dhabi (@YasLinksGC) January 9, 2019
WWG: What advantages do you have from playing this course so many times?
ST: I know the areas where you shouldn’t hit it or you’ll be in trouble. If I can stay straight and keep hitting greens I’ll be delighted. Then I just need to hope that my putter is hot.
WWG: You’ve come through the Emirates Golf Federation from a young age, you must be proud of how much the Emirati golf scene has developed here and the amount of exceptional golfers they’ve produced?
ST: Yes definitely. I have to thank the EGF for all their support from when I started out as a youngster they’ve taken great care of me with training camps, equipment and playing on the courses. They’ve really looked after me and helped me grow so I owe a lot to them.
WWG: What’s been your lowest score around the National course?
ST: I’ve shot under par on this course. Hopefully, I can do that again this week but you never know how I’ll perform but will take it shot by shot and see how it goes. There’s no pressure on me so I’m just going to try and treat it like a Pro-Am.
Saif will play alongside Victor Perez and Jens Dantorp tomorrow (Wednesday) at 8:30 am. Please head down and show your support for this UAE amateur at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
— Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (@ADGolfChamps) January 16, 2019