Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic

Yet another successful Omega Dubai Desert Classic has come and gone, bringing to a close the ‘Desert Swing’ for another season.  Golf in Dubai did a fantastic job yet again of putting together a world-class tournament.  Even the weather played along, allowing golf fans to have four days of fantastic sunshine watching the best golfers in the world do battle for the trophy.  The Dubai Desert Classic started in 1989, and this year marked the 23rd playing of the tournament (no tournament was played in 1991).  The list of past champions may be found here.

Day 1 started in blistering fashion with an opening round of 63 from Rafael Cabrera-Bello.  That set the stage for some excellent golf for the remainder of the tournament.  The tournament favorites were not too far behind, with Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer making their presence felt after Round 1.  Day 1 concluded with a golf clinic hosted by Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara, both previous winners of the Dubai Desert Classic.  Mark O’Meara is also a ‘Golf in Dubai’ ambassador.  It is always great to see major champions gracing a tournament of such high stature.  Golf in Dubai has done a superb job of securing top ambassadors to support the cause of golf in the United Arab Emirates.

Day 2 concluded with a cut of -1, allowing 81 players to make it into the weekend.  It was great to see all Golf in Dubai ambassadors (Mark O’Meara, Thomas Bjorn, Soren Hansen, Jeev Milkha Singh and Noh Seung-Yul) making the cut, a reflection of the quality of player chosen by the organizers to represent their organization.

Day 3, the second day of the weekend in Dubai, saw the biggest crowds of the week.  Spectators took the opportunity to follow the World Numbers 2, 3 and 4 in large numbers, only too pleased to welcome them back to the prestigious tournament.

Day 4 promised to be an exciting final round, with Westwood leading and McIlroy and Kaymer close behind.  As it turns out, the Dubai Desert Classic was, for the third year in a row, won by a Spaniard.  Following victories by Miguel-Angel Jimenez in 2010 and Alvaro Quiros in 2011, Rafael Cabrera-Bello won the 2012 tournament.  I was pleased to be able to meet him at the end of round 3 – a nice fellow indeed, and a well-deserved victory.  Follow him on Twitter here if you like.

WELL DONE to the organizers, Golf in Dubai, for a fantastic 2012 Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and a special words of thanks to them for arranging hospitality tickets for Aletta and me for all four days, including clubhouse access and special parking.  Thank you guys – hope to see you at the DP World Tour Championship – Dubai in November, otherwise at the 2013 Omega Dubai Desert Classic.

All golf fans in Dubai now look forward to the DP World Tour Championship – Dubai, where I once again plan to volunteer as a TV scorer, as I did during the 2011 Dubai World Championship (article here, unless another organization would like to offer me some corporate hospitality tickets?). J

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Emirates Airline Invitational - 2012

Having played in the Visa Infinite Golf Day on Thursday, January 19 (details here), I was pleased to receive tickets for the Emirates Airline Invitational Golf Tournament.  The tournament was held on the Monday following the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.  The tournament, hosted by Abdullah Al-Naboodah, was played at the Yas Links Golf Course, recently voted as one of the top 100 golf courses in the world.

With gates opening at 9AM, I arrived reasonably early in the morning.  George Coetzee and Stephen Gallagher went off at 9:30AM and, following a bacon sandwich and hot chocolate for breakfast, I caught up with them on the fourth hole.  What is nice with the Emirates Airline Invitational is that spectators have the opportunity to walk in the fairways with the players, as opposed to being ‘behind the ropes’.  This allows for a great deal of interaction with the players and their caddies.  In addition, there is no restriction on cameras and cell 'phones on the course, though obviously photo's should not be taken when the players are playing their shots.

I was pleased to be able to chat to George Coetzee’s caddy, Alan Burns, quite extensively, gaining an insight into what life is like as a professional caddy.  I chatted to George Coetzee briefly as well.  I walked 14 holes with George and Stephen, enjoying their interaction with their amateur playing partners as well as the spectators who were following their group.  Being such a lovely day, and with Yas Links being in such good condition, I was able to take some great photo's of the players as well as on the course.

Following the completion of the round by George Coetzee and Stephen Gallagher, I caught up with Thomas Aiken and Graeme Storm on the second hole, their 11th hole of the day.  I walked the final eight holes with Thomas and Graeme.  I was pleased to see Thomas Aiken once again wearing his Rhino Revolution hat (my article here).

After a long walk around the course – around 27 holes in total – I was able to relax on the grass in front of the clubhouse.  I had the opportunity to have my photo taken with Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia before heading home.  Perhaps next year I will be able to secure an invitation to the dinner following the event (hint, hint!!).

I would like to extend a special thanks to Abdullah Al-Naboodah for hosting the event.  It was well organized and well attended.  I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the players and the condition of the course made the day just that more relaxing.  All in all the day was most enjoyable.  I have already mentioned to my golfing buddies that they should make an effort to attend next year.

My Proposal:  I am a member of the Jiggers Dubai Golf Society (blog here and Facebook page here).  On behalf of Jiggers Dubai, I would very much appreciate an arrangement whereby the winner of the annual competition for Jiggers ‘Player of the Year’ is rewarded with a place in the Emirates Airline Invitational.  Please contact me at if such an arrangement is likely to be possible.

Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was held between 26 and 29 January 2012 at The National Course in Abu Dhabi.  With Abu Dhabi being just an hour’s drive from Dubai, and with Tiger Woods in the field, we just had to attend.  HSBC offered its customers free entry to the tournament.  In addition, Premier members were entitled to entry into the HSBC hospitality tent on the 17th green.

We arrived reasonably early on the Friday morning, and spent some time in the championship village playing the various games that HSBC had arranged.  Having not managed to hole the long putt or get the rugby balls through the holes in the walls, we headed out to watch the golf.  With Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald going off around midday, we headed out in search of the South Africans in the field.  We then waited at the 5th green for Tiger, Rory and Luke to play through.  It really is difficult to follow each hole with such a popular pairing, so we selected some holes and waited on the tees or greens for them to play through.  The green on the Par 3 12th hole offers a good viewing spot.  Aletta and I sat on the rocks behind the green and waited for around five groups of players to play through, before we headed to the 18th tee.  After Tiger, Rory and Luke had teed off on their final hole, we made our way to the HSBC hospitality tent on the 17th green.  We enjoyed their complimentary food and beverages before heading home, in anticipation of another long day on Saturday.

With the cut having been made on Friday afternoon, we arrived a little later on Saturday.  With Tiger Woods playing in the third last group, we first watched the South Africans in the field.  James Kingston was even kind enough to throw us a ball after he had completed the 5th green.  We adopted the same strategy as on Friday, i.e. selecting a number of tees and greens and watching various players play through.

We did not attend the golf on the final day, Sunday, choosing instead to watch it on TV.  Congratulations to Robert Rock who played exceptionally well to hold off Tiger and Rory in yet another memorable Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

All in all it was a most enjoyable tournament, with a deserved winner (despite Robert Rock not being in my European Tour Fantasy Team for the week!!).  A special word of thanks to HSBC for sponsoring the event.  I am hopeful of securing an invite to the hospitality tents on the 18th hole in 2013.