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Ernie Els has triumphed three times in the Dubai Desert Classic but will be making his first visit to Abu Dhabi's HSBC Championship in January.
Ernie Els has triumphed three times in the Dubai Desert Classic but will be making his first visit to Abu Dhabi's HSBC Championship in January.

Ernie Els adds more star power to capital's tournament

British Open champion Ernie Els is the latest to his name to the A-list of players who have committed to playing the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

 

Ernie Els, the current British Open champion, has become the latest top name to confirm his participation in next month's Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

The South African has been a frequent visitor to the UAE, having triumphed three times at the Dubai Desert Classic, yet will be making his capital debut when he tees it up at the January 17-20 event.

The addition of Els reinforces the seven-year-old tournament's burgeoning reputation, as the four-time major championship winner contests the Falcon Trophy alongside leading players in world No 1 Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Jason Dufner.

"I've played all over the world, but this will be my first appearance in Abu Dhabi and I'm excited," said Els, whose victory 18 years ago at the nearby Emirates Golf Club proved the catalyst for 27 European Tour wins.

"I have been playing in the Middle East since 1994, I won my first European Tour title in the UAE and I've enjoyed a lot of success in the Arabian Gulf. It would be great to add an Abu Dhabi title to my collection." Should Els prevail around the National Course, it would also give him the complete set of Desert Swing trophies - he won the 2005 Qatar Masters, too.

Before the British Open in July, the world No 24 had not tasted success on golf's two main tours - the European Tour and US PGA Tour - in 17 months.

However, he reaffirmed his resurgence at Royal Lytham and St Annes, coming home in 32 on Sunday to narrowly beat Adam Scott to the Claret Jug.

Els has given his name to the Els Club in Dubai and retains a busy interest in course design, which may explain his eagerness to next month test out Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, the Abu Dhabi track designed by compatriot Gary Player.

"The UAE is full of world-class facilities and Gary's always been telling me about his fondness for Saadiyat," said Els, 43.

"I'll definitely hit a few balls to help fine-tune my game ahead of the tournament. I've designed a few courses myself, so it will be good to compare notes."

jmccauley@thenational.ae

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