Leisurecorp, sponsors of the European Tour's Race to Dubai and organising hosts of the season-ending Dubai World Championship (DWC), were delighted with the success of the free admission experiment they carried out during last weekend's European Open at the London Club. The Dubai-based company operated a similar free admission scheme last December on their Pearl Valley Estates complex near Cape Town and plan to do the same for the inaugural DWC, the richest tournament in the history of the sport, which takes place on the Greg Norman-designed Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.
So, having chosen the London Club in England as the venue for the European Open, they opened the doors to spectators for all four days as a dry run in advance of the US$10m (Dh36.7m) DWC and brought about a massive increase in the aggregate attendance which was close to 90,000. The bold decision to admit spectators free of charge to the DWC which will feature 60 of the world's best players competing for a record $2m first prize has brought a predictably strong response, with over 25,000 fans having already applied for tickets, guaranteeing big crowds for the showpiece event.
George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said: "We certainly listen to a lot of marketing ideas from our partners Leisurecorp. "The crowds have been tremendous; it sends a very good signal to people who, perhaps, have not been fully interested in golf before. It's a wonderful day out for the family." Hamza Mustafa, managing director of Nakheel Leisure, the parent company of Leisurecorp, said: "With glorious sunshine, an incredible field, and record crowds, I think it's fair to say we are delighted with the way things have gone this week.
"It is gratifying that so many people, particularly youngsters, took advantage of the offer and it shows us that free tickets for the Dubai World Championship is the right way forward." The high-quality field attracted to the London Club were eclipsed by a relatively unknown Frenchman Christian Cevaer, who arrived at the course last week languishing at 449 in the world and without a top 30 finish in his previous 15 tournaments.
He departed having improved his ranking by more than 300 places and climbed from 196th in the Race to Dubai to 30th place with an excellent chance of qualifying for the Jumeirah showpiece. Cevaer, 39, who edged out a trio of England's Steve Webster, Scotland's Gary Orr and Spaniard Alvaro Quiros to win by one stroke, also earns a five-year exemption on the European Tour. It mattered not to an ecstatic Cevaer that his winning total of 281, seven-under par, was 13 strokes more than Ross Fisher took when triumphing on the same course last year, nor that his 74 on Sunday was the highest last round by a tournament winner all season.
Cavaer, whose only previous European Tour victory was the 2004 Open de Espaņa, held his nerve in an exciting event that saw no fewer than 45 changes of the lead. "I am not a long player so I had to use my utility club a lot and it worked out great for me," he said. firstname.lastname@example.org