Henrik Stenson is hoping that his decision to put down roots in the Emirates gives him a decisive edge on the European Tour when the $US10million (Dh36.7m) Dubai World Championship finally clicks into gear on Greg Norman's Earth Course a year from now.
Stenson, a Swede who has become such a stalwart of European golf, has won the Dubai and Doha legs of the Desert Swing and believes his game is ideally suited to conditions in the Middle East. He is aiming to capitalise on that "local knowledge" as he sets his sights on the lucrative $2m first prize that goes to the inaugural winner of the richest tournament in the game. He is aware, however, of the need to earn his place at that Jumeirah showpiece by proving himself to be one of the best 60 golfers on the Tour, starting in today's opening event of the season - the HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai.
Ranked 10th in the world, that should be no problem for Stenson, but he warned: "The greater financial rewards that the Race to Dubai is offering will bring greater competition and make it harder for all of us to qualify for the final. "I am looking forward to the start of the Race and trying to accumulate the points I need to earn my place. I have had great success in this part of the world and I am eager for more."
One lucky player who appears in at least 12 events on the European Tour over the next 12 months is guaranteed the jackpot payday at the end of next year and Stenson maintained that he has as much chance of anybody of claiming that bounty. He said: "I am fifth in the Order of Merit this year. I have been eight, six and four in recent years and I'm looking to get to the top one day." Stenson differs with his Ryder Cup teammate Sergio Garcia on the major talking point that the Race For Dubai has created.
Garcia believes the bigger purses will attract more Americans to Europe but Stenson said: "I haven't heard too much about that. I have heard the speculation and rumours that there may be a few more Americans fighting for the title and big money but have not yet got any firm evidence." His own commitment to the European Tour is as strong as ever after he decided to let his membership of the US Tour lapse.
He added: "I made a decision to play a bit less in total. I dropped my PGA Tour membership and I won't be renewing it next year. "Six of the seven biggest events are in the States so I will still be spending time there. But the European Tour is my home tour." firstname.lastname@example.org