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Wayne Johnson, the Earth Course resident professional, sizes up a shot.
Wayne Johnson, the Earth Course resident professional, sizes up a shot.
Wayne Johnson, the Earth Course resident professional, sizes up a shot.

The four holes to decide the Dubai World Championship

As Europe's best golfers prepare to descend on Dubai for the season finale, William Johnson speaks to the resident professional about the Earth Course.

Greg Norman's Earth Course, which will be the setting for the second Dubai World Championship (DWC) this week, remains a mystery to most of the players who will try to conquer it, having only been in use at the professional level for the four rounds of last year's tournament.

Few men know it more intimately than Wayne Johnson, the resident professional at Jumeirah Golf Estates.

He is expecting it to provide a tougher test than it did last year for the 60 European Tour players who qualify for the championship and believes it could be won and lost on four key holes.

Ideally, said Johnson, the destination of the bumper US$1.25 million (Dh4.59m) first prize will be decided on the final hole which this year might present more opportunities for the big hitters to get up in two strokes.

The eventual winner may also look back fondly, in Johnson's reckoning, at his scores at the long second hole, the short but tricky sixth and the driveable 15th when celebrating his big-bucks victory.

Here Johnson gives his in-depth verdict on four holes which could go a long way to determining who follows last year's runaway winner Lee Westwood on to the DWC roll of honour.

 

Second hole: 583 yards, par five

"This gives the players a great opportunity to make an early birdie. Get ahead of the card and boost the confidence for the tougher holes to follow.

"I think you will find the players expecting to make four here and a failure would not only cost them a shot on most of their rivals but would sap their confidence.

"There is a pretty wide fairway to accommodate a bold tee shot. The players will be looking for a long iron or fairway wood from over 200 yards out which would mean driving it over 350 yards.

"The bunkering in front of the green won't cause too many problems.

"I think most of the players are going to hit enough club to carry all the bunkers and, if they run off the back of the green, it does not present too stiff a task getting it close enough to make birdie a formality. This a great opportunity to get into red figures early on. Players like that."

 

Sixth hole: 186 yards, par three

"This is a beautiful par three needing a carry over water all the way to the green.

"The green is heavily contoured and if you are on the wrong side of it, it can prove very difficult to keep it to two putts to save par.

"It is a birdie chance if you are brave in going for the pins. When the pin is on the left of the green it makes it a very demanding shot to get close.

"The green falls away to the left. I don't think they will go too far back with the tee position here. The water is not really an issue at professional level, even though it is extremely intimidating to most of our members and guests.

"Like all the greens, this has a lot of undulation and it can be very difficult to save par. You don't want to be in a situation here where you are leaving yourself a long putt over a big swale."

 

15th hole: 371 yards, par four

"This is a driveable par four and the public like that because it tends to provide thrills and spills.

"A four is a certainty here but a three is a probability. They are likely to face it from the tee box 330 yards away, which makes it very reachable.

"I would advise them to go all out for it with the driver. It's a great opportunity to make birdie and even eagle. Even if they miss the green, it should still be a good opportunity to make birdie by getting up and down from one of the green-side bunkers.

"If you are going to win the tournament you are going to have to play attacking golf over the closing Golden Mile [the last four holes which measure approximately one mile], and that attack has to start here. You can get in more trouble playing safe here.

"From an amateur player's perspective it's quite intimidating because there is so much sand in the eye line in front of you. But from a tour pro's perspective it is a question of hitting the ball over all the sand.

"This will be a good hole to come and watch because almost all the tee shots are likely to be aggressive ones and could produce some spectacular scoring.

"Once you get to the green, there is a lot of difficulty awaiting and that gives the course the chance to even the score with those players who can drive the green. Depending on the pin positions, there are several landing areas that could result in three-putting."

 

18th hole: 651 yards, par five

"As we saw last year, playing off the back tee made it impossible for even the biggest of hitters to get up in two, but this year there is the likelihood that the tee boxes will be moved well forward on some of the days.

"An eagle here is going to make a big difference, especially on the last day. I would like to think they would give the players a chance of getting up in two in their final round. It could then become the hole that decides the tournament, which is great for the galleries.

"If you were playing from the back tee you would treat it as a genuine par five and the players will have learned from last year where the best places are to lay up. Last year they didn't have that knowledge until fairly late in the tournament.

"If you took it forward to about the 570 mark you make it reachable in two for many of the players and that brings in the risk-reward factor.

"The bunkers on the left become carryable, whereas from the back tee the players will be aiming to be short of them.

"Once you get over those traps you are looking at a three wood or a rescue wood into the green to set up what might be a decisive eagle putt."

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae

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