x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Charity event at Yas a sign of bigger competition to come

The new Yas Links course and the venue of Al Naboodah Invitational could be set to host Abu Dhabi Championship.

The Yas Links golf course will be among the warmest links courses that Graeme McDowell will get to play on.
The Yas Links golf course will be among the warmest links courses that Graeme McDowell will get to play on.

ABU DHABI // The next instalment of the Al Naboodah Invitational charity golf tournament will take place three days before the European Tour event in Abu Dhabi early next year.

Fifty two professionals, led by Lee Westwood, the world No 1, and Graeme McDowell, the US Open champion, will partner 52 amateurs from the world of sport, show business and commerce on Monday, January 17, in a battle for the lion's share of a US$500,000 (Dh1.836m) prize pool.

The tournament, which has been staged annually at Dubai Creek since its inception in 2007, will this time be staged on the new course at Yas Links - a possible future venue for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

McDowell, an Al Naboodah ambassador for the last three years, dashed from his weekend Tour commitments in Hong Kong to be at yesterday's launch.

"I'm looking forward to playing Yas for the first time," said McDowell who honed his skills on links courses in his native Northern Ireland.

"It's going to be a unique experience to play links golf in the desert. There is no shortage of sand here. A sand base is very important for links golf.

"It is going to be a bit warmer than the links courses I am used to but if the wind blows here in January then it might make me feel more at home."

McDowell, in the UAE for the Dubai World Championship, which starts on Thursday, conceded that the Al Naboodah might not be the ideal preparation for the Abu Dhabi Championship at the nearby National Course.

"We on the European Tour have become used to adapting quickly to different types of conditions, more so than our American counterparts who tend to play in the same conditions nearly every week," McDowell said.

Abdulla al Naboodah, host of the event, was pleased to bring his tournament to a new venue. "This is the first links course to be built in the UAE and it is stunning," he said.

Al Naboodah, an accomplished amateur golfer, was asked whether he will partner McDowell.

"That's going to be difficult," he said. "I played with Lee Westwood last year and we won, so I can't exactly get rid of the world No 1."

A cluster of other top professionals have already committed to the event, including Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson, Simon Dyson and Henrik Stenson.

Chris White, the general manager of Yas Links, said that it was a tribute how quickly the course has matured since its opening last March that it can be selected to host such a prestigious charity tournament event.

wjohnson@thenational.ae