x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Classic to survive without Woods

The organisers of the Dubai Desert Classic are satisfied next month's event will retain its usual prestige, despite the absence of Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods tees off at the tenth hole during this year's Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.
Tiger Woods tees off at the tenth hole during this year's Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club.

DUBAI // The organisers of the Dubai Desert Classic are satisfied next month's edition of the event will retain its usual prestige, despite the absence of Tiger Woods. The world No1 is almost certain to miss the chance to defend his title at Emirates Golf Club as he continues his recovery after knee surgery- although he could be present in a spectating capacity.

Golf in Dubai, the Classic's promoters, yesterday announced they have invited all 16 previous winners to celebrate the tournament's 20th anniversary, including Woods. Mohamed Juma Buamaim, the vice-chairman and chief executive of Golf in Dubai, said: "It is up to him. We have sent him an invitation and we are hoping he will come to visit his course [the Tiger Woods Dubai, which is currently under construction] then come for the dinner.

"He can't play because he is injured. We would have loved to have seen a fully-fit Tiger Woods return to Dubai to defend his title, but that is something he and his doctor will have to decide on." The American has been a fixture at the Classic since he first played here - and won - in 2006. His presence has led to record attendances in that time. His absence is likely to be keenly felt, but Buamaim remains confident.

He added: "We have never sold the Dubai Desert Classic on the basis of an individual player. "The Classic has its own place, and we already have eight of the world's top players who are our ambassadors. "Of course, the presence of Tiger adds to any tournament, but I don't think his absence this time will affect it too much." The prize-fund for the Classic has been frozen at $2.5million (Dh9.2m) - meaning the winner will take home around the same amount, $416,660, as Woods did earlier this year - in a response to the current economic situation.

That, allied to the inauguration of a new season-ending, mega-money tournament in the emirate, have led to suggestions the Classic has lost some of the lustre which made it the unofficial "Major of the Middle East". However, Mohammed Yahya, the manager of corporate relations and international affairs for Dubal, the tournament's main sponsor, refutes the idea the tournament has lost its sheen. Dubal, have ploughed Dh210m into the event over the past 18 years, and Yahya said: "This has been money well spent.

"We have attained value for it, because this a very prestigious tournament, and it will remain so for many years to come. "We are going through a difficult time at the moment, but Dubai has a characteristic whereby we can weather the storm and come out with flying colours. The tournament will continue to progress and get even better." pradley@thenational.ae