x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Els eyes drive for glory

Ernie Els hopes that he can win the Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time after the disappointment on the Majlis Course last year.

DUBAI // Ernie Els, whose hopes of winning the Dubai Desert Classic for a record fourth time earlier this year were dashed by a brilliant closing 65 by the world No 1 Tiger Woods, is focusing sharply on winning again on the Majlis Course in February.

The powerful South African with the "Big Easy" swing who was also narrowly denied in 2007 by a stunning display by the Dubai-based Swede Henrik Stenson, is hoping to turn back the clock and reproduce some of the magic he displayed when triumphing for the first time in 1994, aided by a magnificent round of 61, which remains the course record. "I always enjoy spending time in Dubai," said Els who has designed The Els Club at Dubai Sports City.

"The progress of Dubai has been amazing since my first visit here in 1993. The Dubai Desert Classic is a huge attraction, something most players look forward to playing each year." Els is helping to publicise the 20th anniversary of the $2.5million (Dh9.2m) event which organisers have labelled "the major of the Middle East". Mohamed Juma Buamaim, vice- chairman and chief executive of the promoters Golf in Dubai, said : "The Classic Week truly underlines how Dubai has grown to become one of the world's most exciting golfing destinations,"

"Dubai's continued passion for golf is unquestioned and we welcome the backing of the golfing community as well as our loyal sponsors for what has already been established and for what we aim to achieve in the future." Buamaim clings to the hope that Woods, who underwent corrective knee surgery in June, will be fit to defend his title but that his highly unlikely. Woods, who shot a remarkable 31 on the back nine of his closing round this year to snatch his second Classic victory in four attempts, was asked to reflect on that brilliant display.

"It was a pretty neat finish," he said. "I just tried to play the best I could and 31 on the back nine happened to be good enough." Of more immediate concern to Golf in Dubai is the third running of next month's Dubai Ladies Masters. Tickets are now on sale for the four-day Dubai Desert Classic event which runs from Feb 26 to March 1 and they can be bought online from dubaidesertclassic.com. wjohnson@thenational.ae