European Tour changes Desert Swing schedule to have Abu Dhabi and Dubai back-to-back
The Qatar Masters, usually held in the middle of the two UAE-based events, will now take place third from February 22.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic will run in consecutive weeks next January - the first time the UAE events have taken place back-to-back.
The Abu Dhabi tournament, about to enter its 13th year, has traditionally marked the beginning of the European Tour’s three-legged Desert Swing, with the circuit moving usually to the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters before returning to Dubai during a three-week period across January and February.
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However, sources close to the Desert Classic have confirmed the tournament will take place from January 25-28, one week after the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which is slated for January 18-21.
The Emirates Golf Federation has listed on its website the two events for those slots. The Qatar Masters appears now set for February 22-25.
With the boycott on Qatar by four Arab countries, including UAE, over the country's support for extremism into its fourth month and showing no sign of resolution, the change to the 2018 schedule means European Tour players will not have to find a circuitous route for air travel between the UAE and Doha.
In 2011, the Volvo Golf Champions was added between Abu Dhabi and Qatar, but the tournament lasted only one year in Bahrain and it was relocated to South Africa.
The future of the Qatar Masters remains uncertain, with the European Tour’s contracts with title sponsor Commercial Bank and host organisation Qatar Association expiring next year.
Last month, the Ladies European Tour cancelled its event in Qatar, which was originally set for December.
Since its inception in 2006, the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship has become one of the most anticipated tournaments on the European Tour’s rota outside of the majors and the World Golf Championships.
Likewise the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which is the Middle East’s longest-running professional tour event having first been played in 1989.
Updated: September 7, 2017 08:45 PM