x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

European Tour finale feeling right at home

European Tour officials declare that their showpiece end of season tournament is 'rock solid' in Dubai for at least another year.

Robert Karlsson, of Sweden, will likely defend his Dubai World Championship title on the Earth Course next year.
Robert Karlsson, of Sweden, will likely defend his Dubai World Championship title on the Earth Course next year.

DUBAI // European Tour officials declared yesterday that their showpiece end of season tournament is "rock solid" in Dubai for at least another year.

And there is a desire from all those connected with the Dubai World Championship (DWC) to keep it at Jumeirah Golf Estates for even longer.

George O'Grady, the chief executive of the European Tour, revealed that there has been interest from his organisation's two other Middle East venues - Abu Dhabi and Qatar - to take over the running of the US$7.5 million (Dh27.5m) tournament and its equally valuable Race to Dubai partner if the current hosts are unable to continue their backing.

The greater interest is understood to have come from Qatar, where the third event in what is now a four-week "Desert Swing" will take place in early February.

However, O'Grady said: "The intention is to try to keep it here in Dubai for as long as possible. We had long meetings with yesterday with the chairman of Nakheel [Ali Rashid Lootah, whose company own the venue and provide funding for the tournament] and they are very excited by the tournament.

"DP World, who are the presenting sponsor, are also very excited and we give them some packages in other events around the world, which coincides with their market. And so I would be very confident this is here to stay."

The contact with Abu Dhabi and Qatar has, according to O'Grady, been in search of advice rather than to seek an alternative venue.

"Abu Dhabi haven't talked about staging the tournament but they follow it with interest and advise me on whether this is the right way forward for the European Tour and for the region.

"We are well aware that there are two superb new courses in Abu Dhabi - Yas Links and Saadiyat Beach. We've had people playing them this week and they've come back with tremendous reviews."

The Tour have used the National Course in the capital for the Abu Dhabi Championship for the last five years and that event, which starts on January 20, will host a Players' Committee meeting at which the captain of Europe's 2012 Ryder Cup team - Jose Maria Olazabal is the favourite - is likely to be announced.

The main obstacle to that appointment is the Spaniard's poor health in recent years, but O'Grady is encouraged by the player's return to competitive golf this year and hopes he is fit enough to take the job.

O'Grady, meanwhile, revealed that the third DWC will be held a little later next year - from December 8 - to accommodate three additions to the Tour's calendar, with 50 events in 29 countries.

Keith Waters, the Tour's director of international policy, said: "We are encouraged that the 2011 Race to Dubai comprises not only many of our established tournaments in addition to some new events [Bahrain, Malaysia and Sicily].

"It also includes three significant month-long runs in designated locations including this one. We start with four weeks in South Africa, then four in the Gulf and later there is a similar sequence with the Iberian Peninsular Swing."

 

wjohnson@thenational.ae