x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Masters champion books his ticket for the capital

Trevor Immelman, the US Masters champion, is the latest big name to declare his participation in the fourth running of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Trevor Immelman of South Africa in action during the pro-am for the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Trevor Immelman of South Africa in action during the pro-am for the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

ABU DHABI // Trevor Immelman, the US Masters champion, is the latest big name to declare his participation in the fourth running of the Abu Dhabi Championship to be held on the National course from Jan 15-18. The brilliant young South African joins Ireland's dual major winner Padraig Harrington and the charismatic Spaniard Sergio Garcia in what is developing into a star-studded line-up that is seeking to add their names to a roll of honour featuring Chris DiMarco, Paul Casey and the defending champion Martin Kaymer.

Immelman, 28, has been described by Gary Player, his illustrious South African compatriot who has been travelling the world for half a century, as the closest thing he's ever seen to the American legend Ben Hogan, widely acknowledged as golf's greatest-ever ball striker. Those precocious talents were on display in the pressure-cooker environment at the Augusta National course in April when Immelman held off the challenge of the world No 1 Tiger Woods to claim the coveted Masters. By winning the green jacket by three strokes he emulated what Player last achieved in 1978.

Player, one of the most successful golfers and the designer of the Arabian Gulf's only 'ocean' course on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island, is a frequent visitor to the UAE and this week "signed off" the final eight holes of the latest of the 300 courses he has designed around the world. The popular veteran is expected to run the rule over Immelman and others for the European Tour title which is now an integral part of the new Race to Dubai.

Immelman, who announced himself on the world stage five years ago when partnering Rory Sabatini to a South African victory in the World Cup, remarked: "Gary has told me much about the city, the people, the amazing hospitality and a few tips for tackling the National course, which everyone on Tour says is immaculate. "It won't be easy because the field is very strong, but the Masters has taught me that when I'm playing well I can win anywhere."

Ahmed Hussein, the Deputy Director General of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority welcomed Immelman's entry into the seventh heat of the new Race to Dubai. He said: "With the Emirates now home to a significant South African community we anticipate a strong turnout from this segment of the population as they follow the fortunes of one of their home grown stars. "There is also a substantial Irish community here and they will be delighted that Harrington, the holder of the British Open and US PGA championships, is returning to the capital, along with Garcia, the early leader of the Race to Dubai, former winner Casey and UAE-based Henrik Stenson."

The tournament officials are seeking to recruit marshals, walking scorers and leader board operators for the event. Interested fans can log on to www.abudhabigolfchampionship.com for details. wjohnson@thenational.ae