The Swedish Ryder Cup player Henrik Stenson has made Dubai his base, and he is eager to compete in it.
Stenson dreams of Dubai glory
LOCH LOMOND // What is the difference between a house and a home? In the changing face of world golf, the answer to that question is probably worth around £5million (Dh36,535m). Tradition dictates that Scotland will always be the home of this sport, but the lure of colossal prize money demands that the UAE will house its richest tournament. The European Tour's decision to rebrand the order of merit the 'Race to Dubai' may seem like an old story, but it is fresh compared to some of the anecdotes that can be discovered within this stimulating Barclays Scottish Open.
It is not a surprise to learn that rain continues to threaten golf in the UK, the Scot Colin Montgomerie remains as cranky as ever and, after Pelle Edberg and Phil Mickelson made holes in one over the first two days, gleaming prizes continue to be handed out with some relish. Edberg won a new BMW car worth £44,590 (Dh325,700), but a lot more will be available when next year's revised tour calender visits the Middle East.
Money talks, as they say, and in Dubai it appears to have stretched its vocal chords to breaking point.There is a level of excitement infiltrating the development of the Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai, despite it being 16 months or so away from public consumption. The Earth course is one of the two tracks being designed by the former British Open champion Greg Norman in the UAE, and will host the first Dubai World Championship in November next year boasting a £5m kitty.
The Swedish Ryder Cup player Henrik Stenson has made Dubai his base, and he is eager to compete in it. He may have other items on his agenda, such as this week's Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, the USPGA next month and, of course, cementing his place in the Ryder Cup in September, but Dubai is never far from his thoughts. After keeping himself in contention to claim the Scottish Open yesterday, Stenson voiced his approval of the growth of golf in the Middle East, and the Australian Norman's ability as a designer.
"It's good news for me, obviously, being based in Dubai. Having a such a big tournament there is something I am really looking forward to," said Stenson. "I've been up to have a look at it, and it's going to be a great venue. I've had a look at the way it's seeding, and it's going to be an interesting venue and one that will be tough. "I've spoken to Greg about it, and he's added a bit more length to it as well.
"Now it's been finalised that they're going to play the tournament there, it's going to be a real test for all the players. But it is excellent news for Dubai, and the UAE." The power of marketing in trying to sell Dubai is evident when studying the programme previewing the Scottish Open. There are several adverts publicising courses in Dubai while the Danish player Thomas Bjorn, who is also based in the UAE, claims that the decision to end the season there is the "most exciting thing" he has experienced in his career.
Bjorn is pictured outside a new mobile physio unit that is adorned with the slogan "The race to Dubai is coming". While it is coming, the traditional desert swing of the Abu Dhabi Championship, the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic is coming sooner, in January, meaning the European Tour, which seems like a misleading title in modern times, will begin and conclude in the Middle East. "I'm looking forward to having so many tournaments in the Middle East, and it will be interesting to see how it all develops in the future," added Stenson.
Stenson has finished in the top 10 in the order of merit over the past three years, has been as high as number five in the world and has Nick Faldo's former caddy Fanny Sunesson carrying his bag. But he has no obvious ego. He has reduced his schedule to spend more time with his wife Emma, whom he married in Dubai, and his new daughter Lisa. "I am trying to focus on playing a little bit less to get more quality rather than quantity, especially when I have a young family and everything," he confessed.
Stenson occupies 16th place in the world rankings and is fifth in the order of merit, but he has yet to win this season after claiming the Dubai Desert Classic and the Accenture World Matchplay last year. "Even though I have been close in Qatar and Dubai, you measure your success by the tournaments you win," he explained. "But my consistency has been good and if I can add a win or two before the end of the year, that would be nice."
Stenson holed the putt on his Ryder Cup debut that allowed Europe to retain the trophy two years ago. He is excited about this year's event at Valhalla in the US as Europe bid for a fourth straight win. While Stenson is content with his personal life, Martin Kaymer, the German player, withdrew from the Scottish Open due to the death of his mother. Stenson finished second alongside Lee Westwood as Kaymer led from start to finish in winning the Abu Dhabi Championship in January.
Stenson said: "He's won twice this season, is a solid player and I think he will be on the team." Receiving the endorsement of Stenson is worthwhile these days. Norman will hope for similar platitudes when the Swedish player and his European cohorts trash a ball off a tee at his Earth course for the first time.