x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The heat is turning up

With some big names struggling for Ryder Cup places, it has certainly added some spice to forthcoming European Tour events.

Ross Fisher had 10 birdies for a course-record 9-under 63 to take a five-stroke early lead in the first round of the European Open.
Ross Fisher had 10 birdies for a course-record 9-under 63 to take a five-stroke early lead in the first round of the European Open.

LONDON // With some big names struggling for Ryder Cup places, including the British Open champion Padraig Harrington, it has certainly added some spice to forthcoming European Tour events. George O'Grady knows the European Open, which started yesterday, Scottish Open and the British Open make for a mouthwatering threesome.

And the Tour's chief executive believes this kind of excitement will continue next year as the UAE makes its presence felt with the money-spinning Race to Dubai and Dubai World Championship. Leisurecorp's initial five-year partnership with the Tour means the Race to Dubai will replace the Order of Merit for the 2009 season. A potful of cash, totalling US$20 million (Dh73.4m), is up for grabs. O'Grady admits that will spark more competition among the players. "There has been a lot of interest among the players over this. They know what's going to happen at the end of the season - they have a target. It is a big bonus at the end for the World Championship - $10m (Dh36.7m) is not to be sneezed at.

"It is what we needed. The partnership with Leisurecorp gave us the wee injection of ideas and commitment that we needed. Leisurecorp also respect the tradition of the Harry Vardon Trophy. You might win the big cheque, but you still want the silverware. "The Dubai World Championship is also going to be played at a tremendous golf course too, so we are all excited about the future." O'Grady has seen the Emirates become a key player in the world of golf, led by Leisurecorp's ambitious moves, which also include buying Turnberry, the home of the British Open in 2009.

"The vision from Sheikh Mohammed [bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai] downwards is about looking to the future. It is a place that does not rest on its laurels and always looks to go forward. "Leisurecorp has shown that same ambition, buying Turnberry too, in building a flagship venue and it is just the beginning." @Email:akhan@thenational.ae