x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Westwood pitches in with a head for heights

Englishman wins 'nearest the pin' competition ahead of DP World Tour Championship.

Lee Westwood celebrates after his ball finished closest to the flag at the Atlantis Hotel. Courtesy Atlantis
Lee Westwood celebrates after his ball finished closest to the flag at the Atlantis Hotel. Courtesy Atlantis

DUBAI // Judging by yesterday’s DP World Tour Championship Atlantis Golf Challenge, the great and the good of the European Tour will probably arrive at the 17th green of this week’s Race to Dubai finale and think, ‘pah, is that it?’

Yes, the penultimate hole on the Earth Course, a 195-yard par three with island green, can test even the granite nerve of the game’s best exponents, but after a pre-tournament trip to Nasimi Beach it will most likely seem like child’s play.

The 17th? Try hitting golf balls from the Royal Bridge Suite at Atlantis, The Palm, on to a floating green in the lagoon that meets the sand at the back of the hotel. Pitching it to messrs Stenson, Westwood, Rose, Kaymer and Howell would have been a breeze, yet the golfing quintet may have baulked on arrival at their temporary tee box. Breeze gave way to serious bluster. You see, the suite, which no doubt offers stunning views of Dubai’s skyline, is situated on the 22nd floor, 90 metres above sea level. And the target? Well, best place it 235 yards away and make it as small as possible, at 9x5 metres.

Rumour had it this curious “nearest the pin” competition had been stocked with 500 golf balls, so organisers suspected they might be there for a while. Thank heavens for Lee Westwood, then, who promptly dumped a shot four feet from the flag, an effort that could not be beaten.

Or at least we will have to take the stray official’s word for it. For it was left to Ian Poulter, clad only in pink swimming shorts, to clamber aboard the green and measure the winning distance. Known for making a sartorial statement or two, let us hope the Englishman, fourth in the Race, rocks up on Thursday with something a little more suitable.

jmcauley@thenational.ae