x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Fans hope McIlroy and Donald on course for clash of golf titans

Thousands of fans are expected to watch top golfers vying for the Dh27.5 million prize in the Race to Dubai.

DUBAI // Thousands of golf fans will head to the Dubai World Championship today eager for an end-of-season showdown between Luke Donald of England and the Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.

McIlroy will have a tough job over the next four days catching world No 1 Donald, who is the top money earner in the Race to Dubai, or European Tour.

But fans said they were still looking forward to seeing 60 of Europe's top golfers at the Greg Norman-designed Earth course on the Jumeirah Golf Estate today.

Ronnie Carlton, 43, a British sales manager who lives in Dubai, said the US$7.5 million (Dh27.5m) prize championship was "the highlight of the year for golf fans".

He added: "All the players are at the end of their season and are trying to win their end-of-year bonus. The conditions are perfect and they'll all be relaxed. There's always a great atmosphere."

Mr Carlton said he would be cheering on McIlroy. For the 22-year-old player to win the Race to Dubai, however, he would have to be victorious on Sunday and Donald would have to finish outside of the top nine places, something the Englishman has only done three times this season.

If Donald holds off McIlroy's challenge, he will become the first player to top the order of merit in both the US and Europe.

"I'm a big fan of McIlroy and I really want to see him sink a few winning putts. He's young and has played some great golf this year. If he doesn't succeed, he'll learn and I can come back next year and see him try all over again," Mr Carlton said. He said he had followed McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Course earlier this year. "Tiger [Woods] was also playing but I followed around the young fellow. Tiger has had his time. It's time to let the new guys show what they're made of," he said.

Colin Smith, the director of international business at the PGA European Tour, said more than 50,000 fans were expected over the four days of the tournament.

To cope with the volume of fans, organisers have been working with the Roads and Transport Authority to provide shuttle buses to some of the city's key points from 2pm to 8pm each day of the event. Fans can embark at Barasti, as well as the Green Community and Arabian Ranches.

The winner of the tournament will take home $1.5m out of the $7.5m prize fund. There is also a $7.5m bonus pool for the top 15 golfers in the Race to Dubai's final standings.