Pat Perez will join Rory McIlroy and defending champion Sergio Garcia in headlining a top-class field for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic which gets under way at Emirates Golf Club from January 25-28.
The 29th edition of the longest-running European Tour in the region will also see Henrik Stenson, Matt Fitzpatrick and Race to Dubai leader Tommy Fleetwood, among other European Tour top-draws, further bolster a sizzling star-cast at the famed Majlis course.
Riding high on confidence after picking up his third career PGA Tour victory at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, the 41-year-old American will be hoping to keep the momentum rolling into Dubai.
Perez’s win, which earned him an automatic entry for next year’s Masters in April, took on a special significance at it came after a long recovery from a shoulder injury last year that threatened to wreck his career.
“It’s been an amazing 12 months. I can’t explain it, but I hope it continues,” said Perez, who also won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba on the PGA Tour in November last year.
“I have always wanted to play the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. It looks incredible and I have heard it’s run amazingly well.”
Returning to the site of his first professional win on the European Tour will be McIlroy, who will be aiming to match the feat of the great Ernie Els as the only three-time winner of the event.
McIlroy, who was forced to pull out of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year due to injury, enjoys an incredible record at Emirates Golf Club, going 96-under-par for his last seven appearances which resulted in two firsts and five top-10s.
Arabian Golf TV's Claire tackled an important question during the Omega Dubai Desert Classic 2017: what are golfer's favourite emojis?
Answers varied from the monkey covering his eyes, to the waving emoji, to the classic smileys. There was one thing all the golfers could agree on - never use the golfer emoji!
Watch the video to find out which emoji was the most popular among the golfers.
The landscape of golf in Dubai is set for a massive change with Falcon Golf, a subsidiary of Falcon and Associates, taking over the ownership and management of Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, as well as sponsoring the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
An agreement has been signed between ‘golf in DUBAi’ and Falcon Golf, and will become effective April 1, 2017. An understanding with the European Tour has already been reached, which saw the launch of the new Race to Dubai logo during the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last year.
While Falcon Golf’s main objective is to tell the Dubai story internationally with these properties, they will also help with innovative methods to increase golf tourism to the emirate, and assist Emirates Golf Federation in developing junior programs and increasing participation locally.
Peter Dawson, former Chief Executive of The R&A and former Secretary of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, will chair the new organization.
In an exclusive interview with Sport360, Dawson said: “Falcon and Associates was asked to have a look at golf by the Dubai leadership because they recognize that golf is a very important element in the sports economy of the city. I was approached just as I was coming up for retirement with the R&A in the late summer of 2015 and asked if I would agree to help them. So, here I am.
“Trying to keep in line with everything Dubai does, the objective at Falcon Golf is to have everything world-class and to use golf to tell the Dubai story to the world.”
Professional golf in Dubai will experience the biggest change from the move, with plans that will affect the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Ladies Masters.
“We have three top-level golf tournaments in Dubai. We have reached an agreement with ‘golf in DUBAi’ that Falcon Golf will take over the hosting and organizing of their events. We will have David Spencer on board with us in a consulting capacity, and Mohamed Juma Buamim (vice-chairman and CEO of ‘golf in DUBAi’) will be the honorary president of the tournament. We very much recognize the role he has played in laying the foundation of these great events,” said Dawson, who played a critical part in golf getting back into the Olympics.
“The idea with the event is that we organize it to the highest standard. Don’t get me wrong…these two events are already very good. But we do have some ideas about investment in infrastructure and so on to make them even better. They are great events on the respective Tours, and we intend to make them stronger.
“I thought the Race to Dubai was an asset that was not being utilized properly. It is a great vehicle to tell the Dubai story internationally, because the European Tour visits 26 countries. It’s something that is fantastically well named that we can at Falcon Golf use and also allow some Dubai companies, who see a benefit in telling their stories to these markets, to come on board and be part of the Race to Dubai.
“The season-ending tournament is run by the European Tour and will continue to do so.”
The 11 golf courses in Dubai are also expected to benefit from the formation of Falcon Golf.
Dawson added: “The other leg of this, is to coordinate incoming golf tourism to Dubai a bit better. Really, I don’t know any other place where all golf courses are of such high quality. But it isn’t all that easy for a tourist to book tee times, know everything about the courses, etc.
“We have had discussions with every venue here. We have engaged Peter Walton of International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). He has submitted an excellent report and all the venues are buying into it. We will be hiring a manager for golf tourism to help the golf courses here to coordinate the story, and then eventually develop an integrated booking system for them.
“And the last piece, and this is something that is very dear to my heart, is to work together with Emirates Golf Federation in helping with junior development programmes and help increase the local participation. That will be very much an assistance role.”
Dawson said the two golf courses owned by Dubai government – Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht club – will not come under the purview of Falcon Golf. They will be continue to be operated by Dubai Golf, a subsidiary of wasl.