Garcia and Lahiri practice 600m golf drives at Skydive Dubai

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Dubai unveiled a new website to enhance awareness of the world-leading, premium golf destination that convenes – for the first time in one place – everything visitors and tour operators need to know about experiencing golf in the city.

Launched at the Asia Golf Tourism Convention (AGTC) in Danang, Vietnam, golfindubai.com provides information on the first-class courses designed by legends including Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman, as well as details on leisure and practice facilities and wider hospitality offers.

A video of the reigning Masters and Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion Sergio Garcia facing India’s Anirban Lahiri in a battle of the big hitters – filmed at Skydive Dubai with the backdrop of the city’s iconic skyline – gives a sample of the compelling content on the website.

Visitors to the site can also enter a competition and win a VIP trip that includes a playing spot in the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic Pro-Am.

golfindubai.com was launched by Falcon Golf, an entity announced in February this year to optimise the benefits golf brings to Dubai working closely with key local stakeholders such as its golf clubs and tournament sponsors, as well as Dubai Sports Council, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and Emirates Golf Federation.

Commenting on the new website, Peter Dawson, Chairman of Falcon Golf, said: “Driving greater golf tourism is one of the key goals we set ourselves on our establishment, and I’m delighted that just a few months into our operations, we have launched a website which for the first time provides one place where Dubai’s fantastic golf offering is showcased in full.

“A coordinated approach between all parties who together make up Dubai’s golf experience will unquestionably pay dividends for all concerned. golfindubai.com is one important step in our endeavour to rekindle awareness among discerning holiday makers, business travellers and Dubai residents of the enjoyment they all can have playing or watching golf here.

“Not many places in the world can so readily offer the access to walk in the footsteps of champions like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Shanshan Feng while playing a round of golf during your holiday or business trip. Dubai can, and thanks to the new website, finding out how has become a lot easier.”

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of DTCM, said: “Dubai is one of the most esteemed golf locations in the world and has much to offer beyond the courses – from incredible hotels and pristine beaches, as well as world-class attractions for all ages, such as Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and amazing water and theme parks.

“With more courses in the pipeline to complement the world-class choices already available, and initiatives such as this new website, there is huge potential for the sport to help us hit our target of 20 million visitors by 2020.”

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Joy of Golf: Revamped events set to energise PGA & European Tours

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Rose and Stenson will hope to take their Ryder Cup success to New Orleans.

There are a couple of tournaments coming up which are creating quite a buzz in the golfing circles – the revamped Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour (April 27-30) and the brand-new, two-day GolfSixes on the European Tour (May 6-7).

That’s because both the tournaments will be using a different format instead of the usual 72-hole strokeplay.

The Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in New Orleans is a full-field, two-man team event featuring 160 players.

It will have Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the other two rounds.

The GolfSixes goes one step further in introducing a new format.

The tournament, to be played at the Centurion Club in St Albans near London, features two-player teams from 16 different nations, who will play the Greensomes format.

The teams have been divided in four groups, and the first day will feature round-robin matches over six holes, before the knock-out rounds the next day.

The big interest in New Orleans right now is who enters the field, and whom do they chose as partners. As of now, the two most interesting pairings seem to be world No3 Jason Day with Rickie Fowler, and the tried and tested European Ryder Cup duo of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson. Jordan Spieth with Ryan Palmer is another interesting team, and so is the big-hitting partnership of Bubba Watson and JB Holmes.

The 16 pairs for GolfSixes is already determined, with Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan representing hosts England. Nations were chosen based on the rankings of available players, and it is heartening to note two Asian teams (Thailand and India) in the fray.

While both the tournaments offer an exciting departure from the tried and tested, the only caveat is that performances obviously  will not count towards the world rankings.

And I completely agree with Stenson, who said: “As long as golfing skills decide the winners, I am all game for new formats.”

Tommy’s Honour

After a long, long time, Hollywood has come out with a movie based on golf. Tommy’s Honour, released last week, may not become a cult classic like Caddyshack, but it has got a warm reception from critics and fans.

Directed by Jason Connery and based on a book by the same name written by Kevin Cook, the movie is about the relationship and times of Old and Young Tom Morris, who in between them shared eight Open Championship titles between 1861 and 1872.

The movie has got a very decent 68 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even though it was only 23rd in the US Box Office weekend collections.

However, the critics have loved it, with Hollywood Reporter commenting: “An engrossing and accessible celebration of the game’s modern origins, enhanced by striking locations and a standout cast, led by Scottish actors Peter Mullan and Jack Lowden.”

Tommy’s Honour has already won the Best Feature Film at the 2016 British Academy Scotland Awards, but one factor that goes against the movie, especially for its commercial success in the US, is that it does not have any of the bigname Hollywood stars.

More changes for Ko Just when it looked like Lydia Ko was coming out of her slump – she finished tied second in last week’s LOTTE Championship – she is ringing in more changes to her entourage.

The world No1 player and her new caddie Gary Matthews have split up after being together for just seven tournaments.

Remarkably, Matthews was the ninth caddie used by Ko in her comparatively short career, although, to be fair to the player, she had made it very clear that he was just a temporary appointment.

The 19-year-old New Zealander made some wholesale changes towards the end of last year, dropping her previous caddie Justin Hamilton, as well as long-time coach David Leadbetter. Her new coach is Gary Gilchrist.

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COMMENT: Masters win is just the start for Garcia

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Garcia celebrates in New York.

Ever since Sergio Garcia hit that magical closed-eye, around-the-tree shot at the 1999 PGA Championship, there was never any doubt that he was a supreme striker of the golf ball.

And yet, it took him nearly 18 years and 74 tries to win a much-deserved first major.

All the global outpouring of love that followed his play-off win over Justin Rose at the Masters on Sunday wasn’t because of sympathy for all the heartbreak he has had over the years. It was because of the awe the Spaniard generates when his game is on song – and during the four days at Augusta National, he really was hitting the high notes with aplomb.

Take away the two missed birdie putts on the 16th and 18th holes, and it was a ridiculous exhibition of shot-making from Garcia after the pulled drive on the 13th hole on Sunday.

Under the gun and having fallen two shots behind Rose, Garcia produced one spectacular shot after another, none more phenomenal than his flushed 8-iron second shot to the par-5 15th, which not only clattered the flag, but also climbed halfway up the pin before leaving him with the 14-footer that he made for a crucial eagle.

If he was sensational on the closing stretch, Garcia was solid throughout the 72 holes. He was second in the field in greens in regulation (55/72), one behind Paul Casey’s 56, and also second in fairways hit (45/56), one less than Soren Kjeldsen. He was also sixth in driving distance with an average of 291.5 yards.

However, my favourite stat of his domination last week was the fact that on the first hole, which gave so many headaches to the field and played the toughest –averaging 4.46 strokes – Garcia was two-under par for the four rounds. Those were two of only nine birdies made there the whole tournament.

What an awesome new jacket the members of Augusta National GC gave me, don't you think?😍 #MastersChampion2017

A post shared by Sergio Garcia (@thesergiogarcia) on

And yet, this kind of golf is expected from someone as hugely talented as Garcia. So, what has changed for him? Clearly, from the beginning of this year, he is armed with a new attitude. It was very visible here in Dubai when he won the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, and it was on show again at Augusta National.

Both the Majlis course at Emirates Golf Club and Augusta have not been kind to Garcia in the past. At Majlis, he did not have a single top-10 in his seven previous appearances before he blew the field away this year with a 19-under par aggregate. And, at Augusta, his weekend total from 1999 onwards was 47-over par (he had the worst third-round scoring average of 74.9 in Masters history since 1990). The weekend this year netted him five under par.

They say behind every successful man is a successful woman, and that might be just true in Garcia’s case. His announcement at the beginning of the year that he is going to get married to his fiancee Angela Akins has definitely played a part in the transformation. She has somehow sorted out his priorities, and the fact that Garcia doesn’t believe that golf should be the beall and end-all of his life, has helped him on the golf course.

One also got the feeling that the Garcia of past would raise his hands after a succession of bad holes. Not the new version of him.

That was clearly visible at the Masters on Sunday when he dropped shots on the 10th and 11th, and was in grave danger of dropping at least another on the 13th, and yet fought back with renewed vigour to claim the green jacket.

It was also amazing to see the support he got from the patrons.

And the outpouring of love on social media would make you believe the whole world was rooting for him.

There is only one reason for that – Garcia may have been emotional and have gotten himself into controversies, but he remains a good man at heart.

Garcia will now never again have to answer any major questions.

And, having finally shed the tag of being the best golfer in the world never to have won a major, he can now focus on turning what is a great career into a legendary one.

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