Raising the stakes at MENA Tour’s first 72-hole tournament in Pattana

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Prom Meesawat of Thailand.

The MENA Tour breaks new ground this week when Pattana Golf Club and Resort hosts the tour’s first 72-hole event in a perfect climax to the tour’s three-event swing in Thailand.

The air is thick with anticipation as the event, which will see the upscale resort make its debut a host venue of the tour, will carry more Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points than the tour’s usual 54-hole tournaments, further spicing up the competition.

With Thai ace Prom Meesawat joining the starting line-up for the first time, the Pattana Golf Championship, starting today, will have a strong flavour, but things could change in a hurry as he’ll go against a deeply talented field which includes a slew of potential winners.

Meesawat, a 32-year- old Hua Hin native, racked up a creditable tied 13th at the European Tour’s Hero Indian Open and tied 15th at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this year and will be keen to keep up the good work when he tees it alongside a strong field, represented by players from 25 countries.

Thai players lead with 33 entries, including three amateurs, closely followed by England (32), India (14) and South Africa (11) in refection of the tour’s growing popularity in Thailand and beyond.

Notables in the field, who will be aiming to step up to the plate and challenge Meesawat for honours, include England’s Zane Scotland, a 10-time winner on the tour, Luke Joy, who finished runner-up at last week’s Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen, as well as Lee Corfield and Craig Hinton, who all have strung together impressive streaks on the tour.

English cricketer-turned-golfer Craig Kieswetter and UAE Ahmed Al Musharrekh are also in the fray, hoping to make amends for missing the cut last week, along with Spain’s Leo Lilja, the winner of the MENA Tour’s season-opening Palmeraie Country Club Casablanca Open in Morocco earlier this year.

Dubai-based Michael Harradine of Switzerland and Thailand’s Worathon Zeng will lead the challenge in the amateur division that has attracted nine entries.

Mohamed Juma Buamaim, chairman of the MENA Tour, said: “We couldn’t have asked for a better venue to stage our landmark 72-hole tournament. I am confident it will become a permanent stop on the tour.

“With an impressive portfolio of world-class courses, Thailand has already established its credentials as one of the most popular golf destinations in the world and the addition of a new MENA Tour event at Pattana will further realise the country’s huge tourism potential.”

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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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