14-year old Dubai resident and Elite Junior Squad member at the European Tour Performance Institute, Zubair Firdaus, has landed a one-year residential scholarship at the Hills Academy in Queensland, Australia, following his victory at the AmBank International Junior Golf Championship in Malaysia.
Training daily on the award-winning golf courses at Jumeirah Golf Estates for the past 18-months, Firdaus’ golf talents saw him excel at the competition.
As well as topping the 13-14-year-old boys’ category, the young athlete achieved the best overall gross score in the under-18s category against 120 competitors, winning him the impressive scholarship worth over AED 120,000.
Commenting on Firdaus’ triumph, Director of Instruction at the European Tour Performance Institute and the champion’s golf coach, Mark Gregson-Walters commented: “At the European Tour Performance Institute, we are committed to developing and nurturing talent, particularly when it comes to the next generation of golfers. Zubair is a shining example of a local young athlete who is talented, hardworking and determined to improve his skills and compete at the highest level for his age group.
Mark continued: “With the support of our team at the world-class ETPI facility, Zubair has excelled. We are not only proud of his achievements to date but there is genuine excitement about watching him grow, and realizing his potential for future success.”
Recently voted as ‘Golf Academy of the Year’ at the 2016 Middle East Golf Awards, the European Tour Performance Institute is one of the finest golf instructional facilities offering an unrivalled teaching and practice experience, giving professional and amateur golfers alike, the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best players in the game.
The ETPI facility features state-of-the-art swing analysis studios, a full gym with the very best in fitness equipment and personal trainers, along with wellbeing services such as nutritional consultancy and sports massage.
Firdaus has taken home a total of four wins over the past two months including the Emirates Junior Open, the Abu Dhabi Golf Club Junior Open and the Sharjah Golf & Shooting Club Junior Open, which is an incredible feat for the teenager.
World No.1 Jason Day re-ignited the pace of play debate last week when he said he was playing too fast and pinpointed it as one of the main reasons why he was not as dominant in 2016 as he was in 2015.
Ahead of the SBS Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Day said: “In my opinion, I don’t care so much about speeding up the game. I’ve got to get back to what makes me good. If that means I have to back off five times, then I’m going to back off five times before I have to actually hit the shot.”
Day is considered by many as one of the slowest players on the Tour, but has never been fined by the PGA Tour.
In fact, there has been only one player who has ever been penalised in the US – Glen Day at the 1995 Honda Classic. Jason Day also said pace of play was not as huge an issue for professional golf, as it is for amateur golf.
Even though I am bowled over by Day’s honesty in answering the question, I only agree with him to a certain point. I have never met any fan who has ranted about a five, or a five-and-a-half hour round during a professional tournament, but I have met thousands of club members who complain about the guys in front of them being too slow.
As long as Day is not breaking the rules, which means he is not taking more than 50 seconds when hitting the first shot in his group, and his group is not lagging too far behind the group in front of them, he should be left alone.
However, I also feel he should be mindful of his playing partners. They are the only ones who can get really annoyed by his goslow methods.
Players like Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Brandt Snedekker are known for their pace of play, and I have seen some of them being rather unhappy after finishing a round with a slow player. As I love to mention, golf is the only sport where etiquette is more important than the rules of the game.
That really is the reason why the section on what is morally right comes before what is legally and technically right in the ‘Rules of Golf’. Very early in that book is one line that Day needs to remember: ‘Respect for your fellow players’. Slow play, I feel, is being disrespectful to your fellow competitors.
Time for change
The beginning of the year is always a time to get excited about the new equipment being used by the professionals.
Winter break is the only time when most players get quality time to test new stuff, and most of them hate to change anything more than a putter during the course of the season.
The situation is more interesting this year because of Nike closing shop on equipment so many of their stars, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, are out looking for new clubs.
Woods had a lot of time to test before his comeback. The big change for him is the use of Bridgestone balls (B330S) and going back to his trusted Scotty Cameron putter.
There was a major change for women’s world No1 as well. Lydia Ko, after deciding to change her caddie and coach, has now opted to ditch Callaway Golf in favour of PXG (Parsons Xtreme Golf ).
Most eyes were on McIlroy, who spent more than a week before Christmas hitting thousands of balls at The Els Club in Dubai with just about every equipment manufacturer sending him their clubs.
Ahead of starting his season at the South African Open this week, this is what’s in McIlroy’s bag: Callaway Epic Sub Zero driver, TaylorMade M2 fairway woods, Custom Callaway Apex MB irons, Titleist Vokey SM6 wedges, Odyssey putter and 2017 Titleist Pro V1x balls.
It’s a mish-mash right now, but the world No2 has completely utilised the freedom of being a free agent right now. Another interesting development is John Daly signing up with the new equipment manufacturers, Vertical Groove Golf (VGG).
As is evident from their name, the Boston-based company has taken off the prevalent horizontal grooves on their drivers and replaced them with vertical ones.
The USGA has cleared the driver as conforming and Daly says he is “hitting the ball further and straighter off the tee”.
The power of Thomas
As Justin Thomas continues to deliver on his early promise – there was a time when most experts thought he’d win a major ahead of his close friend Jordan Spieth when both turned professional in 2013 – there is one aspect of his game which stood out time and again in that brilliant victory last week in Kapalua.
The boy can surely pummel that balata. For someone who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs a mere 66 kilos, the American smashed a drive which measured 404 yards in Hawaii, regularly hit it 20-30 yards past his playing partner Hideki Matsuyama and recorded several driver shots in excess of 350 yards.
The ball tends to travel further in Kapalua, but Thomas had also hit a 414-yard scorcher during the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron last year – the longest drive recorded on the PGA Tour in 2016.
While the Desert Swing of the European Tour is now known all over the world as a quality stretch of three weeks featuring some of the finest players in contemporary golf, the Sharjah Senior Golf Masters is poised to create its own identity with the fan-friendly stars of the European Seniors Tour, featuring some of the legends of the game.
The 54-hole tournament offers a prize purse of $425,000. Fans will get a close view of the action with entry being free for what will be the first tournament of the 2017 season.
Players entries are now open, but Paul Broadhurst, Ronan Rafferty and Des Smyth – three stars who were in Sharjah last year to play the pro-am event that marked the announcement of the championship – are certain to tee off after being suitably charmed by the city of Sharjah and the golf course. Other names will be announced over the next few weeks.
Broadhurst, winner of the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex and the 2016 John Jacobs Trophy winner, will begin his defence of the Order of Merit title against stiff competition from the Senior Tour’s finest.
Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour Middle East, said: “It is exciting to have five European Tour sanctioned events hosted in the UAE in 2017. The Sharjah Senior Golf Masters presented by Shurooq completes the family set of events; European Tour, Challenge Tour and now Senior Tour.”
“We look forward to collectively, with our partners, delivering a tournament that will have a unique personality and hopefully has a long sustainable future in Sharjah. It will complement the other UAE events and will provide opportunities to interact with the legends of the game. We encourage all golfers, both young and old, to support this Senior’s tournament.”