One of the finest golf administrators in recent times, Peter Dawson hailed the role of Dubai in the development of the sport at a global level.
The chairman of Falcon Golf, who used to be the chief executive of the Royal & Ancient and is the current president of the International Golf Federation, also believes the city is now perfectly poised to become one of the most looked forward to golf destinations in the world with its quality facilities and exceptional bouquet of professional tournaments.
Speaking at a function to launch www.golfindubai.com, an all-encompassing website which will showcase what the Emirates has to offer to the global golfers, Dawson said: “Dubai has been a significant catalyst for the global growth of the professional game in the modern era.”
“Running since 1989, the Omega Dubai Desert Classic was the first European Tour event to be staged outside European borders and paved the way for the Tour’s transformation into a year-round global competition, while The Race to Dubai provided the European Tour a springboard to connect its profile internationally, culminating in Dubai for the season-ending finale.”
“Without the vision of those behind creating new ways for the professional game to flourish, I don’t think we would have quite the wealth of playing opportunities and great golf events we see week-in, week-out on the European Tour.”
“Golf unquestionably has played a role in putting Dubai on the world map, attracting international visitors and long-term residents, while also spurring real estate development and investment.”
“The task at hand now is to realise the full potential for growth that golf can unlock.”
The newly formed Falcon Golf, which will now manage the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, as well as activate the Race to Dubai property, was set up to optimise the sport of golf in Dubai.
And Dawson was happy with the initial steps taken by his company.
“We are making good progress. The introduction of our new brand and website will give trade and consumers a focal point and ignite renewed interest in Dubai,” he added.
“We are looking at the best ways with which we can refine aspects of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and The Omega Dubai Ladies Masters, which have both been hugely successful and paved the way for Dubai in the world of golf.
“Falcon Golf manages Dubai’s involvement with the Race to Dubai and we will also be looking at ways to tell the city’s story via the worldwide marketing activation of the European Tour’s season-long competition to crown the No1 player.
“There are also new developments that will strengthen the city’s golf offering. New courses in the pipeline, including a Tiger Woods design, will increase capacity and also encourage more golfers to visit Dubai.”
Lionel Weber fired a sizzling six-under 66 to set the early pace in the weather-hit Mountain Creek Open by Golf Citizen Monday.
The Frenchman, who is a brand ambassador of Thailand’s Banyan Golf Club and a regular on the Asian Tour, rattled up seven birdies against a lone bogey on the par-5 13th, to move two clear of Switzerland’s Dubai-based amateur Michael Harradine, South Africa’s Tyler Hogarty and England’s Jamie Elson.
England’s Luke Joy, a multiple winner on the MENA Tour, was six-under through 16 holes, but a bogey on the 17th and double on the 18th left him at three-under and in solo fifth, one ahead of three-man group which included Czech Republic’s Cyril Suk, Pattaraphol Khanthacha of Thailand and Blake Snyder of the United States.
On day when an afternoon thunderstorm forced suspension of play for 70 minutes, 16 players broke par at the Seve Ballesteros-designed course. Just two players were still out on the course when play was called off for the day.
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, who won last week’s MahaSamutr Masters — the opening event on MENA Tour’s Thailand swing — reeled off three birdies in his last four holes en route to a 71 that left him sharing ninth in an eight-man group which included amateur Rayhan Thomas.
In what is definitely a first for golf, the ShopRite LPGA Classic has announced it will give one sponsors’ exemption spot to one of four players who secures the highest number of votes in a Twitter poll.
The four players – identified by MVP Index, a sports social media tracking company founded by the father of Jordan Spieth, Shawn – are India’s Sharmila Nicollet, Scotland’s Carly Booth, American Blair O’Neal and Bolivian Susana Benavides. Nicollet, who played on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and now has a conditional status, has fallen off the Rolex Rankings, while Booth, a two-time winner on LET, is ranked 365th.
O’Neal, who played the Dubai Ladies Masters last year, is also not ranked but plays on the Symetra Tour, and Benavides is 1245th in the world. But what makes them attractive for the tournament is the kind of social media following they have.
Nicollet has 357,000 followers on Twitter, apparently second only to LPGA Tour star Paula Creamer (426,000) and way more than world No1 Lydia Ko (57,600), and over 109,000 on Instagram.
Booth has 35,600 on Twitter and 62,500 on Instagram. O’Neal, a Golf Channel host and winner of the ‘Big Break’ reality show, has 77,500 Twitter followers and 187,000 on Instagram. Benavides has only 7,200 on Twitter and 20,900 on Instagram.
The move has been met with plenty of enthusiasm, as well as scorn. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has endorsed Booth (33 per cent), and she has made a flying start in the poll that started a couple of days ago and is open until Sunday night.
Nicollet (22 per cent) has received support from Indian cricket star Yuvraj Singh and renowned commentator Harsha Bhogle, and is fast making ground. But leading right now with 38 per cent votes is O’Neal, a local favourite.
There are others who fail to see why much more deserving and accomplished candidates should be denied a chance. My take on the issue is that as long as the spot is coming out of the sponsor’s quota, the serious golf fans should not have any grouse.
They are the ones who are paying the big bucks to make a tournament happen, and they are free to use any kind of promotion to get a better return on their investment.
And given the increasing popularity of social media, this is one way of creating some buzz around the tournament, and also, hopefully get a few more millennials involved.
ANOTHER GOOD MOVE
Just a few days after limiting the use of video evidence in imposing penalty on players, the golf’s governing bodies have announced that they will soon be cracking down on the detailed yardage books, the modern day version of which maps the entire green to its minutest details.
In a statement issued a couple of days ago, the governing bodies said they will be reviewing such materials and decide whether any action needs to be taken.
The statement read: “A player’s ability to read greens is an essential part of the skill of putting. Rule 14-3 limits the use of equipment and devices that might assist a player in their play, based on the principle that golf is a challenging game in which success should depend on the judgement, skills and abilities of the player. “We are concerned about the rapid development of increasingly detailed materials that players are using to help with reading greens during a round” continued the statement. “We are reviewing the use of these materials to assess whether any actions need to be taken to protect this important part of the game. We expect to address this matter further in the coming months.”
Several players have been critical of the detailed yardage books, which are designed to give the golfers an exact idea of distance from various parts of the golf course.
Ian Poulter has been most vocal on the issue, his main point of contention being that so much time was being spent reading the books, it was slowing down the pace of play.
However, the previous announcements on the proposed changes to the Rules of Golf also mentioned the possibility of legalising Distance Measuring Devices, like Bushnell, on the Tours. If they are allowed starting 2019, it will cut down on the time taken between shots.
There are still many golfers and caddies who pace the distance to get an accurate yardage.
The younger of the Koepka brothers, Chase does not have a status on the PGA Tour, but by finishing inside the top-10 with big bro Brooks in the Zurich Classic, he gets into this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
It was a smart move by the Koepkas and the 59 FedEx Cup points earned could help him skip the Qualifying School and qualify for the Web.com Tour Finals.
Sometimes, golf just does not matter. The two-time PGA Tour winner pulled out of the Zurich Classic last week after discovering that his 13-year-old son, Jacob, has a brain tumour.
The Australian said he has no timeframe for his return to the golf course. All we can say is that our prayers are with Jacob and the family and we hope he gets well soon.
WHAT’S IN THE BAG
Winner, Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees)
3 Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees)
Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM6 (46-, 52-, 56- and 60-degres)
Putter: Scotty Cameron 009M Prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
THIS WEEK’S EVENTS
Wells Fargo Championship Course: Eagle Point Golf Club Wilmington, North Carolina
Purse: $7.5 million
Defending champ: James Hahn
Centurion Golf Club
St Albans, England
Purse: £1 million
Defending champ: New event