Amateur golfers across the UAE are relishing the return of the 2018 DP World Tour Championship ‘Luckiest Ball on Earth’ competition which gets underway in September.
The innovative series gives local players a ‘once in a lifetime’ golfing experience alongside the European Tour’s very best at the Race to Dubai’s grand finale, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this November.
A total of 21 qualifying events will be held at 21 golf clubs across the region with individual qualifiers for women and men introduced for the first time as well as opening the door for the next generation of golfers.
The triumphant qualifiers will seal a spot in the Luckiest Ball on Earth Grand Final, to take place on the Fire course at Jumeirah Golf Estates on November 4.
The leading female and male player at the Grand Final will join the ‘Luckiest Ball on Earth’ team alongside the Junior Luckiest Ball on Earth winner, where they will rub shoulders with the likes of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, 2017 DP World Tour Championship victor Jon Rahm and former world No1 and three-time Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy in the DP World Tour Championship’s Pro-Am on the Earth course on Tuesday, November 13.
“The Luckiest Ball on Earth initiative gets bigger and better each year and we are thrilled to be welcoming separate events for juniors and women in 2018,” said Nick Tarratt, Director European Tour International, Dubai Office.
“This is the eighth edition of the Luckiest Ball on Earth and we have seen a rise in participants each year with over 1,000 keen amateurs competing in a bid to play with some of their heroes on the European Tour in 2017. We send our thanks out to the 21 clubs involved and the Emirates Golf Federation who sanction this amazing local golf project”.
The DP World Tour Championship sees the top 60 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai competing for a prize fund of $8 million plus a Bonus Pool of $5m split between the top 10 finishers on the Race to Dubai following the conclusion of the tournament.
The Luckiest Ball on Earth competition has proven a sure hit with the UAE’s amateur golfers since the initiative was first launched in 2011.
The annual competition has traditionally been open to all golfers aged 18 or over who hold an official club handicap recognised by the EGF (maximum 28 for men and 36 for ladies).
Arabian Ranches Golf Club member Kevin Barrett, of Northern Ireland, won the inaugural Luckiest Ball on Earth competition and played alongside Italy’s Ryder Cup icon Edoardo Molinari in the Pro-Am before Italy’s Ornella Parigi of Saadiyat Beach Golf Club became the first female winner in 2012 and lined up with Australia’s Marcus Fraser.
In 2013, former Dubai Creek lady captain Maureen Platt earned a place alongside Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen in the Pro-Am while in 2014 Dipesh Makwana came out on top against almost 1,000 hopefuls to be teamed up with Race to Dubai runner-up Danny Willett.
In 2015, Jairaj Gorsia from Meydan Golf was victorious and was given an unforgettable experience playing with England’s James Morrison.
In 2016 another Saadiyat Beach Golf Club member took home the spoils with Blanca Rivollier playing with Bradley Dredge.
Last year’s winner Ghazi Aurangzeb’s last minute decision to enter the competition paid off after coming through the qualifier and winning the Grand Final, as he teed off with France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
“I entered the competition on a whim and now I’m the champion,” said Aurangzeb. “I think it’s such a great series and in terms of being an amateur golfer I think this is as good as it gets.”
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen moved a step closer to a debut appearance at the European Tour’s season ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai after cruising to a maiden European Tour title at the inaugural Shot Clock Masters at Diamond Country Club in Austria.
The European Tour broke new ground by introducing a shot clock for the first time where players received a one-stroke penalty for going over the allotted time limit on each shot, with only four players receiving penalties over the course of the week.
Korhonen had no such problems as he came into the final round with a five-stroke lead over South Africa’s Justin Walters.
The 37-year-old never looked back as he signed for three-under-par 69 to finish 16 under par for the tournament and six clear of Scotland’s Connor Syme as he sealed his first title at the 146th attempt.
The former Challenge Tour player picks up 195,830 Race to Dubai points and moves up to 35th from 65th in the Race to Dubai rankings with a total of 452,309 points.
“At the European Tour we are always looking for innovative ways to grow the game of golf to a bigger audience,” said Nick Tarratt, director European Tour International, Dubai.
“The Shot Clock Masters was certainly a success with players and fans enjoying the quicker format which did not detract from the quality of the golf.
“We send our congratulations to Mikko and wish him all the best for the remainder of the season as he looks to book his DP World Tour Championship debut at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November.”
Korhonen, whose victory sees him climb to a career-best 110th in the official world golf rankings, had his lead cut to three in the early stages and had to contend with two weather delays at Diamond Country Club.
However, he kept his composure to card five birdies and blow away the rest of the field as he romped to victory in style.
“It feels great to get my first win,” he said after his victory.
“It’s been a long wait so it feels so good. I thought I might not have ever got to this position. I’ve been up there a couple of times and couldn’t get it done. I’m so happy and relieved to have finally done it. It’s not easy to win, especially not the first win. I have no words, it’s so good.”
Meanwhile, Syme holed a monster putt on the last to take second place on his own which sees him collect 130,550 Race to Dubai points and jump from 206th to 101st in the Race to Dubai rankings as he edges closer to the top 60 with a season tally of 164,666 points.
The tournament opened the door for some of the fringe players in the rankings to improve their position with Australian Adam Bland moving up to 79th with a tied for 12th place finish while Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez joined Bland in 12th and now sits 82nd.
The top three in the Race to Dubai rankings remains the same. Italian Francesco Molinari leads the way while American Patrick Reed sits just behind in second. Northern Ireland’s three-time Race to Dubai champion Rory McIlroy completes the top three.
The DP World Tour Championship takes place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 15-18.
Dane Thorbjorn Olesen shot into the top-10 of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings after posting four sensational rounds of sub-69 to claim his fifth European Tour title at the Italian Open, while the Race to Dubai welcomed a new leader in the shape of Italy’s Francesco Molinari who took the runner-up spot.
Olesen came into the tournament looking to find some consistent form having only placed in the top-10 once in 10 events and the 28-year-old got the ball rolling right from the off at Gardagolf Country Club with a sublime first round 65.
Rounds of 68, 65 and a magical 64 followed to claim a one-stroke victory over home favourite Molinari. Olesen picks up 1,166,660 Race to Dubai points with his triumph which sees him make significant strides from 110th to sixth in the rankings with a total of 1,285,495 points.
The victory also emphatically books his place in the Race to Dubai’s grand finale which takes place at Dubai’s Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 15-18.
Former Turkish Airlines Open winner Olesen started the final round one shot behind playing partner Lee Slattery but got off to a flying start with a birdie on the first before gaining two more shots on the front nine.
Olesen continued firing on all cylinders down the back the nine and added four more birdies to seal his first victory since 2016 at the second Rolex Series event of the 2018 season.
“To come into this Rolex Series and to do what I’ve done is amazing,” said Olesen. “I had to come from behind and win which I haven’t done in my career so far, so that was very special. It felt great to hole that putt on the last and to get that feeling of holing it when it really matters.
“This is exactly what I needed. Well, it’s always what we need but right now for me it’s great.”
Meanwhile, Molinari’s second place finish, which came hot on the heels of his BMW PGA Championship victory last week, saw him receive 777,770 Race to Dubai points which moves him to the summit of the Race to Dubai rankings.
The Italian climbs above America’s Patrick Reed with a season total of 2,265,746 points.
Englishman Lee Slattery put on a fine performance to finish just two behind Olesen in third place which saw him pick up 438,200 points to rocket up the rankings from 172nd to 31st with 492,899 points.
Ryder Cup vice-captains Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell were also big movers in the rankings after fine displays in Italy. Both men picked up 250,000 points for a tied for fifth place finish which sees England’s Westwood move from 114th to 45th while Northern Irishman McDowell climbs from 188th to 47th.