Morocco’s Maha Haddioui, the only Arab player in the Ladies European Tour, is hoping for a top-10 finish in this week’s Omega Dubai Ladies Masters so that she does not have to return to the Qualifying School.
The 26-year-old from Casablanca is currently ranked 101st on the Ladies European Tour Money List.
On the ever of the tournament, she said: “Well, this is very special for me. It's almost as special as playing at home in Morocco, because obviously it’s an Arab country and I’m the only Arab player on Tour.
“This is my last tournament this year before the Qualifying School. I would like to have a top‑10 this week so I don’t have to go back to Q‑School. That’s the main goal.
“I’m trying to just focus on the process on the golf course and not think too much about the outcome and results. I’ve been working on my swing. I’ve been working on my strategy on the course, and it’s a course that I know quite well now.
“I had the chance to come here before the Indian Open and I did some work on the course and played some practice rounds. I think top‑10 is a good goal for this week.”
Haddioui praised the MENA Golf Tour and what it was doing for male golfers of the region and felt a similar tour for amateur women would provide a huge boost to ladies golf in the region.
“The MENA Tour, a lot of Moroccan players play on it and it’s a great thing that’s been done,” she added.
“It’s definitely helping Arab professionals get better and perform better. We are very proud as Moroccans that Ahmed Marjane won a tournament on it."
Davies getting better with age
Laura Davies has always believed age is just a number, but after narrowly missing out on becoming the oldest player to win an LPGA Tour event last month, the 51-year-old legend comes to Dubai with renewed motivation and confidence in her game.
Davies started the final round of the Mizuno Classic in Japan tied for the lead but after a final round one-under par 71, she finished one shot short of the three way tie for lead.
And the ‘golf in DUBAi’ ambassador, who was made a Dame by the British Queen earlier this year, is looking forward to turning her eighth consecutive appearance in the season-ending Omega Dubai Ladies Masters into a winning trip to a city she loves.
“I love it obviously, one of my favorite tournaments of the year, not just on the European Tour, but during the year itself. I love the course, love the people, I just enjoying being here,” said Davies.
“It’s a huge boost confidence and shows I can still win and I think that week proved that I could.
“I haven’t done well the last three years around here, purely because of putting, not ball‑striking. The way the course sets up, left‑to‑right and right‑to‑left, it suits my game."
Despite winning 84 titles worldwide, including a record 45 wins on the Ladies European Tour, since turning pro in 1985, Davies said she still has ambitions in the game.
“There’s lots to play for still and I just love competing. I love the fact that I’m competing against 18‑years‑old and I still think I can stand toe‑to‑toe with them and beat them on any given day.
“Over a year, they are probably a little bit more consistent than me because obviously you lose your putting. It's normally the putting that is the difference, but any given tournament, you always feel like you can beat even the very top players.”
South African legend Ernie Els believes his creation, The Els Club Dubai, will be a true test for shot-makers when the Dubai Sports City-based golf course hosts its first-ever professional tournament later this month.
The inaugural DUBAi Open, the season-ending event this year on the Asian Tour, will be played at the Els-designed course from December 18 to 21.
The multiple major champion, who is an Asian Tour honorary member and international ambassador, said the only course in the Middle East designed by him will offer the Asian Tour stars a challenging test, predicting that the winning score could be around the 12 to 14-under-par mark.
“We are so excited. The guys at The Els Club, we’ve kept the course in great shape every year. They are so ready for this golf tournament,” said Els, who was recently in Dubai for the DP World Tour Championship.
Els, winner of four majors and three Dubai Desert Classic titles, said his design philosophy is to challenge players to shape their shots into the greens. He warned that some of the upturned-saucer greens at the Els Club, with several run-off areas, would penalise less-than-precise iron shots into the flags.
“It’s going to be tough. I like to set up wide fairways because of the way I drive it. You’re going to feel there is plenty of room off the tees here, but the second shots will test the players,” said the man nicknamed ‘Big Easy’ due to his languid swing and easy-going personality.
“Some of the greens, when the wind blows, it’s going to be very severe. The first green, ninth green and 10th green are going to be severe. It’s really a second-shot golf course. A lot of the guys will get it in play but you’ve got to play your second shots to the right position.
“Shot makers will have a good time. A lot of par threes, you’ve got to draw or fade it and we’ve got a good mix of holes with various lengths. You’ve got to shape a lot of shots to score on the course. The iron play and short game will test the players.
The DUBAi Open is promoted and organised by golf in DUBAi.
Cricket bats were briefly put away and the golf clubs came out to play during the innings break of the Pakistan-New Zealand Twenty20 match on Friday at the Dubai International Stadium.
— DubaiSportsCity (@DxbSportsCity) December 6, 2014
The change of game was a promotional activity for the upcoming DUBAi Open at The Els Club, which takes place from December 18-21.
The promotion saw The Els Club’s general manager, Chris Brown, and head professional, Callum Nicoll, contest to see which of them could pitch a golf ball at a set of stumps next to the square.
Playing from the highly unusual lie of the dance platform on the edge of the field, Brown knocked the bails off and ended up as the winner.
“The Els Club is delighted and proud to be hosting a professional tournament for the first time and the fact it is the finale of this year’s Asian Tour makes it extra special,” Brown said.
“Preparations are in full swing and we are confident we can deliver a magnificent and memorable occasion for all our stakeholders and this will hopefully be the first of many professional tournaments that are played at The Els Club at Dubai Sports City,” he continued.
Apart from the tournament, the free admission DUBAi Open has lots to keep the whole family entertained, such as games, a bouncy castle, DJs and music all day long, as well as food and drink from all over Asia.
The Els Club forms part of the exclusive golf course villa community of Victory Heights. It is part of Dubai Sports City, wich features world-class sporting facilities and a variety of world-renowned sports academies.