The culmination of the inaugural Race to Dubai is upon us. The top 60 players on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai list qualify for the final event, the Dubai World Championship. I am coming into this week in 18th spot and no chance of winning the overall crown. However that doesn’t mean that I am not concentrating fully on trying to win this week’s tournament. This is my final tournament in Europe this year and I would love to sign off for the season with a win. I have been here in Dubai for ten days now, the first week being a family holiday. It was a week away from golf and I never even took the clubs out of the travel bag; it was all about taking it easy and enjoying the sunshine with my family. I must admit that the Monday was a struggle as it was hard to get myself out of holiday mode.
This week’s event, The Dubai World Championship, is being played on a new Greg Norman course called “Earth”. The course and the surrounding area is a new development that was only officially opened this week. We are pretty much the first people to play the course. I first came to Dubai in 1997 in my first season on Tour and back then there was very little development, but now it is a fully fledge city. In the years since then there has been huge development and now it is thriving city with many international companies having offices here.
The Earth course is a great test for the finale of the Race to Dubai; it truly is a championship course. It has plenty of length as it can be stretched out to 7,675 yards but it won’t play this for us as there will be a few tees pushed forward. The two main features of the course are the bunkers and the greens; the bunkers are very distinctive from the tee as they are big and deep and are very well placed. The greens are large with a lot of slope in them, with sections where they can tuck away pins. It is a course that no matter how much time you spend on it you would never get to know it all. There will be plenty of shots hit this week that players will be happy with and they will find their ball off the green and conversely there will be a lot of poor shots hit that work out. The one thing that is going in our favour is that the greens are soft and so it makes scoring quite a bit easier. If they were firm this would be a very tough test. I think that it is a very good course and I like what Greg has done with it. There is no real rough to talk about which is something that I like on a course, the test is not in hitting fairways but in getting the ball in the hole.
It has taken me a few days to get into the right frame of mind after my holiday but I am ready to go again. I had a great time last week and it was hard not to shut down for the season seeing as though I couldn’t win the Race to Dubai title, but I know that I have only two events left and then I can take a break. I am here to try and win this week as I haven’t managed to win an event so far this year, other than the Irish PGA Championship. I am happy with how I am playing - there was nothing to cause any worry in my practice or the pro-am. I know that the key for me this week is to ensure that I am patient and not to be trying too hard. This is a course that will reward the patient player and not one that can really be over-powered; as much as it is a long course you have to think your way around it as well.
There is a definite buzz about the tournament this week. Everyone is talking about what a great event it will be and how good a job the sponsors have done is setting up the course and looking after us. We are being looked after so well it is hard to remember why we are here!
I am here to try and win the tournament. There is no doubt that I would love to be still involved for the Race to Dubai title but unfortunately I can’t win it. I will however enjoy watching how it fairs - as it stands at the moment Rory is leading from Lee Westwood. Hopefully he can hang onto his top spot and claim the inaugural title and I can give myself a chance to win this weeks tournament. If I can get myself into contention on Sunday I will take my chances from there.