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Classic field looks far from being weak

Tournament played a pioneering role in starting Desert Swing

Gulf News

It’s just a fantastic feeling to be back in Dubai for the Omega Dubai Desert Classic this week. My connections to the oldest running tournament in the region are well known and I have always been much loved by the fans here. So much so that I have no hesitation in saying this truly feels like my second home tournament.

I have been a global ambassador of golf in DUBAi for several years now and I wear that badge with considerable pride. I am in awe of what the city has achieved and I have the highest regard for what this tournament has done for the game of golf in the Middle East.

I happened to leaf through a book a few days back, which had pictures from the time when the Emirates Golf Club was being built... must have been 1988. It was a bird’s eye view and there was not a single building in the entire vicinity of the golf course. And when I look at it today, I just can’t believe so much has happened over less than 25 years.

And it is not just restricted to the real estate. What this golf course and the tournament has done is almost similar in magnitude. If we have the much talked-about Desert Swing now and the DP World Tour Championship at the end of the year, the Dubai Desert Classic’s pioneering role in this whole process cannot be denied.

Coming to this year’s tournament, there have been talks of it having a slightly weaker field in the absence of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. But it is impossible to have the top two players in the world teeing up for every event. I can fully understand the impact these two players have in our game, but it cannot be guaranteed that they will always be the ultimate heroes on Sunday evening. This then is a great chance for the rest of the field to try and get their name on the magnificent trophy.

The biggest start this week is Lee Westwood and everybody is eager to see how he starts what is undoubtedly one of the most important seasons of his career. Lee has made a huge sacrifice in moving his residence from his comfort zone in England to the States, and that just shows his dedication towards his trade. I have always felt he has not one but several Major wins in him.

Then there is Sergio Garcia, who seems to be in fantastic form ever since he had his eye surgery done. He was awesome with two rounds of 64s during the DP World Tour Championship and since then, he has won once, was runner-up last week in Doha and was fourth in Thailand. He definitely is the form player of the tournament.

I played a couple of rounds with Henrik Stenson in Doha and he was looking really sensational. Henrik has lived in Dubai for several years and knows this course better than most. I think he is very near his best form and this could well be his tournament and his year.

Personally, I have played well in patches and even though I missed the cut the last two weeks, I have a feeling I am close to hitting a purple patch. I have some great memories of the Majlis course, especially on the greens, and I just need to stay patient to put together a good week.

(Jeev Milkha Singh is a four-time champion on the European Tour)