With the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters bringing the curtain down on the DP World Tour’s traditional ‘Desert Swing’, which featured five consecutive tournaments in the Middle East, including a return to the Bahrain for the first time in 13 years, let’s take a look at the four key takeaways from the opening events on the 2024 Race to Dubai.
Rory ready to end Major drought after record-breaking Dubai Desert Classic triumph?
It came as no surprise to see pre-tournament favourite Rory McIlroy secure a record-breaking fourth Dallah Trophy at Emirates Golf Club, but it was manner of the victory that really stood out and it could act as a catalyst for the Northern Irishman picking up Major silverware once again. Despite starting the weekend ten shots adrift of the lead, McIlroy emerged victorious after a spellbinding 63 in the third round, before signing for a steady final round 70 to hold off Dubai-based star Adrian Meronk by one stroke.
It was McIlroy at his brilliant best once again and proved why he is still one of the greatest names to play this game. That’s why it seems unfathomable that this year marks ten years since winning a Major Championship – how can someone who is winning so often outside of the big four events not have got his hands on Major silverware for such a prolonged period? I could list many reasons why, but the biggest one, especially at Augusta National - where he would complete the career Grand Slam if he won - seems to be a mental block.
However, his victory last month could pave the way for a new approach at finally slipping into the Green Jacket.
“I think last year at Augusta, I learnt a lot about myself,” he said following his triumph.
“I’ve told this story numerous times now about the first green on Friday, and Brooks was on the eighth green and I saw the big leaderboard, and I was already 10 behind at that point. I was 10 behind after two days this week and ended up winning the golf tournament. That’s massive. I feel like I’ve taken that learning already and put it into practise a little bit already.
“I’ve still got some big events to come but you know, I think from now until that first or second week in April, you know, at least a part of my mind is going to be towards getting myself absolutely ready for there.”
Grenville-Wood proves he can mix with the best
Joshua Grenville-Wood, who was awarded UAE citizenship last year, proved he has the game to mix it with some of the best players on the DP World Tour after making three consecutive cuts at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, Bahrain Championship and Qatar Masters. But making a cut isn’t that big of a deal, right? Maybe not for the game’s elite players such as McIlroy or Tommy Fleetwood, but for someone like Grenville-Wood, who is only playing on limited starts, it’s quite a big deal and secures much-needed money in the bank to help with his travel costs to events.
Anyway, he didn’t *just* make the cut, at Al Hamra Golf Club he finished in a share of ninth, beating a host of star names to strenghten his case that he can become a Tour regular. With no current status on the DP World Tour, Grenville-Wood is relying on invites from sponsors and the Emirates Golf Federation to compete this season as he looks to achieve his goal of securing membership for the DP World Tour in 2025. To do that, he must either win this season or finish inside the top 21 of the Non-Members Race to Dubai Ranking – he currently sits in 20th. With only a limited amount of starts this year, he’ll need to replicate his Ras Al Khaimah Championship heroics as often as he can to realise his dream.
Bahrain know how to put on a show
The DP World Tour returned to Bahrain for the first time in 13 years and boy did they put on a show. The week began with an Olympic-style opening ceremony, which was a full-on Hollywood style production that I’ve certainly not witnessed at any golf tournament I’ve ever attended.
It was magical and set the tone for what would be a fantastic week in the Kingdom, with Dylan Frittelli returning to the DP World Tour’s winner’s circle for first time in six years with an impressive victory over the recently renovated Royal Golf Club. His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the King of the Kingdom of Bahrain, who is known to be an avid golfer, was present at the prizegiving to bring the championship to a close in style.
UAE continues to be a key destination for the DP World Tour
With the DP World Tour celebrating 35 years of tournament golf in the UAE this season, the relationship between the country and the circuit is arguably stronger than it has ever been. Three consecutive events to kick off 2024, before the world’s very best golfers return for the brand-new DP World Tour Play-Offs in November, which comprises the Abu Dhabi Championship and DP World Tour Championship – two Rolex Series tournaments - is some going for the UAE.
The strong relationship between the Tour and the Emirates Golf Federation (EGF), the UAE’s governing body of golf, was recognised following the culmination of the inaugural Dubai Invitational at Dubai Creek Resort, with Keith Pelley, DP World Tour CEO, and Eric Nicoli, DP World Tour Chairman, thanking His Excellency General Abdullah Al Hashmi, EGF Vice Chairman, for his unwavering support to the Tour.
“The EGF has played a huge part in the DP World Tour’s success in the UAE for many years,” said Pelley.
“We have worked closely together to develop golf, from grassroots to the professional game. At the start of three consecutive DP World Tour events in the UAE, we wanted to show our appreciation to His Excellency General Abdullah Al Hashmi for his hard work and dedication and celebrate the Tour’s strong and enduring relationship with the EGF, which will continue for many years to come.”